Plaintiff Japan Telecom (JT) is a small company that installs telephone lines in Southern California. Defendant Japan Telecom America (JTA) is a U.S. subsidiary of the third-largest telecommunications company in Japan, selling phone transmission services. JT sued JTA for trademark infringement.
The court affirmed the lower court's decision that granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The court first found that JT's use of "Japan" was not misleading, even if the company had little to do with Japan. But the court found that JT's trademark did not acquire a secondary meaning, nor did it pose a chance of confusion with JTA.
Here, we have two interesting principles. First, a company can take a country's name without having any connection to the country. Second, doing so may come with a risk that the company would be unable to defend its trademark.