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

“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

Big Green Egg on Hunt for TM Registration

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

As it turns out, four days after Easter, the USPTO refused registration of the Big Green Egg’s claimed exclusive rights in the shape and color of its popular barbecue smoker and grill: As you will recall, we wrote about this product configuration trademark application, back in December of last year. Here are the challenges raised… Continue Reading

Coke Walks Tightrope in ZERO Branding

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

As you may recall, last September we wrote about Coca-Cola’s Significant Interest in Zero Marks, discussing Coca-Cola’s defense of a trademark infringement suit brought by an individual named Mirza Baig, who claimed rights in “Naturally Zero” for Canadian natural spring water, and Coca-Cola’s contrasting attempts to own and federally-register various marks containing the term ZERO… Continue Reading

Show, Don’t Tell . . . The Preferred Approach

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Product Packaging, Technology, Trademarks

FUSE 2015 is off to being yet another amazing, inspiring event for brand strategy and design professionals. The keynote speaker for day one was Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer of 3M, who delivered a very interesting presentation called: “Future Forward: Beyond Design Tourism.” Little did Mr. Quint know that he set the table nicely for… Continue Reading

Bringing Down the Bauhaus for Trademarks?

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

We’ve been spilling a lot of digital ink lately on the topic of non-traditional trademark protection and how the functionality doctrine serves as an absolute bar for such protection. As you know, for some time, we’ve been stressing the importance of close collaboration between trademark and marketing types when it comes to forming public communications… Continue Reading

Let’s Ignite Inspiration Together: FUSE 2015

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Last year at FUSE 2014, I spoke about “The Intersection of Brands, Design, and the Law,” this year — and a short ten days from now — I’ll be sharing some valuable thoughts about how to gracefully navigate the many legal pitfalls of naming and re-branding projects. FUSE — one of the premier brand and… Continue Reading

On Unintended Consequences: Will the B&B SCOTUS Ruling Encourage Trademark Bullies?

Posted in Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Civil Procedure, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Last week, while I was preparing for and had the unique opportunity of arguing a real, live TTAB final hearing on the merits, outside the TTAB’s typical oral hearing location (because it was selected by the TTAB to be part of the ABA’s IPLSpring continuing education conference in Bethesda, Maryland), the Supreme Court issued its… Continue Reading

Actually Resisting the Temptation to Tout Function and Hopefully Own a Trademark

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Product Packaging, Sight, Technology, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Continuing our ramp up toward the launch of our Strategies for Owning Your Product Designs webinar next week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Morton-Norwich factors — the common analysis for determining whether a product design or feature can be owned as a trademark or whether it is functional and part of the public… Continue Reading

Strategies for Owning Your Product Designs

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

We are putting together a pretty special webinar you might want to consider experiencing: Strategies for Owning Product Designs. The live version will be aired Tuesday March 31st at 3 PM CST, sponsored by Minnesota Continuing Legal Education. I’ll be joined by legendary designer Bob Worrell, founder of the Worrell design firm, Derek Mathers, Worrell’s business… Continue Reading

Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — and Functional Too?

Posted in Articles, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Welcome to another edition of newly filed configuration trademark applications at the USPTO, here is the latest; it is quite a specimen: The question for the day though is whether the claimed mark actually functions as a trademark to indicate that the goods come from a single source. The claimed mark is described this way:… Continue Reading