Interpret Policy Provisions In California
The court in Palmer (Palmer v. Truck Ins. Exchange, supra, 21 Cal. 4th at pp. 1112, 1116-1117) applied the following rules of policy construction, which we shall also apply here:
'Interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law.' . . . 'While insurance contracts have special features, they are still contracts to which the ordinary rules of contractual interpretation apply.' . . . Thus, 'the mutual intention of the parties at the time the contract is formed governs interpretation.' . . . If possible, we infer this intent solely from the written provisions of the insurance policy. . . . If the policy language 'is clear and explicit, it governs.'
When interpreting a policy provision, we must give its terms their ' "ordinary and popular sense," unless "used by the parties in a technical sense or a special meaning is given to them by usage." ' . . . We must also interpret these terms 'in context' . . . and give effect 'to every part' of the policy with 'each clause helping to interpret the other.' " (21 Cal. 4th at p. 1115, citations omitted).
In addition, the language in the "contract must be interpreted as a whole, and in the circumstances of the case, and cannot be found to be ambiguous in the abstract." ( Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11 Cal. 4th 1, 18 44 Cal. Rptr. 2d 370, 900 P.2d 619.
The policy at issue in Palmer provided coverage for " 'advertising liability, ' " which it defined as " 'infringement . . . of title or of slogan,' " and excluded coverage " 'with respect to advertising activities' " for " 'infringement of registered trade mark . . . .' " the exclusion did " 'not relate to titles or slogans.' " (Palmer, supra, 21 Cal. 4th at p. 1114 & fn. 3).
The Palmer court held that "if a claim does not fall within the terms of the policy's coverage clauses, then no coverage exists. . . ." ( Id. at pp. 1115-1116).
The court noted that "title" appears in both the coverage clause defining advertising liability and the trademark exclusion clause, and that nothing in the policy suggested that the two clauses defined "title" differently. ( Id. at p. 1116).
Reading the policy's coverage clauses in conjunction with the clause excluding coverage for trademark infringement, the court held that these provisions cover infringement of names of literary or artistic works or names that are slogans, and no other names. ( Id. at p. 1112).
The court reasoned as follows: "Examining the word 'title' in the context of the trademark exclusion clause establishes that 'title' can only mean the name of a literary or artistic work.
The exclusion clause states: 'This insurance does not apply . . . with respect to advertising activities, to claim made against the insured for . . . infringement of registered trade mark, service mark or trade name by use thereof as the registered trade mark, service mark or trade name of goods or services sold, offered for sale or advertised, but this shall not relate to titles or slogans . . . .' Interpreted in its ordinary and popular sense, this clause excludes coverage for infringement of a 'registered trade mark, service mark or trade name' unless that 'trade mark, service mark or trade name' is a title or slogan.
To be consistent with this interpretation, the definition of 'title' cannot subsume the definitions of 'trade mark,' 'service mark,' or 'trade name' as understood in the Policy.
Otherwise, all or part of the exclusion clause becomes meaningless. P ONLY ONE DEFINITION FITS: the name of a literary or artistic work. Because these names can be trademarked, adopting this definition of 'title' carves out a limited exception and gives effect to every part of the Policy's trademark exclusion clause. . . ." (Id. at pp. 1116-1117).
The trademark exclusion clause construed in Palmer differs slightly from the clause at issue here: the clause in Palmer refers to "infringement of registered trade mark" (Palmer, supra, 21 Cal. 4th at p. 1114), whereas the clause in this case relates to "infringement of trademark," thus encompassing both varieties--registered and unregistered.