Chrysler Group’s Vintage SCAT PACK Trademark Dispute

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May 21, 2015
Gabriel Applegate
SmithAmundsen Intellectual Property Alert

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The revival of Chrysler Group’s vintage SCAT PACK mark has also stirred up a decades-old trademark dispute. I have admired the third-generation Dodge Challenger and was especially pleased to see the revival of the SCAT PACK model in the 2015 Dodge muscle-car lineup. As great as the re-release of the SCAT PACK concept is for fans, it brings Chrysler a serious trademark challenge from Scat Enterprises. Scat Enterprises, an automotive parts supplier, has used the SCAT mark on after-market automotive parts since 1962 and owns U.S. trademark registrations for the mark.

Chrysler started using the SCAT PACK mark on its cars in 1968 and, as alleged by Scat Enterprises in a complaint filed against Chrysler in the U.S. District Court, Chrysler discontinued use of the mark in 1971 after receiving a cease and desist letter from Scat Enterprises. In its answer, Chrysler denies having received any such letter and asserts that Scat Enterprises waived its rights because it knew about Chrysler’s use of SCAT PACK for over 45 years, yet “failed to object to that use, thereby acquiescing in what Chrysler, enthusiasts, consumers, fans, Chrysler’s licensees, and others were doing.” No final ruling has been made in the case, but the district court has ruled against Scat Enterprises’ emergency request for a temporary restraining order preventing Chrysler’s further use of the mark.

Among other things, the court found that Scat Enterprises had not demonstrated that it was likely to succeed at trial. While the SCAT mark is moderately strong and the goods are somewhat related, other factors weighed against a finding of likelihood of confusion. In particular, there was no evidence of actual confusion and “people who would go to the trouble of buying either a performance upgrade kit on a new vehicle or high performance auto parts would likely be quite discerning and sophisticated in their knowledge of such goods, and their source.”

Keenly focused on maintaining the vintage appeal of their current Dodge offerings, Chrysler has continued using the mark despite its lingering cloud of uncertainty. Time will tell whether the marketing value of the vintage mark will outweigh the risk of infringing Scat Enterprises’ marks.

Just in case there is any confusion regarding this article’s use of the word “scat,” although Ford and Chevy camps happily advance the proposition that “scat” is derived from the Greek word “scata,” meaning excrement, all Mopar fans know that “scat” is commonly used in southern vernacular in place of “leave in a hurry.”