L.A. TECH & MEDIA LAW FIRM – Intellectual Property & Technology Law

Did Ford Bronco® Trademark Legally Abandon?

Ford Bronco® trademark abandoned - LA Tech and media law firm, best startup attorney Los Angeles

When technology startups and entrepreneurs are thinking about trademark adoption and selection, an issue that may arise involves brands that have technically been discontinued, and whether the trademark has been legally abandoned, such as whether the Ford Bronco® trademark was legally abandoned. In light of Ford Motor Co.’s announcement that they will be releasing a new Bronco, after over 20 years of discontinued production, we examine whether Ford ever legally abandoned the BRONCO brand, and if it is, or was, up for grabs by a competitor.

Ford Motor Company’s Registered Trademark Rights in Connection with Bronco® Models

Ford has 28 federal trademark records  connected to the BRONCO brand with priority claimed since 1964. 

Those records are:

  Serial Number Reg. Number Word Mark Check Status Live/Dead
1 88076286   BRONCO TSDR LIVE
2 88536061   BRONCO BIG BEND TSDR LIVE
3 88535982   BRONCO OUTER BANKS TSDR LIVE
4 88507114   BRONCO SPORT TSDR LIVE
5 88676657   BRONCO TSDR LIVE
6 88386362   BRONCO SCOUT TSDR DEAD
7 87874188   BRONCO TSDR LIVE
8 87478512   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
9 86546626   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
10 85227331   FORD BRONCO TSDR DEAD
11 85089382   FORD BRONCO TSDR DEAD
12 75424065 2203020 BRONCO TSDR DEAD
13 74652285 1953403 BRONCO TSDR LIVE
14 74516962 1975286 BRONCO TSDR LIVE
15 74473000 1918117 BRONCO TSDR LIVE
16 74462569 1917821 BRONCO TSDR LIVE
17 74467982   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
18 74467981   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
19 74467980 1975213 BRONCO TSDR DEAD
20 74467712   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
21 74467711   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
22 74467705   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
23 74467681   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
24 74462960 2018062 BRONCO TSDR DEAD
25 74462957   BRONCO TSDR DEAD
26 74462952 1980005 BRONCO TSDR DEAD
27 74462568 1859781 BRONCO TSDR DEAD
28 72197108 0788418 BRONCO TSDR LIVE
Did Ford Bronco® Trademark Legally Abandon?

The BRONCO brand has notoriety worldwide but Ford halted manufacturing of the model in 1996. 

Among other things, its most infamous moment happened in June 1994, when OJ Simpson led police on a low-speed chase through Los Angeles in a white 1993 Ford Bronco after being charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. 

The legal question then presented is whether Ford legally abandoned its BRONCO trademark by discontinuing manufacture of the model in 1996.

Did Ford Motor Company Abandon the BRONCO Trademark? 

Under U.S. trademark law, 15 U.S.C. § 1115, abandonment is a defense to trademark infringement.

A legal presumption of trademark abandonment requires three (3) years of discontinued use without an intent to resume. As such, one could potentially assume that Ford abandoned its BRONCO trademark since it stopped production for twenty-four (24) years—well beyond the required period of three (3) years under U.S. trademark law. 

However, case law supports the opposite conclusion. 

Under the law, the trademark owners must not only discontinue use but also intend not to resume use. There’s little evidence that Ford Motor Company intended to abandon the BRONCO brand. For example, the company never denounced the brand, or publicly announced its intention to abandon the brand name, like the formerly-named Washington Redskins did in July 2020 when they announced a formal re-branding and intention not to resume use of the term REDSKINS in connection with football exhibition games, merchandising, and related trademark rights. 

So there is no intent here, and this weighs heavily against the finding of legal abandonment under law. 

In cases involving trademark abandonment, the intent of the trademark owner’s intent is a critical factor, as well as the extent of time that the mark has been out of market. When trademark owners, entrepreneurs, and startup ventures are evaluating a potentially abandoned trademark and considering it for use and adoption as their own. Failure to do so may result in inadvertently adopting a trademark that is still valid and legally protected under the law, and lead to receiving a cease and desist letter or being sued for federal trademark infringement. Consultation with an experienced trademark litigation attorney is highly recommended before adopting and selecting any brand name, particularly one that may or may not have been abandoned.

 

David N. Sharifi, Esq.
David N. Sharifi, Esq.

David N. Sharifi, Esq. is a Los Angeles based intellectual property attorney and technology startup consultant with focuses in entertainment law, emerging technologies, trademark protection, and “the internet of things”. David was recognized as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Attorneys in Digital Media and E-Commerce Law by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Office: Ph: 310-751-0181; david@latml.com.

Disclaimer: The content above is a discussion of legal issues and general information; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be used as such without seeking professional legal counsel. Reading the content above does not create an attorney-client relationship. All trademarks are the property of L.A. Tech & Media Law Firm or their respective owners. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

Recent Posts

TOPICS

L.A. TECH & MEDIA LAW FIRM
11620 Wilshire Boulevard, 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Office: 310-751-0181
Fax: 310-882-6518
Email: info@latml.com

Follow Us

Sign up for our Newsletter

Schedule Confidential Consultation Call 310-751-0181 or Use this Form

Schedule Confidential Consultation

Call 310-751-0181 or Use this Form