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

Timber! Will the Little Trees Car Freshener Configuration Trademark be Chopped Down?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Genericide, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

We wrote about the above trademark warning ad a few years back, and the claimed trademark owner likely recognizing vulnerability as to validity: “The idea generally is, let’s show and create a record that we are educating the public about our trademark rights and hopefully deterring misuses that otherwise might find their way into the public… Continue Reading

Worthwhile Uncomfortable Conversations

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Copyrights, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

Seth Godin wrote this past weekend about joint ownership of creations: “Before you create intellectual property (a book, a song, a patent, the words on a website, a design) with someone else, agree in writing about who owns what, who can exploit it, what happens to the earnings, who can control its destiny.” We couldn’t… Continue Reading

Can Starbucks Tolerate Cannabis Parody?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Fashion, FDA Approval, First Amendment, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

A couple of weeks back, I captured this image from a t-shirt for sale in Starbucks’ backyard — at a shop in the Pike Place Market area of Seattle: One of the things it brought to mind for me is the dozen year long trademark dilution case that Starbucks lost, over and over, a few… Continue Reading

Zero Tolerance #USOC Trademark Overreach

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, First Amendment, International, Law Suits, Marketing, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

By way of follow-up to Tim’s and David’s recent discussions about Rio2016 and related U.S. Olympic Committee trademark enforcement issues, it appears that a local Minnesota carpet cleaning business called Zerorez, is poised to press the issue of the USOC’s overreaching trademark policies by asking the federal district court in Minnesota to confirm it may… Continue Reading

The World’s Healthiest Trademark Puffery

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, False Advertising, Food, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Above the Law recently published a Techdirt story reporting that the USPTO denied Whole Foods‘ attempt to federally-register the laudatory trademark: “World’s Healthiest Grocery Store“. The Techdirt story incorrectly seems to suggest that the global nature of the phrase is what caused the application to be refused, since Whole Foods has not yet achieved a… Continue Reading

A Few Bainbridge Island Brands

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Trademarks

If you haven’t been, I highly recommend visiting beautiful Bainbridge Island, a short thirty minute ferry ride from Seattle, Washington: It’s not routine to find national retail store brands there, so lots of unique local brands to discover and enjoy, here’s my favorite coffee shop: And, another great one: Here’s my favorite chicken on the Island, named Crockpot,… Continue Reading

Trademark Goods/Services Limitations, Why Not Exclude Any Federal Unlawful Activities?

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

Those involved in the cannabis industry — where certain activities are legal in some States, but unlawful under federal law — continue to search for creative strategies and solutions in protecting their trademarks and service marks. Picking up where Tim left off last Friday, I’ve been giving some thought as to how the Herbal Access… Continue Reading

Standard Character Trademark Overbreadth

Posted in Articles, Infringement, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

When we hear the word “overbreadth” in close connection with the word “trademark,” the often discussed “trademark bullying” topic will frequently come to mind. Yet, discussions about “trademark overbreadth” are not limited to exaggerated and unrealistic trademark claims by a trademark owner. We previously have discussed how one might deal with prior registrations that contain… Continue Reading

KIND Taglines: About Owning Your Ad Copy?

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

First things first: Happy 4th of July, Dear Readers! That was a pretty honest, simple, genuine, transparent, straightforward, to the point, not belaboring at all, under any circumstances, my most sincere wishes to our dear readers, agree? Now contrast the original well wishes with the elaborate description of them, the latter being anything but short… Continue Reading

Look-For Advertising Sans the Clunky Words

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

We’ve written before on the subject of non-traditional trademarks and how look-for advertising can be quite helpful in not only educating consumers that a color or other design feature should stand out in their mind as performing the helpful role of a trademark, but in convincing the USPTO too. Earlier this month the USPTO granted… Continue Reading

Madonna Not Scandalous for Wine Anymore

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

The headline might be considered old news to some, but since intellectual property attorneys from around the world will be descending upon Minneapolis for the remainder of the week, and since I’ll be speaking tomorrow at the American Intellectual Property Law Association Spring Meeting at the Minneapolis Hilton, on the history and public policy behind… Continue Reading

America’s Most Watered-Down Beer (Name)?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Goodwill, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks, USPTO

Last week the Twittersphere was chirping loudly and negatively in response to reports that Belgian-owned Inbev would be replacing the Budweiser brand name with “America” on beer cans, as shown above. No bow-tie can shape in this campaign, but the logo is to be on the can’s back. Headlines like these, suggesting a permanent change… Continue Reading

A Missed Step in Branding Fitness Trackers?

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

I’ve been wearing one of these little guys on my wrist for almost a year now. Love it. The personal awareness it raises for me in the areas of sleep, diet, and activity, has been profound. Can’t tell you how many times folks have asked, “Is that one of those fit bits?” “Nope,” I sometimes… Continue Reading

Heading to Orlando Later This Month?

Posted in Articles, First Amendment, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

After returning from a great set of collaborative meetings with other members of the Executive Leadership Board at the University of Iowa’s College of Pharmacy, let’s say, we’re now looking forward to AIPLA’s Spring Meeting, located in our own Minneapolis backyard and playground. My perspectives on the potential-U.S. Supreme Court-bound First Amendment challenges to Section… Continue Reading

ELLE Fails to Un-ring Bell, DJ Action Sticks

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Dilution, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB

Question for the day, how common is the given name Elle? I’m really not sure, I don’t believe I’ve ever personally known anyone with that name, and Mongabay doesn’t even include Elle in its listing of girl’s first names, but it does rank Ella (210), Elena (412), Ellie (1198), Elly (2802), and Ellamae (3514) among… Continue Reading

When Can You Show Real Fruit on a Package?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, False Advertising, Food, Marketing, Product Packaging

The short answer is, when it’s not false or misleading about the product inside the package. This past weekend, my daughter and I found ourselves in Costco, picking up some provisions, and this bag of non-provision somehow happened to land in our shopping cart: Almost protesting, based on a prior experience with Hershy’s Brookside dark… Continue Reading

On Protecting “My Pillow” as Your Trademark: They Say, When You Make Your Bed, You Might Just End Up Sleeping in It

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

We had some great questions from the audience during the Mastering U.S. Trademark Registration Practice seminar in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. During the session on genericness, someone asked about MyPillow, expressing amazement that it could be federally-registered. Having now seen the MyPillow television advertisement probably a dozen times since then, I’ve finally gotten around… Continue Reading