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

April Madness, the NCAA’s One Month Buffer?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

We write a lot here about the scope and strength of trademark rights and how that determination is often intertwined to making intelligent likelihood of confusion determinations. Does “April Madness” fall within the NCAA’s scope of trademark rights for “March Madness“? Likelihood of confusion? Is “March Madness” a famous mark deserving protection from dilution? How… Continue Reading

Stripe Three, Adidas Called a Trademark Bully

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Trademark bullying allegations are in the news again. Not only is Forever 21 calling Adidas a trademark bully for asserting rights in the three stripe design mark, it is asking a federal court to say it has not done anything wrong and award it fees: “Tired of operating with a cloud over its head with… Continue Reading

Congratulations to Howard University’s 2017 McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Team

Posted in Articles, Branding, First Amendment, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

It’s not every year that participants in the William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition need to understand the various nuances of federal trademark law. Yet, with the Lee v. Tam case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act hanging in the balance, this was such a… Continue Reading

McCarthy Institute Trademark Seminar 2017

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Copyrights, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

One of the current challenges in trademark law addressed in Seattle last week at the Amazon Corporate Conference Center, host of the 2017 McCarthy Institute and Microsoft Corporation Symposium, is an issue we have discussed quite a bit here, namely Trademark Disparagement and the First Amendment. The panel to discuss this weighty topic included the… Continue Reading

Wawa Not Gaga Over Dawa?

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Contracts, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Food, Genericide, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Technology, Television, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Earlier this month, Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain, demonstrated it is not gaga over a single location food mart (copy of complaint linked here), called Dawa: As Dawa has vowed to defend its name, will this case come down to a battle over the meanings of the marks? Do consumers really know and… Continue Reading

NASCAR Brand Gasoline at a Pump Near You?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Smell, Taste, Trademarks, USPTO

With the Strafford Publications webinar later today discussing the Lanham Trademark Act’s “Use in Commerce” requirement, with some of my favorite panelists no less, the topic has been on my mind, even when pumping gas into my rental car in Houston, Texas, this past weekend: So, what do folks think, does this photograph of a… Continue Reading

Your Favorite App-Based Ride Service?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

Before you answer the question posed in the title of this post, your initial question might be: What is an App-Based Ride Service? The Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport is using a handy sign directing passengers on where to go to access their favorite one, does that help? I’m thinking the designated area in the… Continue Reading

What’s a Peppadew?

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

We recently checked out a new restaurant in Minneapolis’ growing North Loop area, called Red Rabbit, what a great spot:   The menu cleverly refers to the salad options as “Rabbit Food” — and the Italian Chopped salad spoke to me, but one of the listed “ingredients” left me wondering “what’s a peppadew”? Not wanting… Continue Reading

When Less is More

Posted in Advertising, AlphaWatch, Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks, Truncation

Love the simplicity and honesty of this sign, captured on vacation, in a cozy crepe spot (had to get out of my chair and walk across the dining room to read the smaller print, well worth the steps): As Seth recently noted, there can be room for improvement when it comes to making signs (we… Continue Reading

A Trademark Use in Commerce Story: Bonobos Buzz and a Two for One Specimen?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fashion, Marketing, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

There are at least two kinds of buzz converging at the moment (perhaps three), especially for fashion forward and fit oriented trademark types here in Minneapolis. On the one hand, with the holidays upon us it’s hard to avoid the barrage of billboard ads in the Minneapolis skyway promoting the first brick and mortar entry… Continue Reading

Who’s Watching (What) You Create?

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

This past weekend, with what appears to be our first lasting snowfall, I enjoyed following my daughter around the chilly alleys of downtown Minneapolis while she created for her photography class. As you can see from the moment I captured, she inspired me to create a bit too. Thankfully I’m not being graded for my… Continue Reading

Chartreuse Color Trademark on the Loose

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

We’ve written a lot about single color trademarks here over the years. Weems, the owner of the Flexilla brand has unleashed its federally-registered chartreuse-colored non-traditional trademark for “compressed air hoses” against Plews for selling air hoses with a “bright florescent green color” — a color that Plews claims online “reduces chances of tripping while on… Continue Reading

Just Wait Until the USPTO Lays Its Hands on These Single and Dual Color TM Applications

Posted in Articles, Branding, FDA Approval, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

              Back in 2009, we wrote about what was then Kimberly Clark’s pair of single color purple trademark registrations in connection with “gloves for medical and surgical uses” and “disposable nitrile gloves for general use,” now owned by Avent and sold under the HALYARD brand: Those registrations are still… Continue Reading

Who’s the PATRÓN Anyway?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Food, Infringement, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

PATRÓN (meaning “boss” or “landlord” in Spanish) is a pretty famous brand name of tequila (federally-registered since 1993), and don’t forget this gem from the archives: In my experience, PATRÓN is often requested by name when ordering margaritas, so when visiting this cozy spot, I instantly wondered about the need for permission or a license: Especially… Continue Reading

The v. Any

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts

When it is clear that you need to take responsibility for an obvious inconvenience, it is far better to own “the” inconvenience than apologize for “any” inconvenience, bravo RBC Plaza: As legal types know full well, “any” leaves a wide open possibility of there actually being “none” — after all, “zero” is still a number…. Continue Reading

Wahoo: Non-Verbal Equivalent of Racial Slur

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

The Cleveland Indian’s loss last evening in the World Series ensures that Chief Wahoo will not end the 2016 MLB season at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, but instead Cleveland’s Progressive Field: I’ve written before about how the Wahoo logo is the non-verbal equivalent of a racial slur and about the severe irony in Wahoo’s grotesque racist… Continue Reading

Houston (College of Law) Has a Problem

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Civil Procedure, Goodwill, Infringement, International, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

A trademark problem, that is, as reported by the Texas Tribune on Friday of last week. Lest you be fooled by the above reference to Houston College of Law being established in 1923, the name has only been around since June of 2016. In fact, when South Texas College of Law rebranded to Houston College… Continue Reading

Lawsuit Involving IP Protection for a Lamp

Posted in Articles, Civil Procedure, Copyrights, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks

Last week a federal lawsuit was filed in Minnesota by Blu Dot to protect alleged intellectual property rights in the floor lamp shown on the left below. The accused “strikingly and confusingly similar” floor lamp shown on the right below is sold by Canadian Rove Concepts: So, what type of intellectual property do you suppose… Continue Reading