Pinterest Loses Major Battle Against "Pinning" on the Internet

Yesterday, a federal court issued a major ruling against social media giant Pinterest in a trademark infringement lawsuit against much smaller startup Pintrips. 

Pinterest is America’s third largest social network behind Facebook and Twitter. The company is currently valued at $11 billion and has an estimated 80 million monthly users. Users view, share, and organize content by creating “pins” on their virtual pin boards.

Pintrips is self-described as a collaborative trip-planning dashboard for tracking flights and prices across destinations in real time.

In October 2013, Pinterest brought a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pintrips, allegingnot only that the Pintrips name infringed their trademark, but also that using the word “Pin” itself was an infringement. Pinterest, Inc. v. Pintrips, Inc., 3:13-cv-04608, No. 1 2 (N.D. Cal. 2015).

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. stated that Pintrips’ use of the term “pin” was non infringing fair use because used the word “pin” was being used to describe a feature of its service. In contrast, a trademark must describe goods or services, not features or functionality.  Id. at 27-36; 15 U.S.C. §1115(b)(4).

Judge Gilliam also maintained that with respect to the marks “Pintrips” vis-à-vis “Pinterest,” “Pinterest has not met its burden to prove a likelihood of consumer confusion.” Id. at 25.  The Judge found that Pinterest’s trademark was strong and that it was similar to Pintrips.  However, those facts did not outweigh the fact that the ways the two services were used was not similar. Pinterest, 3:13-cv-04608, No. 261 at 25.

The ruling will likely be viewed as a major setback for Pinterest, as they have been fighting this court battle since October 2013. Pinterest alleged that Pintrips intentionally selected their business name based on the popularity of “Pinterest.” 

For more information on this decision, you can view the entire case on Docket Alarm here.

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