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

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

Will #TheDress Impact Color Trademarks?

Posted in Articles, Fashion, International, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Social Media, Television, Trademarks

#TheDress phenomenon is about to shape the future of color trademarks and trade dress rights. You may recall, we have written a great deal on the subject of non-traditional trademark protection of colors, especially during the Christian Louboutin red-soled shoe trademark lessons, but more recently we wrote about the legal implications of color selections in… Continue Reading

Trademarks That Violate Public Policy

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

As our friend John Welch reported last week, the place to be on March 10, 2015, is Washington, D.C., at the 25th Annual “PTO Day,” sponsored by the Intellectual Property Owners Association: John will be part of the panel update on TTAB practice, and I’ll be providing the overview of Section 2(a) of the Lanham… Continue Reading

Samsung Boards Brandverbing Bandwagon

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

Samsung appears to be the most recent brand to board the brandverbing bandwagon with its Galaxy Note 4 advertising campaign, asking the critical question: Do You Note? Samsung has federally-registered in the U.S. the trademark GALAXY NOTE for smart phones, mobile phones, and tablet computers — note the absence of a disclaimer of NOTE, meaning… Continue Reading

Lights Shining On Configuration Trademarks?

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

As our loyal readers know, we love bringing non-traditional trademarks within your sights for consideration, even if they’re hanging from the ceiling, so here’s another to explore:                   The claimed mark is described as “a three-dimensional configuration of a chandelier having three sides and 10 globes. The… Continue Reading

Likelihood of Confusion and/or Dilution?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks

Let’s suppose you’re a non-profit like the NRA, you sell stuff on your NRAstore.com, and you’d like to promote the fact that your website has over 30 product demonstration videos available that can easily be viewed online by potential consumers before they buy stuff from you. Let’s also suppose that when you sell stuff, 100%… Continue Reading

Anticipating Super Bowl L: A Branding Loser?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks

Now that Super Bowl XLIX is in the rear view mirror, and the New England Patriots have been duly congratulated for winning anything but a Mediocre Bowl, for those of us with no pigskin in the big game this year, it’s time to think about the possible magic of Super Bowl L. Wait what? Is… Continue Reading

Would You Feel Friendly Toward Freddy?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Infringement, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, USPTO

As the brand manager or trademark counsel for Friendly’s, would you be friendly toward Freddy’s? I remember the Friendly’s restaurant chain when we lived in Columbia, Maryland, back in the days when I clerked for a Senior Judge on the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., so at my first sighting… Continue Reading

The NFL’s Super Bowl Trademark Nonsense

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Fair Use, First Amendment, Infringement, Marketing, SoapBox, Television, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

It’s that time of year again. Time to tiptoe around and avoid use of or make any reference to the Super Bowl. Whoops. Anyway, we’ve discussed this phenomenon before: Insuring a Great Super Bowl Trademark Fight Fair Use of Super Bowl Trademark? Super (Bowl) Sunday, Ads Coming Soon Advertisers — fearful of NFL legal action… Continue Reading

We Prefer A More Subtle, Delicate Approach

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Guest Bloggers, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, SoapBox, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

For those of you who have been with us since the beginning of this wonderful collaboration of legal and marketing types, known as DuetsBlog, you also know we have a mascot dubbed Duey — he’s depicted in the squirrel graphic at the top of this page. Here is his story, as told by Aaron Keller… Continue Reading

Owning the Visual Identity of a Generic Word

Posted in Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Unless you have created a highly stylized, distinctive, graphic representation of a generic designation, perhaps something like the Miller Lite script, don’t bother trying to own or enforce it:   Most likely, you’ll end up regretting the decision to enforce, when the court of public opinion weighs in, after the social media shame-wagon flogs it… Continue Reading

As the Trademark Fraud Pendulum Swings

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

Once upon a time, and for decades thereafter, trademark fraud claims were highly disfavored. They were criticized as unproductive litigation diversions — “often pled,” but “rarely proven.” To succeed — during that lengthy period of time — the alleged fraud had to be “proven to the hilt,” with “clear and convincing evidence,” leaving nothing to… Continue Reading

Apple Turnover Trade Dress Totally Flipped

Posted in Articles, Food, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

As if we all haven’t already indulged a little too much over the holidays, we chose our first day back to write about non-traditional trademark protection for the configuration of single-serving apple pie pastries. It’s OK, don’t worry, if the Blossom pastry to the left is tempting, you always can get back on track tomorrow!… Continue Reading