A workplace safety consulting firm will stop using the OSHA acronym and a stylized logo similar to the federal government’s trademarked Occupational Safety and Health Administration acronym and logo under an agreement approved by a federal judge.
The government sued to ban the use of the name, acronym, and abbreviation by Global OSHA of Schaumburg, Illinois, which runs the Global Occupational Safety and Health Academy. The government has complained for years that the firm’s signage is “confusingly similar” to the official OSHA designation and that it falsely implies sponsorship by the Department of Labor’s OSHA.
The government claims that the terms “Occupational Safety and Health Administration” and “OSHA” have been “uniquely associated” with the U.S. Department of Labor since the 1970s and OSHA is “recognized as a national and international authority on occupational safety and health.”
OSHA and OSHA Training Institute Education Centers are registered trademarks covering services provided to the public in the field of health and safety. The OSHA trademarks incorporate a distinct stylized version of the term OSHA.
As a result of the extensive use by OSHA of the names “Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” “OSHA,” and its distinctive logo, as well as media attention and publicity, the names and logo have acquired “incalculable fame, goodwill and value” and are “uniquely and unmistakably” associated with the Department of Labor and OSHA, the government maintains.
Global OSHA had been denied trademark registration by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because the agency concluded that the logo falsely suggested a connection with the U.S. government.
However in 2019, Global OSHA appealed the USPTO’s decision to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), which reversed. The TTAB held that given “large number of third-party registrations [descriptively] using the term ‘OSHA’, the Global OSHA logo did not uniquely and unmistakably point to OSHA.”
In February 2022, the government went to federal court to obtain a permanent injunction against Global OSHA.
Global OSHA defended itself, arguing that for years many companies have used “OSHA” to indicate their own safety-related services. “Trademark law does not allow plaintiff to tolerate widespread use of its purported mark, then sue a small business on the theory that consumers—in a sophisticated market in which decisions are carefully made—are likely to be confused,” the firm countered.
In April, the parties reached a consent agreement. This week Judge Martha M. Pacold of the federal district court for Northern Illinois approved the agreement under which Global OSHA is permanently enjoined from using the OSHA trademarks, the word “OSHA,” or “Occupational Safety and Health Academy.” The firm has two months to comply.
It is barred from using a “design aesthetic that is visually similar” to the OSHA marks in branding, a logo, tradename and/or trade dress, any website URLs, as a social media identifier, and in any and all business registrations with a state or municipality.
Global OSHA is also enjoined from applying or re-applying for any trademark registration for any marks, names, or other identifiers that include “OSHA,” “Occupational Safety and Health Academy” or are confusingly similar to the OSHA marks.
Top officers of Global OSHA formerly worked for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They include James Barnes, chief executive officer; Henry Payne, president; and Charles Shields, executive director.
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