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

Gibson Guitar Facing 15 Trademark Opposers

Posted in Articles, Audio, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

A brand owner’s non-traditional trademark application will sometimes gain the critical attention of multiple direct competitors. Gibson Guitar’s unlucky number is apparently fifteen. Last Thursday, Gibson’s guitar configuration application shown to the right and below was opposed by far more competitors than it has strings on the above ebony Gibson ES-339 Studio Electric Guitar: U.S…. Continue Reading

Amy, Whatcha Wanna Do (About this TM)?

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

As we start to think about welcoming in the weekend, why don’t we all hum this Pure Prairie League tune, while viewing this image and reading this very brief blog post: As this image (that I snapped this morning) shows, the skyway in downtown Minneapolis is sporting a relatively new snack shop called Amy’s. I’m… Continue Reading

Bottega Veneta Unties a Trademark Knot

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fashion, International, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

It is easy for some to get all tied up in knots at the USPTO when facing challenging grounds for refusal against federal registration of a claimed non-traditional trademark. Not Bottega Veneta. Last week the Swiss-owned fashion house and luxury brand was able to persuade the USPTO to approve for publication the three dimensional knot… Continue Reading

Another Way the NFL Can Protect the Shield

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

It’s no secret that the NFL is facing a reputation crisis, on a variety of fronts. With 2013 being called “a very bad year” for the NFL, words will be difficult to describe how badly 2014 ends (reputationally), if the league continues on its current path of self-destruction. A common thread to the concussion crisis… Continue Reading

When it Feels Like “Look For” Advertising, How About a Little Follow-through?

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Food, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks

As we head into the weekend, I thought I’d leave you with a Culver’s ad that feels like “look for” advertising: We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the topic of how “look for” advertising greatly enhances a brand owner’s ability to federally register non-traditional trademarks. Now, if Culver’s would only follow-through and seek… Continue Reading

Coca-Cola’s Significant Interest in Zero Marks

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Coca-Cola just announced it is introducing Coke Zero in India, which will make it the sub-brand’s 149th market in the world, a truly remarkable reach. As the popular Coke Zero brand is approaching its tenth anniversary in the U.S., it seems like a good time to explore Coca-Cola’s trademark position in COKE ZERO and COCA-COLA… Continue Reading

Googling Doesn’t Break Google Trademark

Posted in Articles, Famous Marks, Genericide, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Trademarks

Our friend Professor Eric Goldman, over at his Technology and Marketing Law Blog, reported earlier this week that the Google trademark has survived a genericness attack by a fellow named David Elliot. Here is a link to Mr. Elliot’s complaint filed in Arizona federal court back in May of 2012, and here was Martha’s coverage…. Continue Reading

Amici Weigh in on “Right to Register v. Right to Use” Trademark Case at Supreme Court

Posted in Articles, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

More than three months ago, we sounded the alarm about an important trademark case to consider the interplay between the right to register and the right to use a trademark: “Every so often there is a moment when trademark types, marketing types and brand owners need to pay close attention to where the law could be headed. Today, I’m… Continue Reading

Will Montana-Based Victory Energize Win Its “Trademark Bully” Charge Against Monster?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Last week more allegations of “trademark bullying” appeared in the headlines. This time, Victory Energize, an energy drink company based in Missoula, Montana, is calling out Monster Energy for sending a cease and desist letter to Victory. Monster’s demand letter is said to charge Victory with infringement of Monster’s distinctive trade dress. So, what say you?… Continue Reading

(Subway) Eat Flesh, An Effective Parody?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Fashion, First Amendment, Guest Bloggers, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademarks

  This past weekend one of my sons said, “Dad, I have a good blog topic for you.” After he explained, it was clear, yes, son you do! So, he sent me the photo to the left. It is one that he recently snapped at a place that sells Halloween costumes.   As an aside, I love it… Continue Reading

Will Chick-fil-A, uh Chicken Out?

Posted in Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Social Media, Social Networking, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Just so you know, this is not the post I planned to write today. Hat tip to you, Bo! It has been exactly one year since Bo Muller-Moore — the “Eat More Kale” guy from Vermont — submitted a comprehensive 71-page response to the registration refusal based on “Eat Mor Chikin” issued by the USPTO… Continue Reading

A Less Possessive Hershey’s Brand?

Posted in Branding, Food, Marketing, Trademarks, Truncation, USPTO

The possessive form of the Hershey’s brand dates back to at least as early as 1894, according to U.S. Reg. No. 54,041 – a more than 100 year old trademark registration from 1906. Last week, Brand New reported on Hershey’s new logo and corporate identity – without the apostrophe and letter “s” at the end: I’m guessing that the possessive form… Continue Reading

Another Real Lulu: Anatomy of an Affidavit

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

On Tuesday of this week, we discussed the trademark infringement case filed by Lulu’s Market & Deli against Lulu’s Public House (depicted above), here is a link to a pdf of the Complaint. As you will recall, we expressed a healthy dose of skepticism about the claims being asserted by Lulu’s Market & Deli, and we predicted… Continue Reading

A Real Lulu of a Trademark Infringement Case

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Law Suits, Trademarks, USPTO

It’s that time of year again, the Minnesota State Fair is here, and trademark issues abound, again. We’re actually not covering the trademark fair issue we planned to cover today because we just caught wind of a lulu of a trademark infringement case filed on Friday of last week against a brand new 2014 fair vendor: Lulu’s Public House. This particular… Continue Reading

I’m Gumby Dammit — A Flexible Trademark?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks, USPTO

The Minnesota History Center is currently promoting its Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s exhibit — my favorite promotional billboard is the one captured above, featuring none other than Gumby. I can still remember my Gumby toy and watching the Gumby Show as a young child along with the Davey & Goliath television series, both… Continue Reading

Trademark Pronunciation Revisited

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

Remember this little gem on trademark pronunciation from the DuetsBlog archives two years ago? Open Wide and Say Ahh: Probing Brand Name & Trademark Pronunciation Judging from a search of Google, the JD Supra version of this post has gotten lots of traction. Well, a few weeks ago the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued an interesting… Continue Reading

Navigating Trademark Oppositions and Cancellation Proceedings at the TTAB

Posted in Articles, Law Suits, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Please join me for a live and informative 90 minute Strafford law webinar a week from tomorrow, on Wednesday August 13, at noon CST. The topic to be covered is “Navigating Trademark Oppositions and Cancellation Proceedings at the TTAB,” and here is a link for more information. For the discussion, I’m joined by two very capable TTAB… Continue Reading

Harley-Davidson Booze Coming Soon?

Posted in Branding, Food, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

With the 74th Anniversary of the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally less than a week away, it seemed like a good time to check in on recent Harley-Davidson trademark activity at the USPTO. As it turns out, a very interesting intent-to-use trademark application was filed just two weeks ago, seeking federal registration of the world-famous HARLEY-DAVIDSON word mark… Continue Reading

Dethroning a Right to Register a Trademark?

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Last month, you will recall we wrote about the important difference between the right to register a trademark and the right to use a trademark, here and here. Despite the fact that in most cases, a “likelihood of confusion” test governs both determinations, the right to use and the right to register are not necessarily coextensive rights – defeating… Continue Reading

Description of a Trademark with the USPTO

Posted in Articles, Branding, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Continuing our discussion — from yesterday and the day before – about the description of a mark provided to the USPTO during the registration process, the below images from two unrelated federally-registered, non-verbal logos for banking services, help tell another related story:                       As the links… Continue Reading

Pepsi Gets Grip on MLB All-Star Extravaganza

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

How cool is it to have the MLB All-Star Game and related events, right here in Minneapolis? Very. As the advertisement shows, Pepsi is playing a large role in the event, as the “Official Soft Drink” of the MLB All-Star Game. As attractive as the ad is, sadly, I suspect that only trademark types and… Continue Reading