Orange County - Bausch & Lomb Inc., well-known optical innovators since the early 1900's, recently filed a counterclaim seeking cancellation of a trademark in a lawsuit in which Bausch & Lomb was sued for trademark infringement. The trademark at issue is "See better Live Better".
The Plaintiff in the lawsuit is Stuart J. Kaufman, M.D., a Florida Ophthalmologist who owns SEE BETTER LIVE BETTER U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,917,064 for physician services in the field of ophthalmology. Mr. Kaufman is seeking injunctive relief as well as damages from Bausch & Lomb's use of the phrase "See better. Live better" in advertising and on its web site.
The original complaint against Bausch & Lomb was filed in February. In response to being sued, Bausch & Lomb decided to file the counterclaim against Dr. Kaufman asserting that SEE BETTER LIVE BETTER is a generic term in the industry of eye care and therefore the trademark should be cancelled by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In the counterclaim, Bausch & Lomb states that many others in the eye care industry are using the slogan or similar slogans and therefore "No one party should have exclusive rights to this popular phrase." In its counterclaim Bausch & Lomb states that "See Better Live Better is generic for eye services that help people see better so that they can live better."
While it may be a stretch to say that the trademark is inherently generic, Bauch & Lomb can still be successful in cancelling the trademark if it can prove that it is in widespread use. Examples of trademarks that became generic over time are ASPIRIN and CELLOPHANE. To support its claim that the trademark has become generic, the counterclaim lists many other uses of the trademark including uses by ophthalmologists that allegedly used the slogan prior to Mr. Kaufman. This is somewhat of a position pill argument in that Bausch & Lomb is arguing that it also is not entitled to trademark protection in the slogan. Considering this, it may be advisable for Bausch & Lomb to cease use of the phrase regardless of the merits of the claim.
Dr. Kaufman is accusing Bausch & Lomb of "reverse confusion." In other words, he is alleging that the public will believe that Bausch & Lomb is the true owner of the trademark which will lead the public to believe that Mr. Kaufman is the infringer rather than Bausch & Lomb.