Word of the Week: Moron in a Hurry

Each week we select a legal term or phrase that”s commonly misunderstood, interesting, or makes a great insult. This week”s word is the latter.

As any first year law student struggling with the “reasonable person standard” can tell you, the last thing the legal world needs is more imaginative standards and tests. One novel concept, however, might be an exception: the charmingly named “moron in a hurry.” Like the “reasonable person,” the “moron in a hurry” is a legal fiction employed to represent the decisions someone might make under a given set of circumstances. That “someone,” however, isn”t reasonably prudent at all. Instead, it”s an imaginary conception of the least informed, least diligent consumer in a given market — and it”s making the transition from informal phrase to bona fide legal concept.

The phrase was first used in Morning Star Cooperative v. Express Newspapers in 1978. In that case, the People”s Press Printing Society sued Express Newspapers, alleging that Express”s tawdry new tabloid “The Daily Star” would adversely affect sales of their own Communist daily, “The Morning Star.” The Morning Star”s publisher argued that Londoners seeking to keep up on the daily news of the Communist Party might accidentally pick up the similarly-named celebrity gossip rag instead, besmirching the Morning Star”s good name and confusing its readers.

The High Court of England rejected the claim, holding that “only a moron in a hurry would be misled” into confusing the two magazines. Today best online casino the two continue to publish under their respective titles, presumably with little confusion among readers.

In the U.S., the process of determining trademark infringement is largely similar. If Joe McDonald were to open “McDonald”s Sandwiches” in a market where McDonald”s Hamburgers also does business, he”d likely be sued for trademark infringement, given the “likelihood of confusion” that consumers would believe his sandwiches originated from the fast-food chain. By the same token, McDonald”s Hardware can operate without fear of legal action, since no consumer is likely to believe the company has suddenly branched out from hamburgers to hammers and nails.

In the grey area between those two extremes, the logic of the “moron in a hurry” test emerges. If there”s some possibility of confusion between two trademarks, but the only confused party would be a less-than-prudent consumer, the defendant”s mark should rightfully stand. As a Canadian court recently held, “it is not sufficient that the only confusion would be to a very small, unobservant section of society … [or] if the only person who would be misled was a ‘moron in a hurry.”” In 2006, Apple Computer used the same standard in successfully defending against the Beatles record label Apple Corps in the courts of England. Though the phrase hasn”t yet been employed by a federal court in the U.S., the concept is well-established: any “likelihood of confusion” isn”t determined upon the basis of just any consumer, but rather a reasonably prudent one. It”s only a matter of time before an artful attorney brings the “moron in a hurry” to the U.S. courts – and brings a chuckle to struggling law students.

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