Your Periodic Reminder That Initial Interest Confusion Lawsuits Are Stupid–Epic v. YourCareUniverse

19 12 2017

The plaintiff has a registered trademark for “CARE EVERYWHERE” for B2B healthcare software. The defendant, YourCareUniverse, also makes healthcare software. It extended its brand to include “YOURCAREEVERYWHERE” and launched a public-facing patient healthcare portal under the extended brand. The plaintiff sued for trademark infringement. The court runs through the standard multi-factor likelihood of consumer confusion test and finds most factors favor the defendant.

That should end the case, but no. As we see far too often with weak marks and weak infringement cases, “Epic attempts to save its claims by relying on the doctrine of ‘initial interest confusion.’” In response, the court issues a major burn: “The facts in this case bear no similarity to those in which a court accepted a theory of initial interest confusion as plausible.”

We still don’t have a consistent (or coherent) definition of initial interest confusion. This court applies the Seventh Circuit jurisprudence, which has historically provided a narrow scope for initial interest confusion. The court defines it as when “the defendant ‘lur[es] potential customers away from [the plaintiff] by initially passing off its goods [or services] as those of the [plaintiff’s] even if confusion as to the source of the goods is dispelled by the time any sales are consummated.’…The Seventh Circuit has summarized initial interest confusion as a “bait and switch” technique, in which a competitor will try to ‘get its foot in the door’ and affect a purchasing decision by confusing the consumer.”


I’ll close with a free tip for trademark owners. If success in your case depends on establishing initial interest confusion, DON’T BRING THE CASE.

Case citation: Epic Systems Corp. v. YourCareUniverse, Inc., 2017 WL 1093292 (W.D. Wis. March 22, 2017)

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