Use of ‘Suspension Training’ Term Focus of Lawsuit
(Photo by Deeann Wilson, courtesy of In Motion Fitness)
Discovery materials are due to be presented Oct. 12 in the case of Fitness Anywhere Inc. v. Lifeline International, with a trial due to start two months later in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, which may or may not settle once and for all the question of whether "suspension training" is a generic term.
At issue is Lifeline's use of the term to describe its Jungle GYM XT product. TRX (as Fitness Anywhere is now called) claims trademark to the term "suspension training," and alleges that Lifeline encouraged retailers to illegally use it. In 2009, TRX's case against GoFit for its use of the term to describe its Gravitybar product resulted in a change to GoFit's wording and an out-of-court settlement.
A pair of fitness-related cases from a decade ago shows the challenge to those looking to protect their interests in names that at least sound generic. In 2000, a suit brought by Pilates Studio Inc. of New York against other Pilates proprietors was tossed by a U.S. District Court judge who declared that the term "Pilates" could not be trademarked. Following that, the same plaintiff, who had managed to secure a mark on the phrase "Pilates studio," lost a second trademark case, allowing the phrase (like "weight room" before it) to legally enter wide circulation.
In court documents filed in March, Lifeline claimed that its use of "suspension training" (which it labeled as generic) "does not give rise to any likelihood of, or actual, confusion, mistake or deception. It is at least merely descriptive without secondary meaning." Barring a settlement beforehand, it will be up to the court to determine whether the term has entered the lexical mainstream, as well as whether consumers would likely be confused or deceived by the term's usage to describe the products of multiple manufacturers.
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