Groupon Defeats Trademark Challenge–Groupion v. Groupon

By Eric Goldman

Groupion, LLC v. Groupon, Inc., 2012 WL 1655728 (N.D. Cal. May 8, 2012).

Groupion makes CRM software. Groupon is the leading online daily deals provider. A year ago, Groupion sued Groupon for trademark infringement. Last Fall, the judge denied Groupion’s preliminary injunction request, signalling that Groupon could win with a summary judgment motion. Groupon followed through with the motion, which the judge granted, easily rejecting all of Groupion’s contentions. The judge also rejected Groupion’s cancellation request and independently ruled that Groupion wouldn’t be entitled to monetary relief even if it won.

The opinion doesn’t break a lot of new ground from the preliminary injunction dismissal. The court reinforces the linguistic differences between Groupion and Groupon, The court also rejects the similarity between the companies’ offerings, even though Groupon added some tools (Groupon Rewards and Groupon Scheduler) that have some CRM-esque aspects. The court says “Despite the fact that Groupon now provides its business customers some information about the consumers who purchase its products through Groupon, and provides a calendaring program, the Court finds that this small potential overlap of services does not render Groupon’s and Groupion’s products to be related to the point that consumers would be confused as to their source.”

In a footnote, the court says it’s irrelevant that Google auto-corrects Groupion into Groupon:

Groupion, again without any citation to supporting evidence, argues that because searches on the Google search engine for “Groupion” produce results from “Groupon,” the companies share similar marketing channels. This argument does not assist Groupion. In addition to Groupion’s fatal failure to cite to supporting evidence, the fact that a third party might suggest an alternative search based on the similarity of the spelling of Groupion and Groupon does not show that the two companies use similar means of marketing their products and services.

I defended this point about the irrelevancy of third party associations in my 2005 Deregulating Relevancy article.

It’s hard to draw big lessons from a case like this, especially when there was a whiff of trademark trolling in Groupion’s efforts. I have a more insightful lesson from trademark trolling coming in an imminent blog post.

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