DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Steve Baird

View my professional biography

Just so you know, I'm all about brands and the law, both professionally and personally. I regularly annoy family and friends in retail stores by focusing on product labels—not to buy the product, but to read the fine print and ask, “Who owns these brands” and “Did they really register those marks?”

To understand the depth of my passion for brands and helping clients achieve their business goals, legally, you must understand that my interest in business and branding goes back to the late 1960s. The very first brand I recall profiting from was Jiffy®. Even before being old enough to deliver papers for the Iowa City Press Citizen, between episodes of Bewitched®, I would bake cupcakes and walk my finished product door-to-door, sampling along the way, of course, throughout our Kimball Road neighborhood, mostly selling them to husbands whose wives didn't bake enough (probably watching Bewitched®), according to them at least. One hundred percent profit margins are easy when you can use the necessary equipment and raw materials directly from Mom's kitchen. Mass producing "hot pads" (pot holders, not real estate) and selling them door-to-door was another favorite childhood business venture at the ripe age of six. Graduating to lawn-mowing age worked well with my paper routes because I could easily see who needed help cutting their grass and, in some cases, avoiding neighborhood ridicule. Yes, you're right, Dad loaned me his Lawn-Boy® mower on weekends, rent-free, and even bought the gasoline (Dad was not brand loyal at all with gasoline, so I have no brand memory there). Another pure profit opportunity. Let's just say that Mom and Dad were generous, unsecured investors in my development and future. Thanks Mom and Dad, I now understand the meaning of overhead and capital improvements!

I bucked a lot of family tradition and jokes to become a lawyer and a trademark guru. There is not one lawyer in the family tree, as far as my sister knows (and she would know). Nearly everyone is, or was, a teacher of some kind. That must be where my passion for educating others about the legal implications of branding comes from. Basically, I have been speaking about the legal implications of branding since the early 90s, after permitting my pharmacist’s license to expire (after being a victim of an armed robbery where Dilaudid® was on the top of the gunman’s list of desired controlled substances), and shortly after working for an 86 year old federal judge whose chambers had a nice view of the White House in Washington, D.C. While I’d like to say that the movie My Cousin Vinny inspired me to become a lawyer, it was released two years after I graduated from law school. So, really, I guess it just inspired me to be a better lawyer and leader. For now, you can call me a “thought-leader” in the trademark world, and the thankful leader of a very talented group of creative and insightful lawyers and staff who are dedicated to putting our intellectual property clients in the best possible position to achieve their business goals.

When I'm not in the office, "cracking the whip," making sure others in the group keep their bios on this blog short and sweet, working (which isn't to say I'm not still thinking about my clients' businesses), or soaking it up in the hot-tub with my soul-mate, I am a dedicated family man - a.k.a. the chauffeur. Until they reach the driving age, I'll continue to shuttle my four wonderful kids around to their athletic and other events, at which you can find me cheering in the stands.

Posts by Steve Baird

Who Decides What Your Brand’s Worth?

Posted in Articles, Branding, International, Marketing, Patents, Product Configurations, Trademarks

On this Cyber Monday, I’m left wondering, will we ever have a day when the metrics and automated tools available are so accurate and reliable that intangible assets like brands (and trademarks) regularly will be valued, bought, and sold online? At rock bottom, a brand’s value is at least what another — in an arm’s… Continue Reading

Is Ronald McDonald Lovin’ This Fryday?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks

When I recently snapped the above image of a t-shirt on display at a large retailer in the Twin Cities, it made me want to ask the same question many survey experts will ask of respondents to determine whether a likelihood of confusion exists in the marketplace: Who put this out? What percentage of respondents… Continue Reading

What’s in Your Tagline, a Strong Trademark?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Television, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Last year, in my post entitled What’s in Your Wallet, a Cafe?, I had this to say about the iconic Capital One tagline: “Since 2000, Capital One Financial — the nation’s largest direct bank — has been promoting its credit card services by asking What’s in Your Wallet? Three years later it began promoting banking and other financial… Continue Reading

Will Purple Reign, as a Color Trademark?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Counterfeits, Dilution, False Advertising, Famous Marks, FDA Approval, International, Law Suits, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks

Today, we’re not talking about that Purple Rain, that Color Purple, or those Purple People Eaters, and we’re especially not talking today about Purple Gloves, Purple Bags, Purple Jackets, Purple Candy Wrappers, or Purple Tags, no today, we’re talking about “The Purple Pill,” a/k/a Today’s Purple Pill — AstraZeneca’s blockbuster Nexium brand acid reflux medication…. Continue Reading

A Few Weekend Views and Brand Sighting(s)

Posted in Articles, Branding, Fashion, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, SoapBox, Trademarks

My daughter captured some artsy pics from our beautiful Fall weekend, can you guess where we were? I’ll give you three visual hints: Those clues weren’t all that helpful, I suppose, so how about these souvenirs and brand sighting? But, what brand sighting is this really, are there actually two here, one overlaid on the… Continue Reading

Airline Brand Strategery: It’s Transfarency

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Earlier this month Southwest Airlines launched a brand new ad campaign called “Transfarency,” which is said to highlight the airline’s “low-fare credo and its lack of bag fees, change fees or hidden fees for passengers.” Transparency seems to be the buzz word in branding and marketing circles lately, so what better way to communicate it… Continue Reading

Ads Touting Function Shoot Down Trademark

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about brand owners who shoot themselves in the foot with their advertising. And, I’m sure it won’t be the last. As we’ve discussed before, touting the function of a product design feature can kill any hope of owning non-traditional trademark protection in that feature. The latest example from… Continue Reading

Easy Registration Refusal, See Park ‘N Fly

Posted in Articles, Branding, Infringement, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Trademark types know all about Park ‘N Fly, whether they travel or not. That’s because it is more than a nearly fifty year old airport parking and travel service brand and federally-registered service mark, it is short-hand for a famous U.S. Supreme Court trademark case from 1985. In that decision, the Supreme Court recognized the… Continue Reading

A BrandVerb Uber Alles?

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks

Uber, the popular brand that helps people arrange prompt ground transportation, is now also being called a verb. The Star Tribune recently reported that the founder of iHail, a recent competitor of Uber in the Twin Cities market, would like to achieve the same anointed status: “I want iHail to become a verb, just like… Continue Reading

The Recycling of Brand Vessels?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademarks

Brand signals have been described as meaning vessels before, and vessels of trust too. Does that make a branded product package, container, or configuration a vessel within vessel? The tin cans below that have been recycled and transformed (as seen in the image I captured at the Minnesota State Fair), were most likely once brand… Continue Reading

Wanted: Brand Deputies at the MN State Fair

Posted in Articles, Branding, Copyrights, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Infringement, Product Packaging, Trademarks

The Minnesota State Fair continues to provide endless blog fodder for those who care about intellectual property. Last week, we wrote about a State Fair vendor concerned about its claimed, but unarticulated “intellectual property.” This week is a good reminder that brand owners have a lot to be concerned about what goes on with their… Continue Reading

No MN State Fair Photos, Pretty Please?

Posted in Articles, Copyrights, Fair Use, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Trademarks

Well, it is opening day at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair, it was a great day, perfect weather, thank you very much! Happy to see that Lulu’s Public House is going strong, she appears to have some new food items this year, and they look amazing — a Minnesota Wild Rice Benedict Muffin and a… Continue Reading

Will Marketing Pitfall Lead to Sand Pounding?

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Infringement, Loss of Rights, Trademarks

Preparing to send off to college my two oldest sons, led us to Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar & Grill’s rooftop patio on Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall last week, and we found an interesting menu item. Under the Sandwiches category: “Smashed Burger,” is treated generically as a type of sandwich burger, along with “Kobe Beef” and… Continue Reading

What Does the Trademark Registration Say?

Posted in Articles, Branding, First Amendment, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Remember a while back when many were humming to the tune “What Does the Fox Say“? Today, I’m asking, what does the trademark registration say? Not, what does the trademark say — that is a different and more complicated question, depending on the specific mark, but at a minimum, answering that question involves the meaning… Continue Reading

Navigating Trademark Oppositions and Cancellation Proceedings at the TTAB

Posted in Articles, Branding, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB

In case you missed the webinar from last year, we’re having another Strafford IP webinar on “Navigating Trademark Oppositions and Cancellation Proceedings at the TTAB,” next Tuesday August 18, at noon CST. Here are the details for the webinar. This year, we’ll have the benefit of knowing how the Supreme Court decided the B&B Hardware… Continue Reading

Still Smashing Trademark Rights?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks

Why does Smashburger continue down this road of smashing its trademark rights? Especially, despite our previous cautions: Another Marketing Pitfall: How to Crush a Smashing Brand Name & Trademark Can Anyone Smash a Burger? Crushing a Perfectly Good Brand Name? In the meantime, we’ll keep watching out for marketing pitfalls and unnecessary marketing copy that… Continue Reading

Will Starbucks Be a Closer at the USPTO?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Food, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

We’ll soon see whether coffee truly goes hand in hand with closers, at least in one famous brand owner’s quest for registration of a non-verbal, non-traditional color trademark at the USPTO. I’ve been noticing Starbucks focus on green straws lately, with the door signage shown below, offering a pretty creative use of “look-for advertising” without… Continue Reading

Trademark Grammar, Concerns, and Cliches?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Trademarks

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is currently running this advertisement from a local law firm highlighting its “Total Partnership” program (BTW, love the website video, linked here):Although the use of the term “trademarked” will make more than a few trademark types cringe, NLJ we know what you mean, so no worries, especially with these gems… Continue Reading

Washington’s NFL Team and U.S. Customs

Posted in Articles, Branding, Counterfeits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Last week the NFL franchise that plays football near — but not in — our Nation’s Capital, was dealt another significant legal and public relations blow that would have any rational brand owner working overtime on its re-branding efforts. Professor Christine Haight Farley, at American University’s Washington College of Law, summarizes the Amanda Blackhorse decision… Continue Reading

Absolut Apologies, Comparisons, Truncations

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fair Use, False Advertising, Food, Marketing, Trademarks, Truncation

It has been a while since a billboard campaign has caught my interest and attention, but the currently running Absolut Goes Dark ads are an exception worth noting: Isn’t it interesting — at least in this context — how the simple references to Jack, Johnnie, and Jim, draw an obvious comparison to the distilled spirits… Continue Reading