Elgin National Watch Co. v. Elgin Clock Co.

26 F.2d 376 (1928)

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Elgin National Watch Co. v. Elgin Clock Co.

United States District Court for the District of Delaware
26 F.2d 376 (1928)

Facts

Elgin National Watch Company (plaintiff) filed suit to stop Elgin Clock Company (defendant) from using the word Elgin in business. Elgin National Watch Company made timepieces, such as clocks and watches. Elgin Clock Company made clocks for automobiles. Elgin National Watch Company was concerned about consumer confusion in relation to its own trademark if Elgin Clock Company were permitted to use the word Elgin. For this reason, Elgin National Watch Company sought permission to file an affidavit by an expert witness, Arthur L. Lynn, and Lynn’s exhibits, which consisted of the responses to a questionnaire. Lynn worked for an advertising firm. Lynn had mailed questionnaires to retail jewelers all over America in order to ascertain whether the word Elgin, in regard to timepieces, suggested the products of any company in particular to the retailers or their customers. After examining the responses on the questionnaires that were returned, Lynn formed the opinion that the use of the word Elgin in relation to timepieces would cause the public to believe the products were manufactured by Elgin National Watch Company. Lynn attached 2,000 of the returned questionnaires to his affidavit as exhibits. What type of testimony would be deemed proper in a trademark case was one of first impression because there was no previous judicial ruling on this matter. The United States District Court for the District of Delaware considered the writings of one author on the subject who wrote that a plaintiff needed to prove that a name related to the plaintiff’s products and to no one else’s and that evidence demonstrating this should be presented by retailers and by consumers. The author suggested that a plaintiff should present 20 to 30 such witnesses from across the United States, including some from the location where the plaintiff’s business was conducted.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Morris, J.)

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