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

The Careful Timing of Trademark Truncation

Posted in Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, Truncation

A recent stroll through a big box store opened my eyes to a brand of steel toe boots I hadn’t encountered before, take a look at the CAT that will be protecting my son’s toes this Summer: CAT is an excellent example of successful trademark truncation, a single-syllable truncated brand name for the four-syllable CATERPILLAR… Continue Reading

All for Saving the Original Minnesota State Fair Curds, Say Aye, Better Yet . . . #s and @s

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Food, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

When Aaron Keller of Capsule deeply cares about an issue (in a deeply fried kind of way), it’s hard not to stand up, pay attention, and follow instructions, especially when his picture of golden little nuggetized cheese curds are involved and the Minnesota State Fair is at stake. As you might have discerned over the… Continue Reading

Chartreuse Color Trademark Still on the Loose

Posted in Articles, Branding, International, Law Suits, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Back in December we wrote about a trademark infringement case (Weems v. Plews) involving claimed exclusive rights in the color chartreuse as applied to various kinds of hoses. Since then, Plews has been busy trying to short circuit the case and have the unregistered (common law) trademark infringement claims dismissed, contending Weems did not adequately… Continue Reading

Here’s to Calling the Kettle, Brand Too?

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

The teapot read my post from last week and is not only calling the kettle black, but brand too: So, we’ll have to see whether saying it’s so makes it so, after we stir the pot a bit, of course. Like the previous Virginia Brand ham example, the chip packaging above prominently incorporates the word… Continue Reading

When is a Duck a Goose, or a Ham a Brand?

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

Every once in a while, the word “brand” appearing on product packaging surprises me, because my earlier understanding of the word preceding it spells generic, not brand. Just like the above. Shopping in Whole Foods this past weekend, the above shown VIRGINIA BRAND designation called out like a neon sign from behind the glass of… Continue Reading

Aaron Keller Explains the Physics of Brand

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing

We enjoyed connecting with our many friends at Fuse 2017 last week in Miami Beach, and experiencing the larger-than-life Martha Stewart and the living display of her fearless brand. One of the many Fuse highlights was experiencing Aaron Keller explain the Physics of Brand, Capsule’s third book — this one Aaron Keller co-authored with Renee… Continue Reading

April Thanksgiving for Ron’s March Accolades

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Technology, Trademarks

Imagine my surprise as I was scanning some recent posts from some of the leading IP blogs — multitasking while watching the Zags beat South Carolina on Saturday evening — to find my brand name in the title of Ron Coleman’s recent post on his famous Likelihood of Confusion blog: “Steve Baird makes trademark blogging… Continue Reading

April Madness, the NCAA’s One Month Buffer?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

We write a lot here about the scope and strength of trademark rights and how that determination is often intertwined to making intelligent likelihood of confusion determinations. Does “April Madness” fall within the NCAA’s scope of trademark rights for “March Madness“? Likelihood of confusion? Is “March Madness” a famous mark deserving protection from dilution? How… Continue Reading

Stripe Three, Adidas Called a Trademark Bully

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Trademark bullying allegations are in the news again. Not only is Forever 21 calling Adidas a trademark bully for asserting rights in the three stripe design mark, it is asking a federal court to say it has not done anything wrong and award it fees: “Tired of operating with a cloud over its head with… Continue Reading

Congratulations to Howard University’s 2017 McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Team

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

It’s not every year that participants in the William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition need to understand the various nuances of federal trademark law. Yet, with the Lee v. Tam case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act hanging in the balance, this was such a… Continue Reading

McCarthy Institute Trademark Seminar 2017

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Copyrights, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

One of the current challenges in trademark law addressed in Seattle last week at the Amazon Corporate Conference Center, host of the 2017 McCarthy Institute and Microsoft Corporation Symposium, is an issue we have discussed quite a bit here, namely Trademark Disparagement and the First Amendment. The panel to discuss this weighty topic included the… Continue Reading

Wawa Not Gaga Over Dawa?

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Contracts, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Food, Genericide, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Technology, Television, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Earlier this month, Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain, demonstrated it is not gaga over a single location food mart (copy of complaint linked here), called Dawa: As Dawa has vowed to defend its name, will this case come down to a battle over the meanings of the marks? Do consumers really know and… Continue Reading

NASCAR Brand Gasoline at a Pump Near You?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Smell, Taste, Trademarks, USPTO

With the Strafford Publications webinar later today discussing the Lanham Trademark Act’s “Use in Commerce” requirement, with some of my favorite panelists no less, the topic has been on my mind, even when pumping gas into my rental car in Houston, Texas, this past weekend: So, what do folks think, does this photograph of a… Continue Reading

Your Favorite App-Based Ride Service?

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

Before you answer the question posed in the title of this post, your initial question might be: What is an App-Based Ride Service? The Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport is using a handy sign directing passengers on where to go to access their favorite one, does that help? I’m thinking the designated area in the… Continue Reading

What’s a Peppadew?

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

We recently checked out a new restaurant in Minneapolis’ growing North Loop area, called Red Rabbit, what a great spot:   The menu cleverly refers to the salad options as “Rabbit Food” — and the Italian Chopped salad spoke to me, but one of the listed “ingredients” left me wondering “what’s a peppadew”? Not wanting… Continue Reading

When Less is More

Posted in Advertising, AlphaWatch, Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks, Truncation

Love the simplicity and honesty of this sign, captured on vacation, in a cozy crepe spot (had to get out of my chair and walk across the dining room to read the smaller print, well worth the steps): As Seth recently noted, there can be room for improvement when it comes to making signs (we… Continue Reading