Name fight lands Orlando, Sanford international airports in federal court

Orlando Sanford International Airport wants trademark for its name, logo

Orlando Sanford International Airport.

ORLANDO, Fla. – What’s in a name?

A fight over a name (and a logo) is landing Metro Orlando’s two international airports in federal court.

Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is suing to appeal a decision by a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board to deny the airport’s application to trademark its name and logo.

The reason? The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled last March that the airport’s name and mark could lead to confusion among travelers with the other Orlando airport — Orlando International Airport (MCO).

In the lawsuit, SFB said the airport has operated under Orlando Sanford International Airport since 1996, and even though at the time MCO’s governing board, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, initially expressed concern about travelers getting the two airports mixed up, the agency never raised any further concerns about the two names.

That is until 2017, when the aviation authority formally told the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that allowing SFB to trademark the name and logo would lead to confusion for travelers who may have meant to have made travel arrangements through MCO, but instead made arrangements through SFB, or vice versa.

Orlando Sanford’s attorneys also want the federal court to issue a declaratory judgment that there is no likelihood of confusion and that SFB’s use of its trademark does not infringe on the rights of MCO.

“The Board erred by failing to bar Defendant’s opposition, as a matter of law, as a result of Defendant’s acquiescence to Plaintiff’s use of Plaintiff’s marks for over 27 years,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit is also seeking a declaration that the term Orlando International Airport is generic for “international airport services” in Orlando. If that were to happen, that would mean MCO and GOAA would have no valid trademark rights to the term under the law.

This is not the first time Orlando International Airport has gone to court over an airport’s name.

When the airport in Melbourne became Orlando Melbourne International Airport in 2015, MCO and GOAA objected, saying the airport was not located in the greater Orlando area and the rebranding would cause confusion. In 2019 GOAA took the Melbourne airport to court.

In 2021, the two airports settled the dispute, and the airport became Melbourne Orlando International Airport instead.

SFB filed its lawsuit in federal court last month.

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About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.