The Palo Alto wealth-management firm Sand Hill Advisors LLC has lost its trademark infringement suit against an identically-named Los Altos commercial real estate company. Rejecting plaintiff’s argument that the name “Sand Hill” evoked an “entrepreneurial spirit” which made it protectable, U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled instead that “Sand Hill” was geographically descriptive, which means that it can’t be trademarked. The judge dismissed plaintiff’s reliance on a handful of misplaced calls and misdelivered packages over a 10-year period as insufficient to support its confusion argument, commenting that the “paucity of evidence of actual confusion” combined with a lack of overlap in the services offered by the two companies supported defendant’s position. In the words of the court, plaintiff attempted to “paint with too broad a brush ” — and missed the mark entirely.
I am a commercial litigator and intellectual property lawyer in Orange County. Although my practice encompasses a wide variety of business disputes, I have a particular fondness for, and am prone to wax philosophical on, the subjects of copyright and trademark infringement in music, literature, art, and film.