DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Martha Engel

View my professional biography

Although my interest in gadgetry and my aptitude for math eventually led me to become an engineer, my ad executive father and artistically gifted mother fostered an appreciation for the creative from a young age. Through trips to the art museum and many afternoons spent at the ad agency, I developed an interest in design and an understanding of the value of a strong brand. But, for reasons even I am still trying to understand, I always wanted to be a lawyer, an aspiration first realized the Halloween I insisted on wearing a blazer and carrying a briefcase full of contracts and legal pads in one hand and a plastic pumpkin for candy in the other. Whatever the reason, I feel incredibly fortunate that my job allows me to be an engineer, a creative, and a lawyer simultaneously.

When I'm not in the office, I spend time enjoying the outdoors, playing board games with my family, reading books and car magazines, and tackling new recipes.

Posts by Martha Engel

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

Apple Takes Us Back to PENCIL and PAPER

Posted in Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Social Media, Squirrelly Thoughts, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

If you are a member of the Cult of Apple, like tech, or even just watch the news, you’re probably aware that yesterday was Apple’s big fall event where they announce new product launches and updates.  The event showcased a new iPhone with enhanced photo features (as this Wired article aptly puts it “Because selfies.”),… Continue Reading

The Great Presidential (logo) Debate

Posted in Advertising, Branding, SoapBox, Social Media, Squirrelly Thoughts, Television, Trademarks, Truncation

The day has finally arrived – the beginning of 2016 presidential debate season!  The best reality TV showdown around!  Democrat or Republican, I don’t discriminate, political debates are probably the only fighting “sport” in a ring that I enjoy watching.  Fox finalized its debate card for the first debate of the season and, with the… Continue Reading

At The Corner of Trademarks and Confusion

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Food, Infringement, Marketing, Trademarks

Even in the age of the Internet, the geographic use of a trademark is an important consideration in determining whether your mark is likely to confuse consumers as to the source of your goods or services. Geographic considerations are particularly important for bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries – especially as they enter new markets…. Continue Reading

I’ll Take a Trademark, Up, With a Twist

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

Indeed Brewing Company, a popular brewery here in Minneapolis and a favorite of mine, announced that they were revamping their acclaimed packaging.  A story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal unveiled their new packaging: As a really nicely executed design, it de-clutters the look of the can while keeping the well-known artistic features and color… Continue Reading

Is Brewer’s BOSTON 2024 Ahead of Its Time?

Posted in Branding, Famous Marks, International, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Boston Beer Corporation, makers of Samuel Adams beer, received approval for its intent-to-use trademark application for the word mark BOSTON 2024 for “beer,” which generated some news buzz in light of the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics.  While the move was praised as a smart business strategy to grab the name before other brewers,… Continue Reading

Trademarks Can Be a Bitch

Posted in First Amendment, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

And I mean that literally. We’ve laid down a lot of digital ink in the past about pejorative marks – lately in reference to the Redskins (at least here, here, and here) and  The Slants (here and here), both of which have been deemed disparaging enough to deny them a federal trademark registration.  We’ve even… Continue Reading

Trolling for an Inventive Method for Patent Enforcement

Posted in Genericide, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Patents, SoapBox, Squirrelly Thoughts, Technology, USPTO

In the wake of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert leaving their respective shows on Comedy Central for newer pastures, John Oliver has emerged as a new beacon of political humor and satire.  If you haven’t watched his show, and especially if you considered the former two as having an obvious political slant, you should check… Continue Reading

The Keys are in the Design

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Squirrelly Thoughts

We often ask kids this question: “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  While my trajectory towards lawyering is true, my answer wasn’t always immediately “lawyer.”  I sought something that satisfied my passion for the creative, my critical eye, and my aptitude for math.  For a long time, whenever I answered that… Continue Reading

March Madness For INNOVATION

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Food, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Following a nice evening out chatting with Kevin O’Keefe, it’s time for my favorite weekend of all – the NCAA tournament. Now this post isn’t necessarily about basketball, but rather rivalries. In particular, rivalries between the state of Michigan and the state of North Carolina. Michigan v Duke, Michigan State v. North Carolina…there’s plenty of… Continue Reading

Deck Stacked Against HOUSE OF CARDS

Posted in Television, Trademarks, USPTO

No spoilers here, I promise.  Like many Americans since it was released on Friday, I’ve been binge-watching Season 3 of House of Cards.  If you haven’t watched the program, available only on Netflix, it’s a riveting drama of political intrigue with stellar acting featuring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.  The promise of another House of… Continue Reading

The NORTH STAR Guides One to Trademark Issues

Posted in Trademarks, USPTO

Minnesota is known as the North Star State – L’Étoile du Nord.  The state of hipsters, unique dining experiences, bitter cold winters, gorgeous summer nights, and fantastic craft brewers also has an impressive craft cocktail scene.  One of its stars has been Johnny Michaels, formerly barman at La Belle Vie, a restaurant that is consistently… Continue Reading

The Controversial SAWS of “Justice”

Posted in Articles, Patents, Trademarks, USPTO

What if the Trademark Office took Taylor Swift’s controversial new trademark applications and stalled examination of them, preventing them from getting approved, despite having no legitimate basis to refuse their registration, because of the potential for public scrutiny? Taking that a step further, what if there was an unregulated government program that in cases like… Continue Reading

BLACKHAWK Down: Registration Refused Based on Relatedness of Wine & Beer

Posted in Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

While the Minnesota state legislature ponders whether consumers should be able to purchase liquor on Sundays within the state, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) has once again concluded that consumers are likely to be confused that beer sold under one mark comes from the same source as wine (or another liquor) sold… Continue Reading