Representative Peppin apparently is a law student at William Mitchell College of Law, and she has teamed up with other students and William Mitchell law faculty to write and introduce into the Minnesota State House, a bill entitled the “Small Business Trademark Protection Act” (H.F. 2996).
The body of the proposed bill makes no reference to “small business,” nor does it attempt to define “small business,” but it does purport to define “trademark bullying” this way:
“[T]he practice of a trademark holder using litigation tactics in an attempt to enforce trademark rights beyond a reasonable interpretation of the scope of the rights granted to the trademark holder.”
As presently written, the proposed Minnesota state law would require the following:
- All trademark cease-and-desist letters sent to a Minnesota entity by an entity with a presence in Minnesota must contain specific language notifying the recipients of their right to a settlement conference through the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings; not available after suit has been commenced by any party.
- The primary purpose is said to assist the parties in resolving disputes and the secondary purpose is said to identify and label cases of “trademark bullying.”
- The timing, format, and additional requirements are detailed, e.g., how the conference shall not exceed eight hours unless the parties and the judge agree otherwise.
- Attendance by parties or their representatives is mandatory; if the party starting the dispute won’t participate, it is liable for a $1,500 fine and the attorney fees, costs, and disbursements incurred by the other party.
- At its own cost, any party may provide information such as expert testimony, industry practice standards, and evidence of trademark use in commerce.
- If a settlement is not reached but the parties have reached an agreement on any fact or other issue, the alj must issue an order confirming and approving, if necessary, those matters agreed upon. The order is binding on any Minnesota state district court judge who is later assigned to hear a related civil action.
- If no settlement is reached, any party may request the issuance of an alj summary. The alj may issue such a summary without the request of any party if the alj believes that the claim brought is a case of “trademark bullying.”
- Treble damages may be awarded against a party guilty of “trademark bullying”.
- If a party is found by a Minnesota state district court or the Office of Administrative Hearings to have engaged in “trademark bullying” more than two times in a period of ten years the party may have their right to conduct business in the state revoked.
- The cost of the settlement conference is split equally, unless the alj orders otherwise.
- The proposed effective date is August 1, 2012, and would apply to disputes evidenced by cease-and-desist letters and similar communications sent on or after that date.
I’m thinking this proposed legislative solution to “trademark bullying” really misses the mark, your thoughts?