Ironhawk Smart Sync Lawsuit Revived On Appeal

Popular internet file sharing website Dropbox launched a feature called “Smart Sync” back in 2017. Smart Sync lets Dropbox users to view or move files via the cloud instead of downloading them directly to a computer’s hard drive. The feature is great for users who want to save space or avoid wasting time downloading huge files. But a Navy contractor you’ve never heard of called “Ironhawk Technologies” then sued Dropbox for trademark theft because it has its own feature with the exact same name.

When Ironhawk requested a jury trial to resolve the dispute, a Los Angeles federal court denied them the opportunity — but the 9th Circuit reversed the decision on appeal with a 2-1 opinion.

Ironhawk attorney Keith Wesley said, “We are grateful that the Court of Appeals reiterated its commitment to the reverse confusion doctrine and the protection of trademark rights of brands of all shapes and sizes.”

Ironhawk originally sued Dropbox based on the reverse confusion theory facet of trademark law, which iterates that a well-known trademark cannot be duplicated. For example, if a video game company unaffiliated with “Nintendo” tried to build a product or start a business called “Nintendo,” the reverse confusion theory would undoubtedly apply. However, it’s not certain whether or not enough people know about Ironhawk or it’s trademarked feature to confuse it with Dropbox’s. 

It’s also worth noting that reverse confusion theory does not apply when a product or service is wholly unrecognizable from the allegedly infringed upon trademark. For example, both Delta faucets and Delta airlines are very well known trademarks — but neither infringes upon the other because they’re completely different from one another. Ultimately, it will be left to a jury to decide whether or not Ironhawk is well-known enough for the theory to apply, or whether the Ironhawk feature is different enough from Dropbox’s to not apply.

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