A trademark infringement case was filed this week that involves a dispute between two home healthcare agencies.

The case, Acaria Inc. v. Acaria Home Health LLC, et al., is currently pending in federal district court in Colorado.  The plaintiff, Acaria, Inc., doing business as Acaria Homecare, is a home care agency located in Lakewood, Colorado.   Acaria is the owner of U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 4524982 of ACARIA HOMECARE for “home visiting nurse care; nursing care; and nursing services” in International Class 044.   The plaintiff alleges that it has been using the ACARIA HOMECARE mark in commerce since 2005.   It conducts business in the greater Denver area. The defendants conduct business under the names Acaria Healthcare and Acaria Hospice.   Acaria Healthcare describes itself as ” a leading provider in Home Health, Hospice, and Palliative care.”  The defendants’ service area covers Maricopa County, Arizona.

The parties’ respective websites are here:  http://www.acariainc.com (plaintiff) and http://www.acariahc.com (defendants).  If the Acaria plaintiff is successful, it could be entitled to a permanent injunction, monetary damages, and an award of attorney’s fees.

If you are a home healthcare agency that is adopting a new name (or currently using one), you should remember the following principles:

  1.   Conduct a trademark search.  A properly qualified trademark attorney should conduct a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, state records, and common law listings (of unregistered trademarks that are in use in commerce).   By conducting and analyzing the search results, the attorney will be able to determine if the proposed trademark is available for registration and use.  To make such a determination, the Trademark Office looks to thirteen different factors in assessing whether a junior user’s mark is confusingly similar to an existing senior registration so as to refuse registration.
  2.   Prepare and file a trademark application.  If a trademark attorney believes that your proposed trademark is preliminarily available, she should prepare and file a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.   The Examining Attorney in the USPTO assigned to review your application will conduct his own search to determine whether there are any preexisting registrations that may pose a bar to registration of your mark.  He will also determine if your application meets all other procedural and substantive requirements for registration.
  3.  Train your staff and employees.    Health marketing compliance mistakes can be costly to a healthcare company and its reputation.  Your staff should be made aware of the main areas of brand protection and risk, including HIPAA Marketing compliance principles, trademark and copyright use and misuse, and social media risks.

By implementing proactive policies and training, you will be able to effectively mitigate the risks that your  healthcare organization faces as it relates to the advertising, marketing, and promotion of your professional staff and services.