If you're not an authorized dealer for the products you sell, will it confuse consumers about whether you are if you use product trademarks and talk about your relationships with manufacturers in your advertising? That's the issue being litigated in Pacific Office Automation v. Northwest Imaging Analysts.
Plaintiff Pacific Office Automation is an authorized dealer for a variety of office equipment products. Defendant Northwest Imaging Analysts is not, but allegedly used manufacturer trademarks on its website and in other promotional materials and claimed that it had "partnerships" with those manufacturers.
The plaintiff sued under the Lanham Act for false designation of origin and false advertising, alleging that the defendant misled consumers about whether Northwest Imaging was an authorized dealer of certain office products. The plaintiff alleged, for example, that even though the defendant was not an authorized Konica Minolta dealer, the defendant told a potential customer that it "had the authority and ability to sell and service Konica Minolta equipment and that [defendant] would provide [the potential customer] with a Konica Minolta promotion."
The defendant moved to dismiss, but the United States District Court for the District of Oregon allowed the claims to continue. The court said that, "it is reasonable to infer that Defendants intentionally misrepresented their association with certain manufacturers to customers." The court also said that, "A reasonable inference properly drawn in Plaintiff’s favor would be that 'partners' implies that [defendant] is an authorized dealer and servicer of products for those manufacturers."