Respondent Taco Cabana, Inc operates fast food chain restaurants in Texas. Since its first store was opened in 1978, it had opened six stores by 1985. In 1985, Two Pesos Inc opened its own restaurant. It adopted a motif which was very similar to that of the respondent. It allowed its employees to use dresses similar to that of the Respondent. As a result, respondent sued petitioner for trade dress infringement under the Trademark Act of 1946 which says that “any person who uses in connection with any goods or services any false description or representation shall be liable to any person damaged by such use.” The trial court found that the trade dress used by Taco Cabana is inherently distinctive but it has not acquired a secondary meaning. It also found that the infringement by the Two Pesos Inc of Taco Cabana’s trade dress created a likelihood of confusion on the part of the ordinary customers as to the source or association of the restaurant’s good or services. Based on the district court’s instruction, the jury ruled in favor of the respondent and awarded damages in its favor. Court of Appeals affirmed.
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Issue: whether a person filing a suit for trade dress infringement needs to prove that the dress is not only inherently distinctive but has also acquired a secondary meaning
Decision: No. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
Rationale: Trade dress which is inherently distinctive is protected under the law without a necessity of showing that it has acquired a secondary meaning since such trade dress itself is capable of identifying and distinguishing the products and services as coming from a specific source. The law does not require that a trade dress must not only be inherently distinctive but must also acquire a secondary meaning. The purpose is to prevent deception and unfair competition.
Significance: The significance of this decision is that it emphasizes the legal principle that companies cannot engage in unfair competition by copying the trade dress of its competitors. Under this decision, the companies seeking to prevent their competitors from copying their trade dresses need not meet the double standard of proof. This decision makes it easier for companies to file suit against imitators.
On September 17, 1998, the Harris County Sheriff received a report of an alleged weapons disturbance. In response to the call, the sheriff entered the private residence of John Geddes Lawrence, a 60-year-old adult, together with Tyron Garner, a 36-year-old adult in the act of having private and consensual anal intercourse. They were immediately arrested and placed in confinement for violation of Texas Criminal Law. Chapter 21 of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code considers misdemeanor when someone “engages in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” Deviant sexual intercourse is defined as any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person; or the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another person with an object. They were initially convicted by the Justice of Peace. They appealed their case to the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Texas law was unconstitutional. This was later reconsidered and reversed in a 7-1 decision by the Court of Appeals en banc.
Issue: Whether the Texas criminal law involved prohibiting sexual intercourse between people of the same sex violates due process clause, equal protection clause and the Fourteenth Amendment.
Decision: Yes. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court declared that the law is unconstitutional.
Rationale: Firstly, it is incorrect to state that there is a long-standing antipathy against homosexual activities. Sodomy was prohibited early in our history because it did not promote procreation which should be the ultimate goal of every sexual activity. The Texas Law prohibiting sexual intercourse between people of the same sex violates due process which is protected by the US Constitution. It bears stressing that the petitioners were caught in a moment of sexual intimacy. They were both adults who willingly gave their consent to such intimacy. There was no physical force, intimidation or coercion involved. The right of liberty of every individual under the due process clause gives them the freedom to engage in private conduct without government intrusion and interference. Further, there is no valid reason to be advanced by the government for its intrusion into the affairs of the private individual.
Significance: The significance of this decision is that it emphasizes the legal principle even criminal laws of a state cannot prevail over the protection guaranteed under the US Constitution. Moreover, it upholds the right of gays to engage in private consensual sex.
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