Tequila marketer Patron Spirits International has sued The Reindeer Group Ltd. its former digital agency, alleging the shop is violating trademark law by continuing to promote Patron as a client on its website, even though the relationship was terminated in early 2014. Patron also alleges that the agency, called Reindeer, overbilled the marketer by at least $81,000. Agencies routinely display client work on their websites. But the Patron lawsuit raises questions about what rights agencies have to promote client work, especially if the two parties no longer have a relationship. The lawsuit was recently filed in federal court in Texas.
Moreover, Reindeer’s use of PSI’s marks falsely suggests a connection between the two brands, which allows Reindeer to reap the benefits of the highly valuable Patrón name and all of the associated goodwill, but without PSI’s permission. On its site, Reindeer describes itself as Patron’s “agency of record for all digital creative, social and media planning” for the U.S. and U.K. The site includes a screen shot of Patronsocialclub.com, which Reindeer says it worked on. In its suit, Patron alleges that the use of such materials amounts to trademark infringement. The site “falsely suggests a connection” between Patron and Reindeer, “which allows Reindeer to reap the benefits of the highly valuable Patron name and all the associated goodwill, but without
[Patron’s] permission.” The situation here might well be related to the fact that the agency continues to show reference to this client and this client’s trademark as being work products of the agency that are still current.
Patron also alleges that Mr. Benton has refused to transfer a website domain name back to Patron. Reindeer used the domain name, patroncocktaillab.com, as an advertising tool for Patron. The lawsuit also claims Reindeer is committing cybersquatting by holding hostage a web address — www.patroncocktaillab.com — that should have been transferred back to Patron when their contract ended. The suit appears rooted in a billing dispute that arose after Patrón dropped Reindeer as a client.
Keywords: Patron Spirits International, trademark infringement, goodwill, domain name.