San Diego, CA - In April 2008, Jim M. Sweeney filed for the CORVOLTTE trademark for electric vehicles, namely automobiles. General Motors (GM), owners of the famous CORVETTE trademark since 1952, immediately filed an opposition claiming a likelihood of confusion. On December 10, 2010, a panel of three trademark judges ruled in favor of GM but not without scolding GM for its indolent efforts in defending the trademark.
According to the seven-page decision, GM used a Wikipedia definition for CORVETTE as its main defense in the opposition. The decision went on to say that GM failed to allege that its CORVETTE trademark became famous prior to the filing date of the application of the CORVOLTTE trademark. Apparently, GM provided proof of the CORVETTE trademark registrations showing that it was the current owner of the trademark, but did not bother to include the registration information for the specific trademark class at issue: Automobiles.
GM also didn't bother to provide evidence of past sales and advertising or to defend the extent of the trademark's fame. Instead, it relied solely on excerpts from Corvette America's Sports Car and Corvette Illustrated Encyclopedia in addition to the Wikipedia entry for CORVETTE. Mr. Sweeney admitted that GM is the owner of the CORVETTE trademark and has been using it in relation to automobiles since 1952, but denied that there would be a likelihood of confusion between the two trademarks.
The court went on to further rebuke GM for its lackadaisical defense of its mark by saying:
"There is no evidence of sales, advertising or to the extent of the mark's renown. To the extent that the opposer has relied on the Wikipedia evidence to establish the fame of the CORVETTE mark, an Internet entry is admissible for the limited purpose of demonstrating what has been printed, not for the truth of what has been printed".
Unfortunately for Sweeney, GM's bad defense couldn't save CORVOLLTE.