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Intellectual Property Litigation Trademarks

Manufacturers vs. Exclusive Distributors: Who Owns the Trademarks?

The Third Circuit has adopted McCarthy's "ownership" test in determining whether a manufacturer or distributor owns a trademark in the absence of an express agreement between the parties.

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The Third Circuit has adopted McCarthy’s “ownership” test in determining whether a manufacturer or distributor owns a trademark in the absence of an express agreement between the parties. In Covertech Fabricating, Inc. v. TVM Building Products, Inc. et.al., No. 15-3893 (3d Cir. 2017), the court adopted McCarthy’s test as the formal rule of the circuit, specifically replacing the “first use” test that typically decides trademark ownership disputes. The McCarthy test was first enumerated in Professor Thomas McCarthy’s seminal treatise on trademark law. See, McCarthy on Trademarks & Unfair Competition (4th ed. 2017). The Covertech case may prove to be a “win” for manufacturers as opposed to exclusive distributors when ownership of trademarks is not specified in their contract.

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