Tuesday, August 1 2023   \  Published by Sullivan & Worcester.

Supreme Court Rules U.S. Trademark Law Does Not Apply to Foreign Conduct

Supreme Court Rules U.S. Trademark Law Does Not Apply to Foreign Conduct

On June 29, 2023, in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Lanham Act does not have an extraterritorial scope and applies only in cases where the alleged infringing “use in commerce” is domestic in nature. Although the Court’s decision provides much-needed clarity as to the statute’s reach, it also introduces ambiguity by failing to define specifically what “use in commerce” is necessary to trigger the Lanham Act. As lower courts grapple with the murkiness created by this decision, one thing is clear: all brand owners must think proactively about their global strategy for protecting and enforcing their brands against infringing conduct abroad.

Background and Procedural History

The case involved a trademark dispute between Hetronic International, Inc. (“Hetronic”), a U.S. manufacturer of radio remote controls used to operate heavy-duty construction equipment, and Abitron Austria GmbH (“Abitron”), an Austrian company that once served as a licensed distributor of Hetronic’s products in Europe. Abitron subsequently began manufacturing identical versions of Hetronic’s products and selling them under Hetronic’s trademarks. Nearly all of Abitron’s sales occurred in Europe, but it also made some direct sales in the United States. Read more

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