Court Rules that the American Association for Justice did not Abandon Trademark Name in Rebranding Effort

MINNEAPOLIS - March 24, 2010 - Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. announced today that the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota has found as a matter of law that the American Association for Justice a/k/a Association of Trial Lawyers of America ("AAJ/ATLA"), the world's largest plaintiff bar association, did not abandon its ATLA® and ASSOCIATION OF TRIAL LAWYERS OF AMERICA trademarks after adopting its new corporate name as part of a corporate re-branding program.  The ruling now clears the way for AAJ/ALTA to proceed to trial on its trademark infringement action against an entity calling itself The American Trial Lawyers' Association. 

The AAJ is represented in this matter by trial litigation firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.  Christopher K. Larus, partner with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, said, "This ruling confirms that AAJ/ATLA did not abandon its longstanding trademark rights simply because it adopted a new corporate name.  This case demonstrates that a trademark holder does not abandon its existing trademark rights merely because it adopts a new name." 

AAJ/ATLA adopted the name American Association for Justice  in 2006 to better reflect its mission to promote a fair and effective justice system for all Americans.  Despite this name change, AAJ/ATLA continued to use the ATLA® and ASSOCIATION OF TRIAL LAWYERS OF AMERICA marks, including in its communications to members and in connection with its legal education services and publications.

In 2007 J. Keith Givens, a former AAJ/ATLA member, started a competing plaintiffs lawyers association called "The American Trial Lawyers Association" and used the abbreviations "TATLA" and "TheATLA."   After initial efforts to persuade Givens to adopt a different name for his new organization proved unsuccessful, the AAJ/ATLA sued for trademark infringement under the Federal Lanham Act and for violation of the Anticybersquatting Protection Act.

In addition to finding that AAJ/ATLA had not abandoned its trademark rights, the Court also denied in its entirety the motion for summary judgment brought by Givens and his new organization.  This clears the way for a trial on AAJ/ATLA's claims against Givens and his organization.

No trial date has yet been set.