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Hartford House, Ltd. V. Hallmark Cards, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
846 F.2d 1268 (1988)


Facts

Hartford House, Ltd. (Hartford) (plaintiff) produced two lines of greeting cards called “AireBrush Feelings” and “WaterColor Feelings.” These cards used landscape and nature themes and contained emotional messages about love, relationships, and other subjects. Hartford had been producing these lines of cards since 1981 and 1983, respectively. Hallmark Cards, Inc. (Hallmark) (defendant) produced a line of cards called “Personal Touch,” which also contained emotional messages on the same topics as Hartford’s cards. Hallmark had tested five other looks before deciding to use this one. Hallmark began producing this line in April 1986. Hartford sued Hallmark for unfair competition, claiming that Hallmark’s cards were deceptively and confusingly similar to Hartford’s. Hartford sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Hallmark from producing and selling its “Personal Touch” line on the basis that Hallmark’s cards infringed the protected trade dress of Hartford’s card lines. The district court found that Hartford was a leading producer of this style of greeting cards and that Hallmark knew this and produced the “Personal Touch” line in order to compete in the same market. The district court also found that Hartford’s cards had an inherently distinctive appearance from 10 specific features that consumers attributed to Hartford. Furthermore, Hartford provided evidence of many other alternative designs used by other competitors to show that it Hallmark could have come up with its own distinct card line. One of Hartford and Hallmark’s competitors even testified that there was still a lot of room left for innovation in the genre. The district court then granted Hartford’s preliminary injunction for 83 of Hallmark’s cards. Hallmark appealed this decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKay, J.)

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