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Category Archives: USPTO

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The Slants, The Redskins, and Free Speech for All Parties

Posted in First Amendment, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

This week’s Matal v. Tam (formerly Lee v. Tam) Supreme Court ruling serves as a reminder that free speech is a two-way street.  It also suggests the value of a sympathetic litigant, at least in terms of public response. Many rallied behind Simon Tam and his rock band, The Slants.  The band members, who are all… Continue Reading

The Covfefe Kerfuffle and the Rush to Register Trending Terms

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks, USPTO

While many of us are working our way through the flood of thought-provoking analysis of Matal v. Tam, I’m taking a break with some lighter fare, namely, covfefe. In case you missed it, the viral non-word “covfefe” was born out of a supposedly meaninglessly typo (perhaps a misspelling of “coverage”) in one of President Trump’s early morning tweets (alternatively,… Continue Reading

On Flag Day, What Flag Can You Protect?

Posted in First Amendment, USPTO

Today is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our national flag 240 years ago.  Although maybe more obscure than Fourth of July or Memorial Day since it is not a federal holiday, this has always been one of my favorite American holidays.  There’s just something nostalgic, reverent, and almost… Continue Reading

Acceptable Identification of Goods/Services

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

Beef jerky is one of my favorite snacks, so while strolling through the Minneapolis skyway, I captured the above floor-to-ceiling advertisement to tell another trademark story. It’s been a while since we’ve written about the importance of brand owners not only thinking hard about their brand names, but also devoting thought and care to the… Continue Reading

“Google” Still Not (Yet) Generic

Posted in Domain Names, Famous Marks, Genericide, Law Suits, Trademarks, USPTO

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a significant opinion on the topic of genericness, Elliott v. Google, Inc., No. 15-15809. The opinion affirmed a federal district court’s grant of summary judgment that “GOOGLE” trademark registrations (Reg. Nos. 2884502, 2806075) are not subject to cancellation for genericness. Genericness a.k.a. “genericide” occurs when… Continue Reading

USPTO Proposes Cheaper, Faster Cancellation Option

Posted in TTAB, USPTO

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office register contains a lot of dead weight. In order to obtain a trademark registration and maintain the registration, the owner must use the mark in U.S. interstate commerce (as always, with a few limited exceptions). What constitutes dead weight? Usually marks that are currently registered, but not actually used… 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

While the Slants are in the Spotlight, Chief Wahoo is on Deck

Posted in First Amendment, USPTO

Throughout the past decade, attorneys, judges, plaintiffs, and defendants have invested thousands of hours in the fight over offensive trademarks. Most of the public is aware of the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins, who continue to be embroiled in litigation that is currently pending with the Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. But… 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

HAVANA CLUB: The Rum’s Back on Ice

Posted in Agreements, Branding, Counterfeits, Famous Marks, Food, Law Suits, TTAB, USPTO

Last year, I blogged about the decades-long dispute for the HAVANA CLUB trademark in the United States. Nearly ten months later, well, its spirit lives on. To briefly recap: in one corner, Empresa Cubana Exportadora, an arm of the Cuban government, owns a registration for the HAVANA CLUB trademark. In the other corner, Bacardi claims rights… Continue Reading

Hasbro thinks the Smell of Play-Doh Is a Trademark, will the USPTO Agree?

Posted in Fair Use, Non-Traditional Trademarks, USPTO

As we have discussed previously, trademark protection isn’t an exclusive club for words and pictures. Shapes, sounds, and even the tactile feel of a product can all qualify for trademark protection. And as a recent application from Hasbro shows, even the smell of a trademark might qualify for trademark protection. The mark set forth in… 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

Who Will Own New Designs in a Jetsons-like Era?

Posted in Agreements, Copyrights, Idea Protection, Patents, Squirrelly Thoughts, USPTO

While on my flight back from speaking on trademarks & the alcohol industry at this year’s CiderCon, I listened to a fascinating TedTalks podcast on advancements in artificial intelligence that you can find here.  Some of the examples of the progress made in robots included the concept of open-ended, non-linear “generative” thinking by advanced AI… Continue Reading

Patriots Granted Registrations for “Perfect Season” That Never Was

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks, USPTO

Regardless of which team you were rooting for, this year’s Super Bowl (a/k/a the Big Game) was an exciting one to watch, with the Patriots making a surprising comeback in the second half, racking up 31 consecutive points to overcome the Falcons 28-3 lead. A number of records were made this year, including the first overtime… 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

Fictional restaurant wins trademark battle: The Krusty Krab

Posted in Infringement, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Squirrelly Thoughts, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you know the answer to that theme-song question, you’ve probably seen, or at least heard of, the popular cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. It is one of the highest-rated and most-watched animated series to air on television. Many of us, myself included, grew up watching it on Nickelodeon since the early 2000s (or… Continue Reading