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

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

Bud…Bud-WINE-Err?

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