Colorado residents who have flown American Airlines may be familiar with the term ‘Flagship’ in connection to the airline’s premium services. American says that it began using the term ‘Flagship’ in the 1930s and officially protected the term as a trademark in 1999. On Dec. 17, American sued Delta Airlines for allegedly infringing on its ‘Flagship’ trademark.
According to American, Delta has been using ‘Flagship’ to promote the same types of premium services that American uses the term to promote. A spokesman for American says that Delta is aware of the trademark and the similarity in marketing is no coincidence. He also said that the unauthorized use of the term is creating confusion among airline passengers. American is asking the court to place an injunction on Delta’s use of ‘Flagship.’
The airline industry has undergone significant consolidation over the past 10 years, with American, Delta and United emerging as legacy airlines. The three companies compete for the same types of business and leisure travelers. In the lawsuit, American alleges that Delta has become so competitive that it has purposefully chosen to infringe on a trademark as part of its business strategy. Delta began using ‘Flagship’ to promote its Airbus A350 planes in 2017.
A court typically provides injunction relief for use of a trademarked term when the defendant’s actions are causing confusion with customers. If the same trademarked term is being used to promote the same type of product, this may be found to be trademark infringement. A lawyer may be able to help a company to protect its trademarks by proving that another party is using the trademarks unlawfully.