DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Martha Engel

View my professional biography

I’ve always been passionate about smartly designed, cleverly branded, and well-crafted products – from cars to craft beer to fashion to gadgets. My ad executive father and artistically gifted mother fostered an appreciation for the creative from a young age, but my aptitude for math and fixing things eventually led me to become an engineer. Through trips to the art museum, car shows, and many afternoons spent at the ad agency, I developed an interest in design and an understanding for the value of a strong brand. I feel incredibly fortunate that my job allows me to be an engineer and a creative, while helping entrepreneurs, inventors, start-ups, and companies of all sizes and in a variety of industries protect their designs and brands. .

Because my passions blend with my work, it’s hard not to think about the law even when I’m outside of the office, which helps me find topics for this blog. You can otherwise find me attempting a project at my house, engaging in a competitive board game with my family, hanging out at a brewery, researching for my fantasy football team (2015 WAFFL champs!), doing yoga, adding to my art collection, or reading a magazine on my iPad®.

Posts by Martha Engel

Creative Acronyms Refused Sometimes…Or CARS

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Branding, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Today’s offices treat acronyms like linguistic yoga (TOTALLY). ICYMI, they’re popular also in texts, tweets, and other “thumb-talking” activities.  LOL.  SMH. Legislators are having fun with them lately too, for example the Personal Rights in Names Can Endure Act (PRINCE Act),  the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism… Continue Reading

Four T’s at Four: What Breweries Need to Know About Their IP Before They Consider an Exit

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Idea Protection, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Taste, Trademarks

“Forties at 4” was a time-honored Friday tradition among my engineering classmates in college.  After our last class, several of them would purchase Miller (if we could find it in a 40 oz) or Old English or some other malt liquor that provided the most bang for the buck.  Cracking one open always signaled the… Continue Reading

An OXI Surprise

Posted in Trademarks, Truncation, USPTO

One of the blessings of homeownership is the surprise that accompanies a major appliance breakdown.  I had the pleasure of experiencing one of these events over Labor Day weekend when my dryer decided it was done working.  Labor Day is one of the weekends you want to have it happen because there are plenty of… Continue Reading

Attorneys Getting Crafty About Firm Names

Posted in Genericide, TTAB, USPTO

I consider myself to be, among other things, a craft beer attorney.  I enjoyed speaking last week at the Midwest Craft Brewers Conference as part of a great panel on brand positioning, trademarks, and the use of social media in the craft beer industry, and will be part of a continuing legal education seminar on… Continue Reading


Posted in Trademarks, USPTO

Last week was rough.  We went from celebrating America to watching her at her worst.  We saw officers shoot two black men in Baton Rouge, LA and Falcon Heights, MN, a black man shoot cops in Dallas, and resulting social unrest (including my hometown police being hit with concrete last weekend and protests blocking our… Continue Reading

A Duel Over DUO Leaves Only Uno

Posted in Almost Advice, Food, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

The never-ending battle at the Trademark Office over trademarks for beer and wine suffered another casualty last week, this time over the mark DUO.  Applicant Uinta Brewing Company filed a use-based application to register DUO for beer.  Fun fact:  the Utah-based brewery owns a trademark registration for TINDER for “beer.” Uinta Brewing uses the DUO… Continue Reading

Here, Have a BREXIT

Posted in International, USPTO

The British are leaving!  The British are leaving!  Many people on all sides of “the pond” last week watched the Brits’ vote to leave the European Union with interest, and were shocked when they actually voted to cut ties with the EU.  The vote was often referred to by the doomsday name BREXIT (cue terrifying… Continue Reading

The USPTO Says “Yes” But the TTB Says “No” To LSD

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, First Amendment, Idea Protection, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, USPTO

Government approval of commercial speech has been a hot topic of discussion by trademark nerds here and elsewhere in light of recent decisions regarding the Redskins and The Slants marks.  As those decisions proceed up through the appeal channels to the Supreme Court, attention has been drawn to whether or not a trademark registration certificate… Continue Reading

March Isn’t Just for Madness, It’s For CRAFTNESS

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, USPTO

Here’s hoping your 2016 brackets did better than mine last week, but this has been quite a crazy and exciting tournament thus far.  As a Marquette fan, the Indiana–Notre Dame–Wisconsin area of the bracket has been quite disheartening.  And the buzzer beaters galore this tournament have left many faces looking somewhat like Indiana coach (and… Continue Reading

Consent or Not, No Trademark Registration for Brewer’s TIME TRAVELER BLONDE Mark

Posted in Agreements, Almost Advice, Branding, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

When an application has been refused registration in view of another’s prior filed mark, one way to resolve the issue is through a consent agreement wherein the registrant consents to the registration and the parties set out the reasons why the parties believe that there is no likelihood of consumer confusion between the marks.  A… Continue Reading

Dude, It’s Gotten GNARLY for Beer and Wine

Posted in Agreements, Almost Advice, Branding, Infringement, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Trademark issues regarding breweries and wineries are increasingly intertwined as both breweries and wineries grow, flower, and spread out throughout the country.  I have talked before about the issues relating to a perceived likelihood of confusion between marks on beer used by breweries and marks on wine used by wineries (see here, here, and here)…. Continue Reading

A Meaningful Shift in Super Bowl Ads

Posted in Advertising, Branding

The Super Bowl ads this year were much like the game itself – maybe one remarkable catch, a few fumbles, and heavy on defense.  Some even deserved a penalty flag – like the one for toe fungus and the revolting puppy-monkey-baby (and I’m an avid Diet Mountain Dew drinker).  However, there were some subtle shifts…. Continue Reading

The “Poo” People Use: Who Owns Emojis

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Emojis – those cute images you may find in a keyboard on your Android or iPhone device – have changed the way many people communicate thoughts, ideas, feelings and concepts.  They can add a certain level of pizzazz to an otherwise ordinary text message, Facebook post, or tweet.  And, if I may borrow a line… Continue Reading

Patent System is not the Fire that Hoverboards Need to Put Out

Posted in Articles, Branding, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Trademarks

One of the hottest toys during the 2015 holiday season was the hoverboard, and doesn’t that seem about right for this year.   I saw my first hoverboard earlier this summer — a guy was walking and holding hands with his girlfriend, as she glided alongside him on the hoverboard.  If I were to make a… Continue Reading

Black Friday Flying

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Many of you probably hopped aboard a plane this weekend to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, but the flight experience often feels like a Black Friday shopping experience.  Passengers get to the airport hours before takeoff, where they wait in long lines among strangers before getting crammed into a seat that they purchased on… Continue Reading


Posted in Advertising, Branding, Famous Marks, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

You might be familiar with the popular mid-90s commercials suggested by the title of this post.  However, the intention of this post is about the use of trademarks on beer to refuse trademark protection for wineries and vice versa, which is an increasing problem for the growing craft alcohol industry. Recently an Austrailian company, Innvopak… Continue Reading

When Brands Get Personal, Do They Lose Their Identity?

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Famous Marks, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Trademarks

Marketing has always been an exercise in getting consumers to make a connection with a brand.  As our friend Seth Godin once said “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but the story that you tell.”   With the widespread use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, those stories are… Continue Reading

Game, Stripes, Match…No Love Between Skechers & Adidas

Posted in Advertising, Fashion, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademarks

Maybe I haven’t quite accepted the fact that the US Open and New York Fashion Week are over and September almost is too, but stories on tennis and fashion always get my attention, especially when they include a little intellectual property infringement flair. The Stan Smith shoe is a legendary shoe design from Adidas named… Continue Reading