DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Tim Sitzmann

View my professional biography

I have always considered myself to be a creative person. Full disclosure: I'm not claiming that I've created anything good, merely that I have created things that exist. Over the years I have made skateboarding movies, played bass and guitar in bands, acted in plays, written and performed sketch comedy, and even acted in an independent (i.e. very low-budget) zombie movie. Unfortunately none of these ever blossomed into a career. I guess it was the classic case of being ahead of your time.

Thankfully these hobbies put me on a path to my current career as an intellectual property attorney. In fact, my first legal venture was obtaining copyrights for my band's debut (and only) album. I had considered law school as an option but I hadn't committed by the time I finished my undergraduate studies. To buy time I signed up for a student work visa and moved to London. Thanks to destiny, dumb luck, or both, I found a position in a law firm specializing in trademark law and brand management. It was my first exposure to the practice of law, and I quickly discovered that I had found my future career.

When I'm not in the office, I spend my time playing my guitar, obsessing over baseball (go Twins!), or talking up a band, movie, or television show that has recently impressed me.

Posts by Tim Sitzmann

USPTO Keeps the Door Locked for Marijuana-related Services

Posted in Branding, First Amendment, Food, Trademarks

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 25 states, including four states that have also legalized recreational use (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington). On Nov. 8, California voters will have a chance to make their state the next to legalize recreational use. As a dollar amount, Forbes estimated that Colorado’s marijuana industry was worth $1 billion…. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Weighs in on Nominative Fair Use

Posted in Fair Use

The federal courts of appeals have split as to how to apply the doctrine of nominative fair use in trademark infringement cases. Last week, the Second Circuit endorsed the nominative fair use factors used by the Ninth and Third Circuits. At the same time, however, the court rejected the manner in which the Ninth and… Continue Reading

Trademark Litigation Keeps Getting Cheaper (If You Win)

Posted in First Amendment, Law Suits, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Slowly but surely, the extension of the Supreme Court’s 2014 Octane Fitness v. LLC v. Icon Health and Fitness, Inc. decision to trademark claims is gaining traction among federal appellate courts. The Octane Fitness decision addressed the standard for determining whether a case is “exceptional” under the Patent Act and therefore eligible for an award… Continue Reading

Trademark Lessons for New Businesses from a Lawsuit Against a Colorado Juice Bar

Posted in Articles, Dilution, Fair Use, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

It is a big, exciting, and dangerous risk to start a new business. There were approximately 400,000 in 2014 (continuing a recent downward trend, according to Gallup). Most entrepreneurs know that the odds are stacked against them, as about 50% of new companies fail during their first five years (dig deeper into the numbers here.)…. Continue Reading

Hope Springs Eternal – Even for Baseball Trademark Disputes

Posted in Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademarks, USPTO

Across the United States this week, fans rejoiced as baseball returned. Teams took to the diamond and played the first games to count since last year’s World Series. Players, coaches, and fans all turned the page on last season, starting with a clean slate and an undefeated record. But while the players battled on baseball… Continue Reading

Nobody Puts Trademark Claims in a Corner (Except when Copyright Law Preempts Them)

Posted in Copyrights, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademarks

Nostalgia is a big seller these days. Hollywood continues to produce remakes (and remakes of remakes), politicians lament the better days of yesterday, and companies capitalize on feelings of nostalgia in order to make money. It’s not new, but it does seem to be more popular than ever. TD Ameritrade jumped on the Nostalgia Express… Continue Reading

An E-Bay User Copied and Sold Thousands of Designs for Profit, but is it Legal?

Posted in Copyrights, Fair Use, First Amendment, Idea Protection, Infringement, Loss of Rights

Three-dimensional printing technology continues to be a new frontier of creativity, advancement, and of course, legal issues. The laws surrounding 3D printing have always been a topic of concern, but the discussion took center stage over the last few weeks in an unprecedented way. If you’re new to the idea of 3D printing, here’s a… Continue Reading

Are Registrations for Product Configuration Trademarks for Suckers?

Posted in Fair Use, Famous Marks, Food, Idea Protection, Infringement, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Trademarks, USPTO

As a kid, I loved candy. But as an adult, who happens to be an intellectual property attorney, I still love candy. So you can bet your sweet tooth that I was feeling a sugar rush when I came across a pending application to register the claimed mark shown below: The application was filed by… Continue Reading

Spongebob Suitpants: Viacom Sues Proposed “Krusty Krab” Restaurant

Posted in Infringement

Calling all Spongebob fans: there is a company in Texas that wants to create a real life Krusty Krab restaurant. For those not “in the know,” Spongebob Squarepants is a Nickeloden cartoon featuring underwater sea characters. The main character, Spongebob, works at a fast food restaurant named The Krusty Krab, which is prominently involved in… Continue Reading

Does Louis Vuitton’s Loss to a Parody Defense Justify an Award of Attorney Fees?

Posted in Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Fashion, First Amendment, Infringement, Law Suits, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Earlier this month the Southern District of New York granted the defendant’s Motion for Summary in Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. My Other Bag , Inc. The fashion giant had brought suit against a California company over its sales of a canvas tote bag that included an image that “evoked” Louis Vuitton’s classic handbag design…. Continue Reading

Louis Vuitton’s Other Lawsuit Was a Winner, but Loses to a Parody Defense – Again.

Posted in Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement

Louis Vuitton is no stranger to trademark disputes. As a a manufacturer of handbags, wallets, and other luxury goods, the company has its hands full just addressing counterfeit products. However, like any other company, there is concern not just with “fakes,” but other products and services that may otherwise infringe or dilute Louis Vuitton’s trademark… Continue Reading

Did the Federal Circuit Just Save the Redskins’ trademark registrations?

Posted in First Amendment, Trademarks, USPTO

Yesterday the Federal Circuit issued its decision in In re Tam, an appeal filed by a musician whose application to register the mark THE SLANTS had been refused registration on the ground that it was disparaging to Asian Americans. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) relied on the same provision to cancel the registrations… Continue Reading

Samsung Seeks an Edge in Smart Phone Wars through Federal Registration

Posted in Infringement, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

For years, Samsung and Apple have battled over intellectual property rights associated with each party’s smart phones. Apple sued Samsung in 2011 and the jury found that Samsung had infringed Apple’s trade dress, design patents, and utility patents. On May 15, 2015, the Federal Circuit upheld the findings regarding infringement of design and utility patents,… Continue Reading

Forget the 6s, is the iPhone 3d coming soon?

Posted in Branding, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Product Packaging, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

When the iPhone 6s was announced, the 3D touch was a heavily touted feature.  The touch screen can now sense how hard you’re pushing. Functionally, it’s a great improvement that gives users new ways to interact with programs. But a new trademark application filed by Apple on August 18, 2015 suggests that this may not… Continue Reading

Hawking a New Mascot

Posted in Branding, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

The big mascot news over the past year has been in the NFL, as Washington fights to maintain its registrations for the REDSKINS mark. As that dispute continues, the University of North Dakota tried to put to rest its longstanding issues regarding its previous use of the name “The Fighting Sioux.” In 2012, UND dropped… Continue Reading

It’s Not Delivery, It’s Infringement.

Posted in Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Goodwill, Infringement, Social Media, Trademarks

We’re not talking pizza, we’re talking burgers. Not just any burgers, either, we’re talking In-N-Out burgers. As any California transplant will tell you, no other burger from any other restaurant comes close. In-N-Out has more than just burgers; it also has French fries, shakes, and drinks. They also have a drive-thru if you don’t want… Continue Reading

Yosemite: The Park, the Name, and the Lawsuit

Posted in Contracts, Fair Use, Goodwill, Infringement, Loss of Rights, Trademarks

Tunnel View – Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 As the saying goes, possession is nine-tenths of the law. That other tenth can be pretty complicated, depending on what you’re “possessing.”   When you’re arguing with an older brother over who “possesses” the remote control, it’s an open and shut case. But what about “possession”… Continue Reading

Lego Adds a “Brick” to its Enforcement Strategy

Posted in Fair Use, Infringement, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Product Packaging, Trademark Bullying, TTAB

The Danish Lego Group is no stranger to trademark disputes. Understandably, Lego enforces its rights in the LEGO mark against third-parties who use LEGO without their permission. Lego also claims trade dress rights in product shape and configuration of its blocks and enforces those rights against other building block manufacturers. Some competitors claim that these… Continue Reading

Beer for Breakfast: Lessons in Co-Branding from General Mills

Posted in Branding

Yesterday General Mills announced that it had partnered with Fulton Brewery to create HefeWheaties: a limited edition brew. The beer is a Hefeweizen, which is traditionally a wheat-based beer, making it a perfect canvas for the Wheaties brand. Normally when these situations arise, it is because one party is complaining (For example, Lucasfilms’ objection to… Continue Reading

Octane Fitness Clarified the Standard for Attorney’s Fee Award, but Has Really Anything Changed?

Posted in Articles, Infringement, Trademarks

It’s no secret, lawsuits can be expensive. That’s why parties frequently consider the availability of recovering attorney’s fees when deciding whether to pursue (or defend) a lawsuit. While attorney’s fees have been available in trademark infringement lawsuits for many years, the standard for granting awards of such fees has shifted in light of recent Supreme… Continue Reading