DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Jessica Gutierrez Alm

View my professional biography

I wasn’t planning to be a lawyer. At least that was my thinking as I began law school. This degree was going to give me a leg up in my efforts to enter the business world. Lawyers live in the gray — where there’s never a right answer, only possibilities — and the favorite lawyer answer for any seemingly yes-or-no question is: “it depends.” I was an engineer. I enjoyed the absoluteness of knowing that my answer to any problem was correct or incorrect. Despite my resistance to lawyer thinking, at some point along my law school path, I discovered intellectual property. This world allowed me to be an engineer, to revel in mathematics and physics, while still practicing this thing they call the law. Through my newfound joy in IP, I grew to appreciate that there is a place for gray, and to understand that not every question has a correct answer.

When I’m not working, you’ll find me exploring the limits of my creativity in the form of DIY projects for my house. My husband and I recently purchased our first home and there is no limit to the number of HGTV projects I’ll attempt.

Posts by Jessica Gutierrez Alm

DYKES ON BIKES No Longer Idling After Matal v. Tam

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

Simon Tam wasn’t the only one barred by the Lanham Act from reclaiming a historically derogatory term. Dykes on Bikes is a nonprofit lesbian motorcycle organization.  According to their website, the group’s mission is to “support philanthropic endeavors in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and women’s communities, and to reach out to empower a community… Continue Reading

We can Keep Googling the GOOGLE Mark: Supreme Court Denies Cert

Posted in Famous Marks, Genericide, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Search Engines, Trademarks

Many of us have been eagerly waiting to see whether the Supreme Court would consider Google’s potential genericness. As Martha explained, the case began in 2012, after petitioners Chris Gillespie and David Elliot attempted to register hundreds of web domains that included the word “Google” together with a variety of different people, products, and brands… Continue Reading

“Let’s Play:” DMCA Takedown Notices and Game Developer Acquiescence

Posted in Copyrights, Fair Use, Infringement, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Technology

There is an entire gaming sub-culture developed around watching others play video games.  I’m not talking about gathering around the Game Cube in your friend’s basement and passing the only controller.  “Let’s Play” videos are game play videos made by players and posted or streamed online.  The videos usually include the players’ own running commentary,… Continue Reading

Joint IP Ownership Rights

Posted in Agreements, Almost Advice, Contracts, Copyrights, Genericide, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents, Trademarks

New ideas, creations, and business ventures are often the product of collaboration.  If lawyers had their way, a written agreement would precede every creative collaboration.  Of course, this is not the case.  Collaborators often do not seek advice of counsel, or see the need for an agreement, until after the new idea, creation, or venture… Continue Reading

Do You Even Trademark, Bro?

Posted in Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

Two Bros are competing over their Bro meal delivery services. Jamie Giovinazzo is the owner of Eat Clean Bro, LLC, a meal delivery service providing “a convenient service that is designed to bring chef-prepared meals right to your front door.”  “Whether you are looking to lose weight, live a clean and healthy life, or build… Continue Reading

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

Dubious Patent Trolls and a Crowdfunded Infringement Defense

Posted in Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents

We’ve spent time discussing the patent troll phenomenon in the past.  Patent trolls are less pejoratively referred to as non-practicing entities, because they do not make or use the inventions covered by their patents.  Instead, these non-practicing entities operate by purchasing patents on various technologies, accusing companies of infringing those patents, and demanding the companies… Continue Reading

Blizzard v. Bossland: Game Over for Video Game Botting?

Posted in Civil Procedure, Copyrights, Infringement, International, Law Suits

I’m a rules follower. Going back to the days of the Game Genie—a device that allowed gamers to play Super Mario Bros. with infinite lives or the Legend of Zelda with infinite bombs—I have always preferred the satisfaction of beating the game by its own rules.   Like the video games that have progressed since… Continue Reading

The News is Fake, but the Trademarks are Real

Posted in Branding, Marketing, Trademarks

The trademark filings for new political slogans and catchphrases continue. Over the last couple of months, Donald Trump has repeatedly accused various news sources of disseminating “fake news.”  As a result, 14 trademark applications have recently been filed for variations of FAKE NEWS. The goods and services associated with these applications cover a wide range.  Film… Continue Reading

Boldly Going Where no Fanfic has Gone Before

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Fanfiction refers to the art of creating fiction using another author’s characters or universe.  I was first introduced to the concept in high school, when a friend began writing Harry Potter fanfiction.  (Side note: this is not one of those situations where the “friend” is actually me.)  My friend used the same well-known characters—Harry, Hermione,… Continue Reading

Santa Goes to the Trademark Office

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Contracts, Fashion, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

This is Fashion Santa. Or at least it was until recently. Fashion Santa is a role that originated with model, Paul Mason and Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall in 2014. He promoted the mall and a successful charitable giving campaign. Mason continued as Fashion Santa during the 2015 holiday season, and became somewhat of a social media sensation.  But… Continue Reading

Such a Nasty Trademark

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

After the last presidential debate, the Republican nominee’s “such a nasty woman” utterance led to somewhat of a rallying cry.  Within minutes, #Nastywoman was trending across social media, and streaming of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” spiked 250% on Spotify. While many debated the societal and political implications of the comment, a few enterprising individuals recognized a… Continue Reading

Intellectual Property for President 2016

Posted in Copyrights, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

  The 2016 Presidential election season has produced moments of strife, humor, shock, and even a little magic.  Most importantly, however, this election season has also provided us with plenty of IP fodder. First, there was a fortuitous discussion of Trump’s brand strength. Next, we looked at a slew of fresh campaign logos beaming with hope and… Continue Reading

Federal Cannabis Laws Don’t Impede Patentability

Posted in Agreements, Patents, Technology, USPTO

While the Lanham Act bars the federal registration of trademarks related to illegal goods and services, there is no such prohibition against patenting illegal products or processes. However, the value of such patents is debatable. State Legalization Leads to Increased Patent Applications Marijuana is now legal, in some form, in 25 states. But under federal… Continue Reading

Trans-Pacific Intellectual Property

Posted in Agreements, Copyrights, Fair Use, Idea Protection, Infringement, International, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Patents, Trademarks

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a favored talking point among our presidential hopefuls—is an international trade agreement between twelve nations. The agreement was signed earlier this year, but is not yet ratified in most member countries including the United States. Negotiations took place over seven years and resulted in thirty dense chapters of provisions—some of which are… Continue Reading

A $10 Billion Idea, without a Patent, is just an Idea

Posted in Copyrights, Idea Protection, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Patents, Technology

Have you ever seen an ad for something and thought to yourself, “Hey, I had that idea years ago!” Some people take that thought a step further. One Florida man claims to have invented the iPhone in 1992, and is suing Apple to the tune of over $10 billion. Thomas Ross filed a patent application… Continue Reading

Blowing the Whistle on Trade Secrets: Employers Required to Provide Notice of Whistleblower Protections under DTSA

Posted in Agreements, Almost Advice, Law Suits, Loss of Rights

Last month, the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) was signed into law. The DTSA provides remedies for trade secrets misappropriation, including a new federal cause of action, under which private companies can sue for trade secrets misappropriation. The DTSA allows a trade secret owner to seek actual damages, injunctive relief, restitution, and in some… Continue Reading

LARPing with Patent Trolls

Posted in Counterfeits, Dilution, Fair Use, False Advertising, First Amendment, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology, Trademark Bullying

Live Action Role Playing (LARP or LARPing) usually involves Renaissance Festival worthy costumes, foam medieval weapons, and an intense dedication to not breaking character.  I can’t say I’ve ever had the privilege of participating in a LARP event, but I also can’t say I’d turn down the opportunity. A different kind of battle—the intellectual property… Continue Reading

Primarily Merely a Drumpf

Posted in Branding, Social Media, Social Networking, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

This presidential election cycle has been nothing if not entertaining.  Mr. Trump has been a particular favorite among late night T.V. hosts. In one particular 20-minute monologue, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver berated the Donald, and in doing so, brought to light a historical quirk of the Trump name.  It would seem that the… Continue Reading

Nominative Fair Use, as Illustrated by Colorful Balls

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Fair Use, False Advertising, Infringement, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Television, Trademarks

If you watch any amount of T.V. or happened to catch either of the AFC or NFC Championship games last weekend, you’ve probably seen one of the recent cell phone carrier ball commercials. Initially, Verizon created this commercial, wherein a series of colorful balls rolling down a ramp are used to describe Verizon’s apparently superior… Continue Reading

Printing Infringement: Are 3-D Printers the Next Napster?

Posted in Copyrights, Counterfeits, Fair Use, Infringement, Patents, Product Configurations, Technology, Trademarks

Happy 2016! I hope everyone had a fun and festive New Year celebration. As for me, I’ll be spending my three-day weekend tinkering with this: Thanks to my thoughtful husband and the rapidly increasing availability and affordability of these products, I am the proud new owner of a 3-D printer.  It’s basically been running nonstop… Continue Reading

A Few Useful Holiday Inventions

Posted in Patents

One principal requirement for obtaining a utility patent is that the invention be useful.  “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor.” 35 U.S.C. 101.  The usefulness requirement has roots in the Constitutional grant of power… Continue Reading