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Conopco, Inc. v. May Department Stores Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
46 F.3d 1556 (1994)


Facts

Conopco, Inc. (plaintiff) manufactured Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion. May Department Stores Company (defendant) sold private-label hand lotions that were similar to Vaseline. May’s skin lotion was sold in a bottle similarly shaped to that of Vaseline. May’s annual sales approximated $1.3 billion in the United States. Conopco decided to “relaunch” Vaseline, including a new bottle and label. After learning of this, May changed its label and bottle to compete with the new Vaseline. May designed the bottle to be similar to the new Vaseline bottle. May’s label, however, had different wording and was clearly marked with May’s logo. Conopco sued May for trade-dress infringement, seeking monetary and injunctive relief. Conopco presented testimony of a consumer, Mrs. Sickle. Mrs. Sickle testified that she had purchased private-label lotion thinking that it was made by the manufacturer of Vaseline. Mrs. Sickle believed that manufacturers of well-known brands secretly also manufactured private-label brands. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled in favor of Conopco, granting both monetary and injunctive relief. The district court credited Mrs. Sickle’s testimony and also found a presumption of actual confusion due to evidence of May’s intent to deceive the public. May appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Plager, J.)

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