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

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

Apple’s Word Count for Non-Verbal Branding

Posted in Articles, Branding, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

A picture is said to say a thousand words, and ironically that is almost literally and exactly true when it comes to Apple’s focus on non-verbal icon branding. A week before the 4th of July, Apple filed these three non-verbal trademark applications: Clicking on each will take you to the detailed USPTO information for each application,… Continue Reading

ED Ads: Humor From Across the Pond

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Copyrights, Fair Use, First Amendment, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Squirrelly Thoughts, Television

On this last day of the month, we are shedding almost all seriousness to stand at attention while examining some recent London taxi cab humor — from the perspective of Lloyds Pharmacy – about treating the affliction of erectile dysfunction (ED) with six pound pills and a healthy dose of laughs: One of the things I learned… Continue Reading

Trademark Disparagement Kills the R-Word

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

My father-daughter time was wonderful in London when the news hit about the USPTO ordering cancellation of the six ”Washington Redskins” trademarks as disparaging to Native Americans. Thanks for your patience in waiting for my perspective on the subject — you know I’m thrilled if you know me well, if you know of my involvement in the… Continue Reading

Do You Love Paris Too, New York?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fashion, Infringement, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Shopping with my daughter this past weekend on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, on the way to the Arc de triomphe, we spotted this shop selling  “I ♥ Paris” merchandise: What do you make of this one, Tim, does it look familiar? I’m thinking Mike Masnick of Techdirt, given his trademark bullying perspective on the… Continue Reading

Happy Father’s Day from Paris to London

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

I definitely had a memorable Father’s Day today, traveling with my daughter from Paris to London, here is a photo of a gift bag and gold medal chocolate memento: Nice touch Eurostar! Courvoisier looks genuine, so I’m saving that one for later, of course. In case you’re wondering the cigar was not real — milk chocolate… Continue Reading

Rubber Hits the Road: Rust-Oleum Trademark Case Leaves TTAB for Minnesota Federal Court

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Civil Procedure, Infringement, Law Suits, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Lately we’ve been discussing more and more the difference between the right to register a trademark and the right to use a trademark. In many trademark disputes the perfect forum for an amicable resolution is the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the USPTO. The TTAB can be a cost effective forum for parties to achieve… Continue Reading

Gia Nother Wine Bottle Trademark

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Infringement, International, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Combing through the USPTO’s recently approved non-verbal trademark registrations revealed this little gem with Francis Ford Coppola’s name on the label (but not claimed as part of the mark): Here is the USPTO drawing on the left, showing the claimed mark without any words or colors: So, besides claiming a broader scope of rights in… Continue Reading

(Just) the Right to Register a Trademark

Posted in Articles, Branding, Civil Procedure, Infringement, Law Suits, SoapBox, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

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 sounding the alarm. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to follow the advice it recently sought and received from the U.S. Solicitor General (SG) of the Department of Justice, those of… Continue Reading

Owning a New Look Through Advertisements

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

We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the importance of “look for” advertising when a brand owner wants to legally own a non-traditional trademark like a single color, or perhaps the shape of a product, or even product packaging or containers, among other potential non-traditional marks. So, when I discovered three billboard ads within… Continue Reading

What’s In Your Wallet, a Cafe?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Food, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

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 services using the same iconic tagline, slogan, and question. By 2011, it had achieved so much traction that What’s in Your Wallet? was inducted into the… Continue Reading

Debbie Millman Interviews Seth Godin

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing

(The) INTA was not in the cards this year, as Hong Kong would have been a very long flight, and besides, Boston (Strong) prevailed instead, to feed my insatiable hunger for creative inspiration at HOW Design Live 2014. Barbara Walters, (the) Oprah, step aside, here comes Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands: This interview was thoroughly… Continue Reading

Fair Use of GM’s Corvette Stingray?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Genericide, Goodwill, Infringement, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

While filling up my gas tank at our local Costco last week I coudn’t resist capturing this photo of pump signage to ask our dear readers a few pointed questions: Is there any doubt that the automobile depicted in the Costco advertisement is a Corvette Stingray? If so, HiConsumption should resolve any lingering questions. How did… Continue Reading

Eat More Walleye?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

It’s that time of year again, the Minnesota fishing opener is upon us this weekend, so Rapala is sporting its new billboard in the Twin Cities metro area, as shown below: “Winner, winner, walleye dinner,” is an obvious play on the far more frequently uttered “winner, winner, chicken dinner” positive outcome phrase, that apparently derives from early casino… Continue Reading