HANA FINANCIAL, INC. v. HANA BANK
In the spring of 1994, Hana Bank, a Korean entity, began to extend its services to the United States under the name Hana Overseas Korean Club. In advertisements distributed during the summer of 1994, Hana Bank included the name “Hana Overseas Korean Club” in English as well as “Hana Bank” in Korean. The advertisements also included Hana Bank’s logo, known as the “dancing man.” A second, distinct entity, Hana Financial, Inc. (HFI) was founded in California in the fall of 1994. In 1996, HFI obtained a federal trademark for their logo, a pyramid, with the words “Hana Financial” for use in financial services. Hana Bank officials were aware of HFI’s use of the name Hana Financial but did not see the need to take any action because the entities did not directly compete with each other. In 2007, HFI filed a complaint against Hana Bank alleging trademark infringement. The district court jury found that Hana Bank had used the “Hana Bank” trademark in the United States continuously since before HFI began using the “Hana Financial” trademark in 1995 and that Hana Bank’s trademark could be “tacked” to their 1994 advertisements, which included a similar, but distinct use of the phrase “Hana Bank.” HFI appealed, claiming that the determination of whether a trademark may be “tacked” to a prior mark is a question of law that must be determined by the court, not a question of fact that may be decided by a jury. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the affirmed the jury’s decision.
Is the determination of whether a trademark may be tacked to an earlier mark a question of law which a court must decide, or a question of fact for the jury?