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CPC International, Inc. v. Skippy Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
214 F.3d 456 (2000)
Skippy Incorporated (defendant) owned the trademark to the word Skippy when used in reference to cartoons. Skippy obtained the trademark from Percy Crosby, the creator of a cartoon in 1923 featuring a school-aged child named Skippy. Crosby’s daughter was the president of Skippy. The cartoon character had been marketed in cartoon books, magazine articles, and novels. CPC International (plaintiff) owned the trademark for the word Skippy when related to peanut butter and has been selling peanut butter under that brand since 1933. In 1986, Skippy claimed a right to use the word Skippy as a trademark for caramel corn, popcorn, and nuts. CPC sued Skippy, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. The trial court ruled in CPC’s favor in 1986 and entered an injunction prohibiting Skippy from using the trademarked word in connection with caramel corn, peanut products, and other food products, and prohibiting Skippy from communicating that Skippy had the rights to use the mark for those purposes or that CPC lacked such rights. In 1997, Skippy published a website at skippy.com that recounted Percy Crosby’s life. The website also included a section discussing what it called CPC’s Fraud on the Courts and CPC’s Malicious Prosecution. The website also included a legal notice stating that the trademark was owned by Skippy and could not be used without the permission of Skippy. In 1999, CPC filed a motion with the trial court requesting that Skippy be held in contempt for violating the 1986 injunction. The trial court’s order required Skippy to remove approximately 10 pages of text from the website and stated that future violations would result in a $500 per day damage award. The trial court did not explain how the portions that were ordered to be removed violated the 1986 injunction or why those redactions were generally necessary. Skippy appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wilkinson, C.J.)
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