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Georgia Supreme Court Voids Injunction Against Law Firm’s Advertisement

November 21, 2016

Shannon Sprinkle and Tyler Wetzel prevailed for the second time at the Georgia Supreme Court on behalf of its out-of-state law firm client. In a related 2015 case, Shannon and Ty had secured a reversal of a trial court injunction of prior advertisements. This second lawsuit contended that the law firm had infringed upon the trademarks of a national nursing home facility group. The Plaintiff sought relief under Georgia’s trademark anti-dilution statute. The trial court entered a permanent injunction prohibiting the law firm from placing any advertisements which used the nursing home’s service marks, trade names, logos, or photographs of such. Shannon and Ty appealed the injunction to the Georgia Supreme Court, assisted by co-counsel specializing in trademark law.

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order finding that the law firm’s advertisements did not infringe upon the nursing home facilities’ trademarks. Justice Nahmias authored the opinion holding that “[not] every unwelcome use of one’s trademark in the advertising of another provides a basis for a tarnishment claim.” He said the law firm was using the nursing home logo in a descriptive manner and “counting on the public to identify” the facility. Nahmias added, “In short, the ad very clearly was an ad for a law firm and nothing more.” A link to the Daily Report’s coverage of the Supreme Court’s ruling is below.

The Supreme Court’s holding is a victory for law firms that rely upon legal advertisements. Although legal advertising is clearly permitted under the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, this case and the earlier 2015 case show that such advertisements may continue to be challenged on other legal grounds and remain hotly contested.

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For informational purposes only. Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in future cases.