- Commercial airline JetBlue sued Walmart and its Jet e-commerce subsidiary last week for trademark infringement. The company alleged that Walmart and Jet were "unlawfully impairing the distinctiveness of the JetBlue brand and the JETBLUE Marks."
- In its complaint, the airline described the name of Jet's concierge service, Jetblack, which launched a little over a year ago to target higher-income urban dwellers, as "confusingly similar" and "dilutive" to JetBlue's trademark name. Moreover, the airline said, Jet aims to use other similar names, such as Jetgold and Jetsilver, and "to move closer to JetBlue's core services by offering travel and transportation services."
- JetBlue is seeking a court injunction against Walmart and Jet that would stop the company from using the names. A spokesperson for Walmart told Retail Dive that the company had not yet been served with the complaint and could not respond to specific allegations. "Walmart is an intellectual property owner," he said. "We respect the intellectual property rights of others. When served with the complaint, we will respond appropriately with the court."
When Jetblack launched as a $50-a-month service for busy New York families, co-founder and CEO of the project Jenny Fleiss, a co-founder of Rent the Runway, described it as a new level of convenience and online shopping for its clients. Jetblack employees would even make visits to new customers' houses to scan products and brands to ease use of the service, which allowed them to quickly order products and services by voice or text as the need, idea or time arose.
In its lawsuit, JetBlue describes the service as a "well-publicized effort" by Walmart to "appeal to a new customer base outside of brick and mortar retail in order to increase profits and appease investors." Motives aside, Jet and Jetblack represent a new market for Walmart.
Starting with New York, where Jetblack launched, Jet has been Walmart's introduction and only foothold in the city. For the most part, the retail giant's main banner has not penetrated dense urban areas like New York, preferring the suburbs, where space is more plentiful for its supercenters.
As Jet gets folded operationally under Walmart's main e-commerce operation, Jet remains the retailer's main arm serving urban consumers. Earlier in June, Marc Lore, founder of Jet and CEO of Walmart's e-commerce unit, announced the company would eliminate the lead executive role at Jet and place the responsibilities under another Walmart eCommerce executive.
"However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper focused on those urban customers," he said then. "While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses complement each other."
In JetBlue's view, as Jetblack expanded its offerings to a range of services — among them transportation, recommendations for destinations and events, bookings, and entertainment — the similarity to its own trade name become more problematic. So do new trademark filings by Walmart for Jetgold and Jetsilver, which would cover yet more goods, services and customer programs.