Summary: Likelihood of Confusion Between Cozy Coupe and Princess Carriage
MGA Entertainment takes Dynacraft BSC for a ride–to court. MGA brought a trademark infringement and counterfeiting action against Dynacraft for allegedly counterfeiting its Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Princess Carriage by producing its own Princess Carriage and selling it on the websites of eBay, Walmart, and Toys R Us. MMR Strategy Group was retained to measure the likelihood of confusion between the two princess carriages.
Cozy Coupe Case Facts
MGA Entertainment is the parent company of the Little Tikes Company. Little Tikes Company manufactures and sells a line of non-battery-operated ride-in cars called the Cozy Coupe, among other children’s ride-in and push cars. The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe is a top-selling product for MGA Entertainment. Since the original debuted in 1979, the company has changed very little of the design, and has filed numerous trademarks to protect the iconic design. Defendant Dynacraft BSC is another manufacturer of a non-battery-operated ride-in push car toy. Dynacraft sells or sold these toys using a number of eBay storefronts and users, including honeydukessweetshop, freshdeals2112, the_house, and theroyalflush, and on Toysrus.com and the Walmart website.
In July of 2012, MGA introduced the Princess Cozy Coupe, which was a redesign that incorporated purple and pink in a new configuration reminiscent of the original Cozy Coupe. In 2016, it expanded on this design and released the Princess Horse and Carriage Cozy Coupe. Meanwhile, in 2017, Dynacraft began manufacturing, marketing, and selling a line of allegedly infringing toy cars called the “Disney Princess Preschool Carriage.” These products are sold in the same channels as the Cozy Coupe line, including on websites for Ebay, Toys R Us, and Walmart. MGA alleged that these two toys were in direct competition, and that the defendants positioned the Disney Princess Preschool Carriage intentionally as a brand extension of the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. MGA also alleged that when the cars were offered for sale on eBay, they were intentionally marketed using the Cozy Coupe marks in order to confuse consumers.
The plaintiff included examples it alleged showed actual confusion, written in consumer reviews of the Dynacraft cars. The relevant comments included:
- “Cute updated version of cozy coupe”
- “Princess cozy coupe”
- “great spin of the cozy coupe”
- “a cute upgrade to the traditional little tikes”
- “a fun version of the classic rideable car”
- “classic remade”
- “cute version of the classic car”
Likelihood of Confusion Survey Design
Dynacraft retained MMR Strategy Group president Dr. Bruce Isaacson to measure and testify about the likelihood of confusion between Dynacraft’s Disney Preschool Carriage and the Little Tikes Princess Carriage. Dr. Isaacson conducted a likelihood of confusion consumer survey using an Eveready format, because the plaintiff alleged that the car was iconic and had likely acquired a secondary meaning. Because MGA maintained that its Cozy Coupe was famous, there should be no need to show it in the survey, and including it could bias the survey results. The survey showed the Dynacraft products in a retail box, as consumers would most likely experience them in the marketplace. According to the complaint, the trade dress elements at issue included:
- the body of the vehicle,
- a rounded roof with four elongated pillars supporting the roof,
- the bottom curvature of the body side panels,
- the lack of any details other than facial features, and
- the s-shaped attachment mechanism for the wheels.
The MMR Strategy Group likelihood of confusion survey was designed to expressly measure these aspects of the products. To isolate confusion between specific trade dress elements, Dr. Isaacson used a control box and carriage that altered the trade dress elements at issue. The research was conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted principles of litigation research and the Eveready survey protocol, including being double-blinded, meaning that neither the survey staff nor the respondents knew the survey’s purpose or sponsor. Respondents were never shown Little Tikes products.
Surveys were conducted in person at malls where respondents could be shown either the box or the carriage in a professional and enclosed location. Respondents were chosen at random across nine malls in the United States. Respondents were qualified as 18 years or older and planning to purchase a riding toy car that does not use batteries for a girl who is 18 months to five years old. The surveys were conducted between February 21 and March 4, 2019, and 543 respondents were interviewed in total, including 329 who were shown a test box or a test carriage and 214 who were shown the control versions.
Was There Coupe Confusion, or Did All Live Happily Ever After?
The MMR Strategy Group likelihood of confusion survey measured three types of confusion: confusion as to what company or brand manufactures the car, confusion as to the sponsorship of the car, and a total measure of the likelihood of confusion between the two cars and brands. In total, 5.8% of respondents displayed confusion about the brand of the toy car. That includes 4.9% who gave a response related to Little Tikes or the Cozy Coupe when asked who makes or puts out the product they saw, and an additional 0.9% who identified Little Tikes when asked what other products or brands are made by the company that makes or puts out the product they saw. An additional 0.3% answered that Little Tikes sponsored or approved the product they saw, for a total confusion measure of 6.1% (calculated as 5.8% + 0.3%). After accounting for the controla, the net level of confusion was 1.4% (calculated by subtracting 4.7%, the total confusion measure for the control products, from the 6.1% total confusion measure for the test products). Dr. Isaacson concluded that in his experience, confusion is not likely with an observed measure of confusion at 1.4%.
When high-profile trademarks are allegedly infringed, a reliable likelihood of confusion survey can be important evidence that real consumers are confused. MMR Strategy Group designs consumer surveys in both Eveready and Squirt formats to meet the needs of clients involved in trademark litigation. If you require a likelihood of confusion survey, contact MMR Strategy Group.