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

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

Pretzel Crisps Genericness Decision Appealed

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB

A couple of months ago you will recall that the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) held ”Pretzel Crisps” generic for pretzel crackers. Here are links to our previous coverage of the case: Packaging that Kills (a Trademark) Crisps = Chips = Crackers? A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Tie Goes to the Brand or Generic Name?… Continue Reading

Beretta, (No) Thank You Very Much . . . .

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing

Apparently Elvis Presley was a well-known Beretta gun owner during his life, so I suppose his lips might have uttered the words “Beretta, thank you very much.” The King’s estate, however, isn’t thankful about an Elvis-themed advertising campaign designed to promote the sale of Beretta firearms. Ad Law Access reports that Elvis Presley’s Estate filed suit against Beretta for… Continue Reading

Calling Non-Traditional Trademarks By Name

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Look-For Ads, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

Things that are worth talking about need names. Good, distinctive names are best. As you may recall, last year we wrote this about non-verbal logos needing names: “Marketing types, when brand owners operate in the world of non-verbal logos, isn’t spreading the news by word of mouth more difficult without a word to bring the image… Continue Reading

Why “Hours of Energy Now”?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Marketing, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks

Tim, after shopping at Costco over the weekend, the reason why the 5-Hour Energy folks seem so interested in owning “Hours of Energy Now” became more apparent: Does Costco’s Kirkland brand energy drink packaging specimen demonstrate trademark use of the phrase “Hours of Energy Now!” better than those provided by the 5-Hour Energy folks?  

Ola Crapola!

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Crapola sounds like something worth saying on the way to Chicago, after discovering the size of your PowerPoint file is too large to get through the recipient’s firewall, and then realizing the USB flash drive containing your inspiring presentation to FUSE conference attendees remains on your desk back in Minneapolis. Perhaps an even stronger word might be appropriate, if… Continue Reading

Anticipation . . . But, Heinz is Not Keeping Melinda’s Habanero Ketchup Waiting

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks

Last month Heinz, a brand “synonymous with ketchup throughout the world,” and a seller of “650 million bottles of Heinz ketchup each year,” brought a federal trademark infringement and dilution lawsuit in Texas to enforce exclusive rights in the “famous” Heinz bottle design against Melinda’s Habanero Ketchup brand. Here is the Complaint and Exhibits A, B, C,… Continue Reading

Twilight Trademark Trial Now on Horizon

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, USPTO

Another father-daughter trip to Bath & Body Works (BBW) this past weekend revealed that his and her Twilight Woods personal body care products are still available for sale: Still, because ten days ago, the federal district court in the Southern District of New York rejected BBW’s attempt to have the trademark infringement and dilution claims –… Continue Reading

Droning On and On, About A Trademark?

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

Months after Amazon’s recent media ploy, drones continue to capture news headlines. Hours ago, an AP story ran, suggesting that the Federal Aviation Administration’s present ban on commercial drones will result in global competitors flying right by the U.S., leaving us in their economic dust, as other countries around the globe embrace the commercial use of drones…. Continue Reading

Victoria’s Secret Defends Dream Angels?

Posted in Articles, Contracts, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

How important is the DREAM ANGELS brand to Victoria’s Secret? Victoria’s Secret has a robust portfolio of federally-registered trademarks to protect the DREAM ANGELS sub-brand for undergarments and a line of personal care products and fragrances. Years ago, apparently Victoria’s Secret entered into a consent-to-use agreement with Airs International, a company that had rights in ANGEL DREAMS… Continue Reading

Packaging that Kills (a Trademark)

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, TTAB

Killer packaging is a good thing. It can increase sales and establish a stronger emotional bond between the consumer and the product brand. The current packaging of Snack Factory’s Pretzel Crisps pretzel crackers might qualify as killer, but a long-anticipated and important trademark decision issued last Friday relied on an earlier version of the product packaging… Continue Reading

Ice Bar or V Bar on Ice?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Infringement, Trademarks

On my last trip to Las Vegas, I captured these photos at the so-called ”Ice Bar” located in the Golden Nugget in downtown Vegas (for my digital scrapbook of trademark storytelling): So, I couldn’t resist, and I asked the bartender whether this “V Bar” is related to the ”V Bar“ located at the Venetian on the strip – remember this… Continue Reading

Single Color Trademark Developments

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

Over the past five years, we have spilled a lot of black digital ink discussing trademark ownership of single colors. Color continues to be an important aspect of branding and differentiation in a variety of markets, including many you’d expect, and some you might not. Christian Louboutin’s red color trademark helps to illustrate the importance of single color… Continue Reading

Inventing a Generic Category Name

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

MillerCoors is currently running this Lite Beer ad, promoting the limited edition original can, and taking credit for inventing the light beer category, way back in 1973. It is a great reminder that despite Miller’s determined and long-protracted litigation over its attempt to own the word LITE as a trademark for beer, in the end, it was… Continue Reading