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

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

Yes, No, and the Ever Confusing Maybe . . .

Posted in Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, SoapBox, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

Yes and no are at opposite ends of the spectrum. North Pole, South Pole. Night and day. Win, loss. Black, white. Available, unavailable. Protectable, unprotectable. Infringing, non-infringing. They represent a binary proposition, like a traditional light switch with two settings: on and off. My daughter loves the yes end of the spectrum; no, not so… Continue Reading

Energizer Bunny to Drain Duracell’s Battery?

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Dilution, Famous Marks, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks

When I first heard last week about a trademark infringement lawsuit between Energizer and Duracell over pink bunny icons, my first thought was, Duracell is The Copper Top battery brand, what would motivate Duracell and how could Duracell possibly believe it had the legal right to use a pink bunny character in advertising and on… Continue Reading

The Strategic Use of TTAB Proceedings to Advance Trademark Registration Efforts

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

Yesterday we wrote about how petitions for partial cancellation under Section 18 of the Lanham Act can be creative and powerful tools when an applicant is confronted with likelihood of confusion registration refusals under Section 2(d), based on over-broad federal registrations. Today, we’re speaking about this important tool that should be found in any trademark… Continue Reading

Thinking Outside Section 2(d) Refusals

Posted in Articles, Infringement, Loss of Rights, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Section 2(d) of the Trademark Act is the statutory basis for refusing registration based on likelihood of confusion with another mark. It is invoked on an ex parte basis by USPTO Examining Attorneys, and it is also raised in the context of inter partes cases between adversaries. When an applicant seeking to register its mark… Continue Reading

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