TikTok has prevailed as a defendant in a federal trial court against trademark infringement claims brought by plaintiff seeking $116 million in damages. The plaintiff, Stitch Editing, Ltd., is a major video editing firm that provides services to a number of the music industry’s “heavy hitters” like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. The company also caters to high-profile commercial brands including ESPN, BMW, and Louis Vuitton. Stitch Editing holds a U.S. trademark registration on its “STITCH EDITING” mark.
In late 2020, TikTok unveiled a video editing tool that it calls “Stitch”—which one may think sounds quite similar to “STITCH EDITING.” TikTok’s “Stitch” feature allows users to integrate clips from other users’ videos into their own within the TikTok app. It has become widely adopted by TikTok users.
Federal trademark law (the Lanham Act) protects both registered and unregistered (common-law) trademarks from infringement by others. The key distinction between the two is that registered marks are afforded a presumption of validity and ownership (enforceability), while a plaintiff must prove the validity and ownership of unregistered marks as part of their case. The crux of a trademark infringement claim is the likelihood of consumer confusion: whether the defendant’s use of a mark is sufficiently similar to the plaintiff’s valid mark that consumers are likely to be confused about the source of goods or services.
In early 2021, Stich Editing filed suit against TikTok in a California federal court for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and unfair competition under California law. Stitch Editing argued that TikTok’s use of “STITCH” for video editing is likely to cause consumer confusion with Stitch’s “STITCH EDITING” registered mark and a “STITCH” mark that it claimed under common law.
After a seven-day trial, the California jury found TikTok not liable for infringing the registered “STITCH EDITING” mark. It also found that Stitch Editing did not have common law rights in the “STITCH” mark to enforce. Stitch Editing had asked the jury for $116 million in damages. As it stands, it will receive none.
The case is Stitch Editing Ltd. v. TikTok, Inc., et al., Case No. 21-cv-06636 (C.D. Cal.).