Manhattan Medicine Co. v. Wood
Annotate this Case
108 U.S. 218 (1883)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Manhattan Medicine Co. v. Wood, 108 U.S. 218 (1883)
Manhattan Medicine Company v. Wood
Decided April 2, 1883
108 U.S. 218
A court of equity will extend no aid to sustain a claim to a trademark of an article which is put forth with a misrepresentation to the public as to the manufacturer of the article, and as to the place where it is manufactured, both being originally circumstances to guide the purchaser of the medicine.
When it is the object of a trademark to indicate the origin of manufactured goods, and a person affixes to goods of his own manufacture a trademark which declares that they are goods of the manufacture of some other person, it is a fraud upon the public which no court of equity will countenance.
The plaintiff claimed to be the owner of a patent medicine and of a trademark to distinguish it. The medicine was manufactured by the plaintiff in New York; the trademark declared that it was manufactured by another party in Massachusetts. Held that he was entitled to no relief against a person using the same trademark in Maine.
Bill in equity to restrain the defendants from using an alleged trademark of the complainant, upon certain medicines prepared by them, and to compel an accounting for the profits made from its use in their sale of the medicines; also, the payment of damages for their infringement of the complainant's rights.
The complainant, a corporation formed under the laws of New York, manufactured in that state medicines designated as "Atwood's Vegetable Physical Jaundice Bitters," and claimed as its trademark this designation, with the accompanying labels. Whatever right it possessed it derived by various mesne assignments from one Moses Atwood, of Georgetown, Massachusetts. The bill alleged that the complainant was, and for a long time previous to the grievances complained of had been the manufacturer and vender of the medicine mentioned; that it was put up and sold in glass bottles with twelve panel-shaped sides, on five of which in raised words and letters
"Atwood's Genuine Physical Jaundice Bitters, Georgetown, Mass.," were blown in the glass, each bottle containing about a pint, with a light yellow printed label pasted on the outside, designating the many virtues of the medicine, and the manner in which it is to be taken, and stating that it is manufactured by Moses Atwood, Georgetown, Massachusetts, and sold by his agents throughout the United States.
The bill also alleges that the bottles thus filled and labeled are put up in half-dozen packages with the same label on each package; that the medicine was first invented and put up for sale about twenty-five years ago by one Dr. Moses Atwood, formerly of Georgetown, Massachusetts, by whom, and his assigns and successors, it has been ever since sold "by the name, and in the manner, and with the trademarks, label, and description substantially the same as aforesaid;" that the complainant is the exclusive owner of the formula and recipe for making the medicine, and of the right of using the said name or designation, together with the trademarks, labels, and goodwill of the business of making and selling the same; that large sales of the medicine under that name and designation are made, amounting annually to 12,000 bottles; that the defendants are manufacturing and selling at Portland, Maine, and at other places within the United States unknown to the complainant, an imitation of the medicine, with the same designation and labels, and put up in similar bottles, with the same, or nearly the same, words raised on their sides, in fraud of the rights of the complainant and to its serious injury; that this imitation article is calculated and was intended to deceive purchasers and to mislead them to use it instead of the genuine article manufactured by the complainant, and has had, and does have, that effect. The bill therefore prays for an injunction to restrain the defendants from affixing or applying the words "Atwood's Vegetable Physical Jaundice Bitters," or either of them, or any imitation thereof, to any medicine sold by them, or to place them on any bottles in which it is put up, and also from using any labels in imitation of those of the complainant. It also prays for an accounting of profits and for damages.
Among the defenses interposed are these: that Moses Atwood never claimed any trademark of the words used in connection with the medicine manufactured and sold by him, and assuming that he had claimed the words used as a trademark, and that the right to use them had been transferred to the assignors of the complainant, it was forfeited by the misrepresentation as to the manufacture of the medicine on the labels accompanying it -- a misrepresentation continued by the complainant.