A federal appeals court in Illinois has reversed a lower court's decision that Florida-based RIA Ariel Capital Advisors had infringed on the trademarks of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, an asset manager.
In March, a federal court in Chicago imposed a fine on Ariel Capital and ruled that its owner, Christopher Bray, would have to pick a new name for the business because his firm likely would be confused with the larger, nationwide Ariel Investments, which has held trademarks on its name since as early as 1984.
The advisory firm, which Mr. Bray says was named after his daughter, is now known as Bray Capital Advisors and is based in Naples, Fla.
A three-judge panel in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed the ruling based their decision on an interpretation of the Lanham Act, which governs trademarks, saying that jurisdiction under the law depends on state statutes. Since Ariel Capital has no property or clients in Illinois, or advertised there, the panel found that the smaller firm was not "acting" in Illinois.
"Knowing about a potential for harm in a particular state is not the same as acting in that state — and it takes the latter to permit personal jurisdiction under state law," the appeals court wrote.
"No matter how one might characterize the relation between Ariel Investments and Ariel Capital, it is easy to describe the relation between Illinois and Ariel Capital: none," the panelists ruled. "That resolves this litigation."