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

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

“Of All Time”

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

Those three words are pretty bold, especially when we’ve only been around just over 6 years: “‘Of all time’ is used to make a comparison, stating that something is the best throughout the ages.” We’re pleased to report that DuetsBlog continues to be recognized as one of the top twenty-five intellectual property law blogs “of… Continue Reading

Purple-Colored Fabric Tags Attached to Remote Control Found Inherently Distinctive

Posted in Articles, Branding, Fashion, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Technology, Touch, Trademarks, USPTO

News flash, last Friday the USPTO approved for publication a non-traditional trademark that I’ve seen in real life before. Let’s just say it is attached to one of our many remote control devices that I’ve had to dig out from under the sofa cushions more than a few times: The claimed mark consists of “the… Continue Reading

Going YARD with the VARO Brand for Batters?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Sight, Technology, Trademarks

Time spent with my boys in Omaha at the College World Series is hard to beat. Although, last year, Father’s Day weekend was hard to beat too. And, the archives indicate five years ago was pretty wonderful as well. Basically, it’s all good. On this particular road trip, we were fortunate to score tickets to… Continue Reading

The Top 10 IP Issues Troubling PR Pros

Posted in Articles, Branding, Copyrights

That was the substance of my talk last Friday in St. Louis at the Public Relations Society of America’s 2015 Midwest District Conference. A great conference, lots of talent in the house. One of the attendees had very high praise, remarking afterwards that it was “the best presentation on IP” she has experienced — “very… Continue Reading

Losing Marbles With Packaging Trademarks

Posted in Articles, Branding, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Welcome to yet another edition of non-traditional trademarks, but instead of discussing brown paper bags for chips as trademarks, today we’re focusing on a U.S. trademark registration that surprisingly issued just a few weeks ago — a net bag package design for holding toy marbles: As shown above, the claimed mark “consists of the three-dimensional… Continue Reading

Food Packaging Trademarks: It’s in the Bag?

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

Welcome to another edition of non-traditional trademarks in connection with package designs: The Billy Goat Chip Company contends it owns exclusive rights in a protectable and distinctive trademark for the appearance of the above chip bag, minus any words or images — just the shape and configuration of the bag. (Reminds me of my grade… Continue Reading

Top Ten Questions About Rapala Minnocchio

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, False Advertising, Marketing, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

In typical DuetsBlog tradition, here is Rapala’s 2015 billboard for the fishing opener, albeit a few weeks late: I’ll have to admit, I like the telescoped Minnocchio word, and the consistent graphic display from past years, but my head is feeling pretty wooden at the moment, so I need your help, because I’m totally stumped… Continue Reading

Subway Drops Footlong TM from Advertising

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

The last time I was at the airport I snapped this photo showing how Subway finally appears to have dropped its use of the TM symbol in association with the word FOOTLONG: As you will recall, Subway had attempted to federally-register the word FOOTLONG as a trademark for hotdog sandwiches, but Sheetz’ trademark challenge on… Continue Reading

Likelihood of Preclusion: Fallout From the Supreme Court Ruling on Likely Confusion

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

Move over likelihood of confusion, there is another sheriff in town, at least when it comes to looking for guidance on best practices and strategic considerations for a brand owner’s clearance, registration, protection and enforcement of trademark rights in the United States. As if us dedicated trademark types didn’t already have enough likelihoods (confusion, dilution,… Continue Reading

The Bridge to INTA (or the UNTA)

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

This spot isn’t too shabby to make trips back and forth across the Coronado bridge to the annual meeting of INTA in San Diego, where ten thousand trademark attorneys from around the world descend for a week and congregate. Any word on how many are here, but off the grid, attending the UNTA, so to… Continue Reading

More Imaginative THANN Other Soap Brands

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

On a recent trip to the Washington, D.C. area, I had the opportunity to stay at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, and I’ll have to say, as a trademark type, it was difficult to avoid being drawn to their unique and engaging bath soap and packaging: In my experience, most bath soap… Continue Reading