American Massage Therapy Ass'n v. Folkers, 308 F.Supp.2d 899 (N.D. Ill. 2004) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Plaintiff represents and provides services to massage therapists and massage-therapy institutions. In 1996, plaintiff established the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (“COMTA”) to accredit massage-therapy institutions under the certification mark COMTA. In 2001, the Galen Institute, a therapy school owned by defendant Lattanzio, applied for accreditation but was denied in 2003.
Defendants Folkers and Lattanzio then formed the Council Overseeing Medical & Massage Therapy Accreditation (“COMMTA”), whose accredidation standards were much less rigorous than COMTA’s standards. Defendants marketed COMMTA through letters sent to massage-therapy school owners and directors and through a website located at “commta.com.”
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
Plaintiff sued and the court granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that: (1) plaintiff’s mark was “fairly strong,” as evidenced by the 69 schools that went through the rigorous application process, (2) the COMTA and COMMTA marks were “extremely similar,” (3) the marks were used for identical services, (4) students enrolling in massage-therapy school probably would not investigate the differences between the two marks, and (5) the two marks were so similar that defendants’ intent to confuse consumers could be inferred.
The court also found that plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction was denied and that any harm to defendants would be relatively small because COMMTA was founded only recently and its “reputation has apparently yet to spread beyond the [two] schools owned by its founders and board members.” The court also found that the public interest would be served by protecting the mark. The court therefore preliminarily enjoined defendants from using the mark COMMTA or any confusingly similar marks, including in marketing, advertising, signage, publications, and on the website associated with the domain name commta.com or any other websites.
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