Sharon Urias, Esq.
In November, we reported that Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) had sued Kia Motors (“Kia”) for trademark infringement over Kia’s “Drive Wise” moniker and technology, which Allstate argued was too similar to its “Drivewise” insurance product.
After the November 2017 trial, a federal jury issued an advisory verdict in favor of Allstate, finding that there was a likelihood of consumer confusion between Allstate’s free downloadable computer application program which provides drivers with rewards, premium discounts, real-time alerts and other driver performance feedback with Kia’s safety technology that is built into Kia vehicles and contains features such as parking assistance, blind spot detection, and automatic emergency brakes for a considerable cost.
However, in his subsequent December 2017 ruling, U.S. District Judge James Otero stated that Allstate had not shown consumers would confuse its free “Drivewise” rewards insurance program for Allstate insurance customers with Kia’s line of high-tech vehicle add-ons for Kia customers. In fact, Judge Otero said that Allstate’s “Drivewise” brand was a conceptually weak trademark and entitled only to a narrow scope of protection. Furthermore, Judge Otero did not seem convinced that Allstate’s app and Kia’s automobile technology were competing goods and services that were closely related, debunking Allstate’s assertion that its “Drivewise” program and Kia’s “Drive Wise” technology both involved software and driver safety.
It is unclear if Allstate is going to appeal this decision, but the ruling in this case shows the complexities of the consumer confusion concept when it comes to trademarks, particularly with well-known “brand twin” product names by separate companies that offer different goods and services.
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