Is ‘suspension training’ a trademark? Companies prepare to duke it out in court - SNEWS

Is ‘suspension training’ a trademark? Companies prepare to duke it out in court

The future of suspension training products is hanging on a pair of court cases this summer. SNEWS has the updates.
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Suspension training is set to spend its summer in court.

SNEWS is tracking at least two ongoing legal cases where outcomes could affect the naming and retail marketing of future products in the trendy segment.

The name game

The first case involving TRX (under the company’s former name Fitness Anywhere) versus Lifeline International might sound all too familiar to those in the fitness world. It’s a name game.

While there are many claims and counterclaims in this case, it largely centers on Lifeline’s use of the term “suspension training,” to describe its new Jungle GYM XT fitness product. TRX (www.trxtraining.com) has claimed trademark to the term and filed suit against Lifeline (www.lifelineusa.com) in for that company’s use of it. TRX also alleged that Lifeline encouraged retailers to illegally use the term.

The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia is handling the case, which was filed March 11, 2011, and attorneys continued to swap pretrial legal paperwork as of June. The court has ordered all discovery materials presented by Oct. 12, 2011, and a trail date set before Dec. 14, 2011.

In court documents, Lifeline claims the “suspension training” term is generic and its use “does not give rise to any likelihood of, or actual, confusion, mistake or deception. It is at least merely descriptive without secondary meaning.”

If Lifeline keeps up its challenge, it will be yet another test for fitness manufacturers and trainers like TRX attempting to lay claim to terms describing their workouts.

The last big successful challenge in this regard was with the term “Pilates”, when a judge overturned the previous trademark, making the term generic. Click here to see that Dec. 4, 2000 SNEWS® story that revealed the finding as a part of our tracking of the case.

And while “yoga” is a generic term, the challenged “Bikram Yoga” name for hot yoga is still not. All challenges to Bikram to date have been settled out of court. And as SNEWS reported in our Oct. 1, 2004 story, most competitors defer to the term “hot yoga” unless it specifically follows the exact pattern and class popularized by Bikram.

This isn’t the first time TRX has gone after a competitor using the “suspension training” term. In 2009, TRX sued manufacturer GoFit for its use of term to describe latter’s new Gravitybar product. GoFit later changed its wording and the case was settled out of court and dismissed in 2010.

Out-of-court settlements allow companies with the trademark to continue chasing others, often seeking other settlements until a defendant fully challenges the trademark through trial or court's judgement.



The claim game


In another suspension training-related case SNEWS is tracking, legal procedures are moving ahead at the U.S. District Court, Central District of California in a case between Beachbody LLC’s established P90X fitness training system and Icon Health & Fitness' new Rip:60 product and program.

The case, which began back in February, was delayed as each party filed lawsuits against each other in their home states of California for Beachbody and Utah for Icon.

While Icon filed its lawsuit first in Utah, the judge there ruled that it did so in anticipation of Beachbody’s lawsuit filed in California. So, on May 19, the judge dismissed the Utah case, giving precedence to the California case filed by Beachbody.

This case focuses on Icon’s advertising claims that its Rip:60 (www.rip60.com) bests Beachbody’s P90X and Insanity programs in “every category” proven by “clinical studies.”

Beachbody (www.beachbody.com) accuses Icon of unfair competition and false advertising.

Ongoing battle

With suspension training’s continuing popularity – and money to be made in the workout’s products – legal tussles will likely continue among competing companies.

Retailers should keep a close eye, too, as the outcome of these legal cases could affect how they market suspension-training products in their stores.

--David Clucas

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