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

Negative Look-For Advertising Statements

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Look-For Ads, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Sight, Technology, Trademarks

Loyal readers know how important look-for advertising can be in making the difference between establishing trademark ownership in the shape or configuration of a product, and being left with nothing but a goose egg (as opposed to a Big Green Egg). That’s not to say, the clunky words “look-for” are required, yet something equivalent and… Continue Reading

iPhone 6, Can You Say Nominative Fair Use?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fair Use, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks

We cover a lot of topics related to nominative fair use of trademarks, see here, here, and here for some of those discussions. Does the example below on product packaging from J. Crew qualify for fair use of the iPhone 6 mark? The International Trademark Association would say so: “In general, the following uses are… Continue Reading

Self-Inflicted Cuts That Can Kill a Trademark?

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Guest Bloggers, Look-For Ads, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks

We have some razor sharp readers and guest bloggers. We’re deeply thankful and especially grateful when our readers and guest bloggers send us real life illustrations of marketing pitfalls we’ve identified, sliced and diced here on DuetsBlog. They provide more great teaching tools. Hat tip to our own James Mahoney of Razor’s Edge Communications for… Continue Reading

Watch the Informational Refusals, Please!

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Audio, Branding, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sound, Trademarks, USPTO

Let’s suppose you conduct sightseeing tours using a tram car, maybe on the boardwalk in New Jersey. Maybe even a famous tram car service you’ve operated since 1949? Let’s further suppose your passengers may get on or off anywhere along the route, as it travels along Wildwoods Boardwalk. Would you think you could own a… Continue Reading

2016, A Big Year For Relationship Building

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Project work is fine, whether it’s responding to an overreaching trademark cease and desist letter, helping out with a re-branding project, drafting changes to a license agreement, reclaiming a domain name, assisting with some strategic advice on packaging trade dress changes, clearing and/or registering a new mark, but what’s really satisfying, what’s really rewarding, what’s… Continue Reading

Will USPTO Director Michelle Lee’s Signature Adorn a SLANTS Certificate of Registration?

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

Let’s hope not, for a variety of reasons. In other words, let’s hope the Supreme Court straightens out the unfortunate ruling last week that the federal government is powerless to deny requests to federally register marks on grounds that they consist of or comprise racial slurs or other matter that may disparage persons. The CAFC… Continue Reading

Jelly Belly Seeks Registration of Candy Shape

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

Last week Jelly Belly Candy Company filed a non-traditional trademark application with the USPTO to federally register the shape of its Jelly Belly candies. The claimed mark is drawn like this: And, described like this: “The mark consists of a candy having a rounded squat kidney-like shape, with one longer side being a continuous arc… Continue Reading

Another Cliche Color Trademark Calamity?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fashion, Goodwill, Infringement, International, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Technology, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, USPTO

Techdirt is crying foul (again) and this time, wrapping the “trademark bully” mantle around the magenta-colored neck of the T-Mobile brand for enforcing its color trademark against OXY. While I certainly don’t have the details of the dispute (and it appears Techdirt doesn’t either), and OXY hasn’t produced the actual demand correspondence, given the distinctiveness… Continue Reading

PATRÓN Tequila Bottle Design Enforcement?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

When we write about non-traditional trademark enforcement here on DuetsBlog, we almost always are referring to the protection of non-traditional marks like product configurations, product containers, product packaging, color marks, scent marks, tactile marks, and other non-verbal indications of source for a product or service. But, today we’re adding a little twist to our normal… Continue Reading

On Mastering U.S. Trademark Registration

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

For those interested in learning more about the valuable benefits of federal trademark registration and how to successfully navigate the registration process at the USPTO, it’s time to mark your calendars for an upcoming educational opportunity in Minneapolis on Tuesday February 16, 2016. Here is the official brochure for the event, here is an online… Continue Reading

On Valuing Cherubs, Cuties, and Halos

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Goodwill, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

Picking up where we left off yesterday discussing brand valuation, I’ve recently taken great interest in the branding of fresh fruits and vegetables — they seem to be the ultimate commodity, a perfectly ripe environment for branding, don’t you think? When I grew up, the only branding I recall of fresh fruits was for Chiquita… Continue Reading

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