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Emergency One, Inc. v. American FireEagle, Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
228 F.3d 531 (2000)


Emergency One, Inc. (E-One) (plaintiff) manufactured fire trucks and rescue vehicles. In 1989, E-One bought American Eagle Fire Apparatus Co. (American Eagle), a firetruck manufacturer based in Gainesville, Florida. American Eagle’s trademark was a picture of a bald eagle superimposed on an American flag. E-One manufactured about 35 to 40 firetrucks in American Eagle’s Gainesville plant before stopping production in 1992. Some of the new trucks bore the American Eagle trademark, and some did not. Beginning in 1991, E-One manufactured a different, lower-cost line of firetrucks at a different plant. E-One considered using the American Eagle trademark on this new line of firetrucks but ultimately did not use the mark. After 1992, E-One’s only use of the American Eagle trademark was on uniforms, t-shirts, and other marketing paraphernalia. In 1994, a former American Eagle employee created a firetruck-manufacturing company called American FireEagle, Ltd. (FireEagle) (defendant). FireEagle used a mark consisting of a bald eagle backed by an American Flag that looked very similar to American Eagle’s trademark. E-One sued FireEagle for trademark infringement. FireEagle argued that E-One had abandoned the American Eagle mark through non-use and counterclaimed E-One for trademark infringement. Among other instructions, the district court instructed the jury that: (1) if someone stops using a mark but still has an intent to resume using the mark, then that is not abandonment; and (2) to be a non-token use of a trademark, the use must be in the ordinary course of trade in the industry in which the trademark is used. The jury found for E-One. FireEagle moved to set aside the jury verdict and asked for judgment as a matter of law. The district court denied the motion. FireEagle appealed, arguing that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and that the district court gave the jury improper instructions.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Michael, J.)

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