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

Handcrafted Intellectual Property in 2014

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Trademarks

What best describes your work? Inexpensive? Cost effective? Robotic? Low budget? High volume? Or, do you deliver excellence — unique, distinctive, valuable, sculpted, tailored, and handmade  solutions with your wealth of professional skill and expertise? If your main focus is on delivering the lowest possible cost, you best be selling a commodity. Creating and protecting valuable intellectual property… Continue Reading

Touch Trademark Update

Posted in Articles, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Touch, Trademarks, USPTO

‘Tis the Season for billboard ads like this, sorry Nancy. Anyway, it reminded me of a very early post of mine on touch trademarks, here on DuetsBlog. That early blog post noted Diageo’s federally-registered purple bag non-traditional trademark, and that a third party had slipped in at the USPTO to federally register a velvet touch… Continue Reading

Look for the Red Kettle This Holiday Season?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

My iPhone captured this Salvation Army ad posted on a Minneapolis bus that I was following this morning in snowy and very slow traffic. Given how prominently the Red Kettle has become in Salvation Army advertisements, no doubt, you know where my mind goes, straight to non-traditional trademark protection for the shape and appearance of… Continue Reading

Hanging Around Trademark Disputes

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Search Engines, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, USPTO

When you hang around trademark disputes long enough you start to see patterns, at least, at the ends of the spectrum (or not). We have spilled much digital ink over allegations of “trademark bullying” — something that does occur, but in the grand scheme of all trademark enforcement matters, the instances of actual bullying and abuse seem… Continue Reading

iPhooey?

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

Apparently iPho by Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant located in St. Paul, Minnesota, is quite good. The logo design is eye-popping, and dare I say clever, but does it cross one of the many legal intellectual property lines? We can all agree as to the source of the “inspiration” for this visual identity, right? Our little friend… Continue Reading

LogoThief to the Rescue

Posted in Articles, Branding, Copyrights, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Sight, Trademarks

  There is a brand new exposer of potential intellectual property violations on the scene, meet LogoThief: “We exist to name and shame logo thieves and all others who plagiarise the work of logo designers.” Here is what prompted the start of the website just last week: “We started this website because we are sick of… Continue Reading

Tonight We Tanqueray a Trademark

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Genericide, International, Look-For Ads, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

                  Diageo, the Tanqueray brand owner is currently running billboard ads in the Twin Cities as part of its “Tonight We Tanqueray” ad campaign. A couple of years back when the campaign first was announced, Diageo explained it this way: “One of the world’s most awarded gins, Tanqueray London Dry… Continue Reading

Grading Distinctive Vodka Bottle Trademarks

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

Last week, Works Design Group highlighted five vodka bottle designs to love. No doubt, a nice collection of very creative work. This stacked ice cube design is my favorite from their set: The skull bottle design shown below also made Works’ top five, and it is certainly eye-popping. It was created by John Alexander, Dan Aykroyd’s co-founder of… Continue Reading

A Pair of Cheesehead Trademarks to Grate?

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

As a frustrated and bored Minnesota Vikings fan, Monday Night Football last evening caught my attention with the division battle between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. In case you missed it, the Packers lost to the Bears, despite the Packers typical home field advantage at the legendary Lambeau Field. As much as the plentiful Packers… Continue Reading

Google’s Latest Trademark Bugaboo?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Search Engines, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

Fame tends to attract attention, and imitation, especially unwanted imitation from, well, even pests. The Google trademark appears to have obtained such a high degree of fame that no third party can include the word “Google” in its mark without having a problem, regardless of what the third party happens to be selling. Ron, can you say, right in gross?… Continue Reading

When Intent Matters in Trademark Matters

Posted in Almost Advice, Articles, Counterfeits, Domain Names, Fair Use, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

One of the unfortunate aspects of trademark practice is the permission that exists in the law to challenge the motives and intentions of people. Unfortunate, because this permission is frequently abused, especially by less experienced trademark counsel, or perhaps when the strength of a case doesn’t seem like enough without injecting an unhealthy dose of emotion into… Continue Reading

Having “Just Ship It” Reluctance?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks, TTAB

Seth Godin – famous for inspiring those who create to “shipit” — took the opportunity yesterday to respond to those who contend he encourages others to “just ship it.” In Godin’s response he takes issue with the word “just,” because it “implies a throwaway“: “The just has a, ‘what the hell,’ element to it. With ‘just’ in… Continue Reading

What Does the Suffix Say?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Domain Names, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

Ylvis, the Norwegian music/comedy duo, recently revealed the secret of the fox to more than a hundred and twenty-three million viewers on YouTube (as of this posting), answering the vexing question: What does the fox say? Not surprisingly, given this wide-spread attention, an individual apparently unconnected to Ylvis already has filed an intent-to-use trademark application for ”What the Fox Say”… Continue Reading

Where Everybody Knows Your Name(s)

Posted in Almost Advice, Branding, Copyrights, Infringement, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Social Networking, Television, Trademarks

Who would you expect to find sitting at the end of the bar in this recently re-named Minneapolis sports bar, formerly known as Halek’s Bar? What if you were to queue a very familiar tune to these lyrics, would that help? Yeah, I was thinking of these guys too: But, what if these guys have nothing to do with… Continue Reading

The R-Word, Postponing the Inevitable

Posted in Almost Advice, AlphaWatch, Articles, Branding, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

As many anxiously await the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB) decision in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc., a trademark cancellation action seeking to revoke six federal service mark registrations containing the R-Word (issued between 1967 and 1990), the pressure is mounting for the NFL team located near our Nation’s Capital to stop postponing the inevitable: A name change. Change… Continue Reading

High Performance. Delivered. In 83 Days.

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

Sometimes if you blink you can miss a trademark infringement suit from beginning to end. Well, ok, that’s probably a slight exaggeration. In case you missed the news reports from June, Accenture sued rival Deloitte for trademark infringement, asserting that Deloitte’s use of the slogan HIGH PERFORMANCE.AMPLIFIED. infringed on Accenture’s prior federally-registered rights in HIGH PERFORMANCE. DELIVERED. A… Continue Reading

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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

We continue to anxiously await the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision in Frito-Lay North America, Inc. v. Princeton Vanguard, LLC, especially given the Board’s recent genericness ruling in Sheetz of Delaware, Inc. v. Doctor’s Associates, Inc., finding FOOTLONG generic for “sandwiches, excluding hot dogs.” The question at issue in Frito-Lay’s trademark challenge to registration by… Continue Reading

The Trademark Bullying Dialogue Continues

Posted in Articles, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Sophisticated trademark owners recognize that their trademark rights are dynamic — even if their trademarks aren’t famous for purposes of dilution – they can grow or shrink over time, depending on the magnitude of their own use and their response to third party violations. It is no wonder then that trademark owners are prepared to expend significant… Continue Reading

Is Your Brand All About What It’s Not?

Posted in Branding, Food, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

Good homemade mac-n-cheese dishes are a real weakness for me, so this past weekend I couldn’t resist capturing this image from a local restaurant menu: Although our daughter wasn’t with us for this particular experience, I couldn’t help being amused by the “not kraft mac n cheese” menu item, as she has been probing a wide variety of waitstaff for years about… Continue Reading

Millions of False TM Notices to Remove?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, False Advertising, Food, Genericide, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

                A hot dog is a type of sandwich, and “footlong” denotes a type, category, or class of sandwiches (those measuring about a foot in length), making ”footlong” a generic term and part of the public domain – incapable of serving as a trademark for any kind of sandwich. This is true despite Subway’s claimed… Continue Reading

A Fluid Family of Trademarks?

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

John Welch over at the TTABlog recently reported that oral argument will be heard by the TTAB later this month in McDonald’s opposition of McSweet LLC’s application to federally register McSweet for pickled vegetable products. It appears many resources have been invested on both sides of this battle for more than six years; it is unclear… Continue Reading