DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Jessica Gutierrez Alm

View my professional biography

I wasn’t planning to be a lawyer. At least that was my thinking as I began law school. This degree was going to give me a leg up in my efforts to enter the business world. Lawyers live in the gray — where there’s never a right answer, only possibilities — and the favorite lawyer answer for any seemingly yes-or-no question is: “it depends.” I was an engineer. I enjoyed the absoluteness of knowing that my answer to any problem was correct or incorrect. Despite my resistance to lawyer thinking, at some point along my law school path, I discovered intellectual property. This world allowed me to be an engineer, to revel in mathematics and physics, while still practicing this thing they call the law. Through my newfound joy in IP, I grew to appreciate that there is a place for gray, and to understand that not every question has a correct answer.

When I’m not working, you’ll find me exploring the limits of my creativity in the form of DIY projects for my house. My husband and I recently purchased our first home and there is no limit to the number of HGTV projects I’ll attempt.

Posts by Jessica Gutierrez Alm

Boldly Going Where no Fanfic has Gone Before

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Fanfiction refers to the art of creating fiction using another author’s characters or universe.  I was first introduced to the concept in high school, when a friend began writing Harry Potter fanfiction.  (Side note: this is not one of those situations where the “friend” is actually me.)  My friend used the same well-known characters—Harry, Hermione,… Continue Reading

Santa Goes to the Trademark Office

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Contracts, Fashion, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

This is Fashion Santa. Or at least it was until recently. Fashion Santa is a role that originated with model, Paul Mason and Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall in 2014. He promoted the mall and a successful charitable giving campaign. Mason continued as Fashion Santa during the 2015 holiday season, and became somewhat of a social media sensation.  But… Continue Reading

Such a Nasty Trademark

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

After the last presidential debate, the Republican nominee’s “such a nasty woman” utterance led to somewhat of a rallying cry.  Within minutes, #Nastywoman was trending across social media, and streaming of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” spiked 250% on Spotify. While many debated the societal and political implications of the comment, a few enterprising individuals recognized a… Continue Reading

Intellectual Property for President 2016

Posted in Copyrights, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

  The 2016 Presidential election season has produced moments of strife, humor, shock, and even a little magic.  Most importantly, however, this election season has also provided us with plenty of IP fodder. First, there was a fortuitous discussion of Trump’s brand strength. Next, we looked at a slew of fresh campaign logos beaming with hope and… Continue Reading

Federal Cannabis Laws Don’t Impede Patentability

Posted in Agreements, Patents, Technology, USPTO

While the Lanham Act bars the federal registration of trademarks related to illegal goods and services, there is no such prohibition against patenting illegal products or processes. However, the value of such patents is debatable. State Legalization Leads to Increased Patent Applications Marijuana is now legal, in some form, in 25 states. But under federal… Continue Reading

Trans-Pacific Intellectual Property

Posted in Agreements, Copyrights, Fair Use, Idea Protection, Infringement, International, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Trademarks

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a favored talking point among our presidential hopefuls—is an international trade agreement between twelve nations. The agreement was signed earlier this year, but is not yet ratified in most member countries including the United States. Negotiations took place over seven years and resulted in thirty dense chapters of provisions—some of which are… Continue Reading

A $10 Billion Idea, without a Patent, is just an Idea

Posted in Copyrights, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Patents, Technology

Have you ever seen an ad for something and thought to yourself, “Hey, I had that idea years ago!” Some people take that thought a step further. One Florida man claims to have invented the iPhone in 1992, and is suing Apple to the tune of over $10 billion. Thomas Ross filed a patent application… Continue Reading

Blowing the Whistle on Trade Secrets: Employers Required to Provide Notice of Whistleblower Protections under DTSA

Posted in Agreements, Almost Advice, Law Suits, Loss of Rights

Last month, the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) was signed into law. The DTSA provides remedies for trade secrets misappropriation, including a new federal cause of action, under which private companies can sue for trade secrets misappropriation. The DTSA allows a trade secret owner to seek actual damages, injunctive relief, restitution, and in some… Continue Reading

LARPing with Patent Trolls

Posted in Counterfeits, Dilution, Fair Use, False Advertising, First Amendment, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology, Trademark Bullying

Live Action Role Playing (LARP or LARPing) usually involves Renaissance Festival worthy costumes, foam medieval weapons, and an intense dedication to not breaking character.  I can’t say I’ve ever had the privilege of participating in a LARP event, but I also can’t say I’d turn down the opportunity. A different kind of battle—the intellectual property… Continue Reading

Primarily Merely a Drumpf

Posted in Branding, Social Media, Social Networking, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

This presidential election cycle has been nothing if not entertaining.  Mr. Trump has been a particular favorite among late night T.V. hosts. In one particular 20-minute monologue, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver berated the Donald, and in doing so, brought to light a historical quirk of the Trump name.  It would seem that the… Continue Reading

Nominative Fair Use, as Illustrated by Colorful Balls

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Fair Use, False Advertising, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Television, Trademarks

If you watch any amount of T.V. or happened to catch either of the AFC or NFC Championship games last weekend, you’ve probably seen one of the recent cell phone carrier ball commercials. Initially, Verizon created this commercial, wherein a series of colorful balls rolling down a ramp are used to describe Verizon’s apparently superior… Continue Reading

Printing Infringement: Are 3-D Printers the Next Napster?

Posted in Copyrights, Counterfeits, Fair Use, Infringement, Patents, Product Configurations, Technology, Trademarks

Happy 2016! I hope everyone had a fun and festive New Year celebration. As for me, I’ll be spending my three-day weekend tinkering with this: Thanks to my thoughtful husband and the rapidly increasing availability and affordability of these products, I am the proud new owner of a 3-D printer.  It’s basically been running nonstop… Continue Reading

A Few Useful Holiday Inventions

Posted in Patents

One principal requirement for obtaining a utility patent is that the invention be useful.  “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor.” 35 U.S.C. 101.  The usefulness requirement has roots in the Constitutional grant of power… Continue Reading

The TAKE YO PANTIES OFF Argument

Posted in Famous Marks, First Amendment, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks, TTAB

  In appealing the cancellation of six trademarks, the Washington Redskins filed their opening brief in the Fourth Circuit this week.  Cancellation of the team’s REDSKINS trademarks was upheld by a federal district court in July.  The marks were deemed “disparaging” under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which denies trademark protection to marks that… Continue Reading

Rough Landing for Airbus

Posted in Branding, Idea Protection, Marketing, Patents, Social Media, USPTO

As if economy airplane seating wasn’t bad enough, Airbus recently filed a patent application for vertically stacked passenger seating.  The proposed seating arrangement is intended to make more efficient use of cabin space.  What’s better than someone’s legs pushing into the back of your chair?   Someone’s legs dangling above your head. The patent application was… Continue Reading

Clouding Up Trade Secret Protections

Posted in Almost Advice, Idea Protection, Loss of Rights, Technology

“The cloud” can refer to a lot of things, and is frequently a misunderstood concept. While cloud computing can encompass a number of Internet-based functions, in its simplest form, “the cloud” merely refers to the use of remote servers for data storage, processing, and management. Usually, the remote servers are hosted by a third party… Continue Reading

Internet Loses it Over Google’s New Logo

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Search Engines, Social Media, Social Networking

Google changed its logo this week, and the Internet is not happy about it. In the new design, the name appears in thicker, cleaner letters. Specifically, the new design eliminates serifs—the little tails at the bottom of each letter in many fonts, like Times New Roman. The announcement Tuesday, featuring a short animation sequence, revealed… Continue Reading

Personal Branding with the Right to be Forgotten

Posted in Branding, International, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Search Engines, Social Media, Social Networking

Everyone has a brand.  Through every interaction and impression we leave in the minds of others, each of us builds on our own personal brand.  In the Internet age, and particularly with the advent of social media, our personal brands are more definable than ever.  Googling anyone but the most stalwart off-the-grid enthusiast will usually… Continue Reading

“Symmetrically Arranged” Buttons: A Patent Win for Nintendo

Posted in Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents, Technology, USPTO

Nintendo has been making headlines recently.  The gaming industry is in mourning over the unfortunate passing of Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata last week.  Iwata was instrumental in the success of the Nintendo Wii, among other Nintendo creations, and was known for his accessibility to fans. Nintendo was in the news again this week for a… Continue Reading

That Google Image Search Could Result in Trouble

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Copyrights, Fair Use, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology

One aspect commonly associated with building and maintaining a business is the company website. Establishing an online presence can be an important tool for connecting with customers. While website creation can be a delightful distraction for some and perhaps a frustrating obligation for others, platforms such as WordPress and Squarespace make it relatively simple for… Continue Reading

Ford’s Patent Announcement Not so Groundbreaking

Posted in Patents, Technology, USPTO

Last week, a press release announced that Ford would “Open[] [its] Portfolio of Patented Technologies to Competitors to Accelerate Industry-Wide Electrified Vehicle Development.”  Media outlets were quick to report that Ford was joining Tesla in opening its patent portfolio, referencing Tesla’s widely publicized promise last year not to enforce its patents.  But Ford’s announcement is… Continue Reading