In Trademark Dispute with Pinterest, Travel Company Claims “Pin” Is Generic

Pintrips, Inc., a startup travel planning company, has called Pinterest Inc. a “trademark bully” for suing over its use of the word “pin.”

Pintrips contends that “pin” is a generic verb that can’t be reserved for the exclusive use of one company.  A “generic” term is one that is merely the accepted and recognized description of a class of goods or services – for example, “Apple” brand apple juice.  Generic terms are not protected by trademark law.

Pinterest, which allows people to save and share images on a virtual bulletin board, sued Pintrips in federal court claiming that the travel company’s function allowing users to bookmark flight information using a “pin” button violated Pinterest’s trademark rights.

Pinterest’s causes of action also included false designation of origin, unfair competition, and trademark dilution.

Pintrips has asked the court to dismiss the case, saying,

This complaint is a textbook example of an industry giant using a spurious lawsuit to bully a small entity into giving up its right to use a generic, common term that merely describes a core function of its service.

According to Pintrips, just as Facebook can’t own the verb “like,” Pinterest can’t own the word “pin.”  The company pointed out that many other websites and apps use the term “pin” for similar functions.

Pinterest claims that it originated the use of the term “pin” for social media bookmarking and that the public now identifies the word “pin” with Pinterest.

Pinterest has applied for a US federal trademark for “pin” but registration is being opposed by Sprint.  The “Pin” mark has been successfully registered by the company in other countries.

 

Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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