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

Amazon’s Worker Cages and Some Reminders on the Publicity and Value of Patents

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents, Social Media, Technology, USPTO

Amazon’s patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,280,157) for a “System and Method for Transporting Personnel Within an Active Workspace” has been in the news recently. The invention is described as a device for keeping human workers safe in an automated (i.e., robotic) work environment.  In the Background, the patent discusses the rapid rise of automation in… Continue Reading

Poke Restaurant’s Trademark Enforcement Sparks Protests

Posted in Branding, Food, Infringement, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Trademark Bullying

Trademark enforcement, particularly in an age of social media and internet shaming, is tricky business.  Some brands (I’m looking at you, Louis Vuitton) seem to have enough market share to ignore the social backlash from their heavy-handed demand letters.  But companies that lack that kind of brand power could benefit from a bit more finesse… Continue Reading

This is Not the Statue You’re Looking For: The Post Office’s $3.5 Million Copyright Mistake

Posted in Copyrights, Fair Use, Infringement, Law Suits

  Earlier this month, the United States Postal Service (USPS) was ordered to pay $3.5 million in damages to a sculptor for copyright infringement. Seeking a unique redesign for its “Forever” stamps, the USPS searched stock photos for images of the Statue of Liberty.  They found a particularly striking photo on Getty Images and paid… Continue Reading

Dog Toy Manufacturers Really Like Parodies

Posted in Dilution, Famous Marks, Fashion, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Product Packaging, Trademarks

A dog toy display at a local pet store caught my attention recently. I did a double take on seeing the familiar fonts, coloring, and packaging.  Not long after, I happened to find these at a different pet store. Once again, the familiar labels, coloring, and bottle designs caught my attention. While certainly reminiscent of… Continue Reading

Tattoo Artists’ IP Rights Only Skin-Deep

Posted in Copyrights, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts

  WWE wrestler Randy Orton has some unique ink on his arms and back, created by tattoo artist Catherine Alexander.  Orton—and his tattoos—are featured in the WWE 2K video games.  Alexander claims ownership of copyright in the tattoos, and is suing WWE and the makers of the video games for their depiction of the original… Continue Reading

Patent IPRs and Allergan’s Sovereign Immunity Defense

Posted in Agreements, Contracts, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Patents

In an age of rising healthcare costs, pharmaceutical companies can be an easy target in calls for patent reform.  Patent protection helps drug manufacturers recoup their investment in developing the new drug,.  It also prevents generic manufacturers from releasing the same drug formulation at lower cost.  The Hatch-Waxman Act provides a pathway for generic manufacturers… Continue Reading

Lawsuit Verdict Makes Grumpy Cat Smile

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

For anyone unfamiliar with internet cat personalities, Grumpy Cat is a well-known feline whose dwarfism and underbite culminate in a perpetual—and adorable—sour expression.  Grumpy Cat’s real name is Tardar Sauce.  In 2012, when Tardar Sauce was only a few months old, she became an internet sensation after a photo of her endearing scowl was posted… Continue Reading

Twitter Flying Too Close to TWIT Mark With Video Content

Posted in Agreements, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology, Trademarks

Twitter, the social media giant, is being sued by its internet cousin, TWiT.  TWiT, which initially stood for This Week in Tech, is a netcast network providing audio and video tech-related content.  TWiT owns the registered service mark TWIT for visual and audio entertainment performances. According to the Complaint, TWiT founder Leo Laporte and Twitter… Continue Reading

Comic Con (TM)

Posted in Branding, Genericide, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Trademarks

The term Comic Con has become synonymous with a certain culture.  In recent years, comic book conventions (and comic book culture), have become increasingly popular.  Annual comic book conventions are held in major cities across the U.S. and the world.  Many of these conventions are titled—officially or unofficially—“[City] Comic Con.”  One recent jury decision, however,… Continue Reading

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