DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Steve Baird

View my professional biography Just so you know, I'm all about brands and the law, both professionally and personally. I regularly annoy family and friends in retail stores by focusing on product labels—not to buy the product, but to read the fine print and ask, “Who owns these brands” and “Did they really register those marks?” To understand the depth of my passion for brands and helping clients achieve their business goals, legally, you must understand that my interest in business and branding goes back to the late 1960s. The very first brand I recall profiting from was Jiffy®. Even before being old enough to deliver papers for the Iowa City Press Citizen, between episodes of Bewitched®, I would bake cupcakes and walk my finished product door-to-door, sampling along the way, of course, throughout our Kimball Road neighborhood, mostly selling them to husbands whose wives didn't bake enough (probably watching Bewitched®), according to them at least. One hundred percent profit margins are easy when you can use the necessary equipment and raw materials directly from Mom's kitchen. Mass producing "hot pads" (pot holders, not real estate) and selling them door-to-door was another favorite childhood business venture at the ripe age of six. Graduating to lawn-mowing age worked well with my paper routes because I could easily see who needed help cutting their grass and, in some cases, avoiding neighborhood ridicule. Yes, you're right, Dad loaned me his Lawn-Boy® mower on weekends, rent-free, and even bought the gasoline (Dad was not brand loyal at all with gasoline, so I have no brand memory there). Another pure profit opportunity. Let's just say that Mom and Dad were generous, unsecured investors in my development and future. Thanks Mom and Dad, I now understand the meaning of overhead and capital improvements! I bucked a lot of family tradition and jokes to become a lawyer and a trademark guru. There is not one lawyer in the family tree, as far as my sister knows (and she would know). Nearly everyone is, or was, a teacher of some kind. That must be where my passion for educating others about the legal implications of branding comes from. Basically, I have been speaking about the legal implications of branding since the early 90s, after permitting my pharmacist’s license to expire (after being a victim of an armed robbery where Dilaudid® was on the top of the gunman’s list of desired controlled substances), and shortly after working for an 86 year old federal judge whose chambers had a nice view of the White House in Washington, D.C. While I’d like to say that the movie My Cousin Vinny inspired me to become a lawyer, it was released two years after I graduated from law school. So, really, I guess it just inspired me to be a better lawyer and leader. For now, you can call me a “thought-leader” in the trademark world, and the thankful leader of a very talented group of creative and insightful lawyers and staff who are dedicated to putting our intellectual property clients in the best possible position to achieve their business goals. When I'm not in the office, "cracking the whip," making sure others in the group keep their bios on this blog short and sweet, working (which isn't to say I'm not still thinking about my clients' businesses), or soaking it up in the hot-tub with my soul-mate, I am a dedicated family man - a.k.a. the chauffeur. Until they reach the driving age, I'll continue to shuttle my four wonderful kids around to their athletic and other events, at which you can find me cheering in the stands.

Posts by Steve Baird

Is Apple iPhone Billboard Advertising Xs-ive?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks

As I mentioned last week, Apple’s present iPhone Xs billboard advertising campaign is ubiquitous at the moment, especially this image, totally flooding the Minneapolis skyway system, and beyond: Putting aside whether the unique lighting and reflective nature of the indoor billboards do justice to the art of the iPhone Xs ad, I’m also questioning whether the Xs repetition might be, excessive?… Continue Reading

Are You Ready for The Battle at First Avenue?

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

The anticipation is building for this inaugural battle of the bands to raise money for a great cause: “The Twin Cities advertising and communications industry lacks diversity. It’s a serious challenge. And it’s a problem that won’t be solved overnight. But there’s no reason we can’t have a little fun as we work to ensure… Continue Reading

What About the SuperAmerica Trademark?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Goodwill, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks

Loyal readers know that trademark rights are dynamic, use-it-or-lose-it intellectual property rights. So, when signage announces a name change, it jumpstarts the question of trademark abdonment: The above signage and reporting around the sale and rebrand of SuperAmerica convenience stores seem to suggest the SuperAmerica name will cease to be used, bringing Speedway coast-to-coast. Time will… Continue Reading

DuestBlog Reflections: Embracing Tension

Posted in Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks

As the drum beat grows for our interview of Seth Godin tomorrow, it is only fitting that we are reminded of the importance of embracing tension and the ruckus we’ve set out to make here. Seth’s fabulous and penetrating new book called This is Marketing, will be released tomorrow, no doubt another best-seller, a must-read for… Continue Reading

DuetsBlog Reflections: “In The Beginning”

Posted in Articles, Branding, Guest Bloggers, Marketing, Trademarks

Throughout our nearly decade-long journey and exploration called “DuetsBlog,” we have been blessed and we remain grateful to have met so many incredible new friends along the way. Next Tuesday, we have the remarkable privilege of publishing here on DuetsBlog an interview with Seth Godin, a generous person, overflowing with thoughtful insights and valuable perspectives. In the meantime, many… Continue Reading

Illegal Brand Clone, or Evolved Inspiration?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

A loyal reader brought to our attention the logo for a rather interesting chiropractic practice: Without too much pain, can we all agree on the likely inspiration for the above name and logo? What’s really interesting is that the name Thorassic Park has been federally-registered since 2004, so there is little doubt that the names… Continue Reading

Kevin O’Leary Not Nuts About Mr Wonderful

Posted in Articles, Branding, Food, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Television, Trademarks, USPTO

We’ve been stalking Kevin O’Leary’s nutty Mr. Wonderful trademark application, for a while now. In April, we thought the USPTO would refuse registration of Mr. Wonderful for nuts, based on this: In June, we were shocked to see the USPTO missed issuing the obvious refusal, and in August, we noted and reported that The Wonderful… Continue Reading

Leaving Zero to the Imagination in Branding

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks, USPTO

We’ve been down this road before, some themes intersect, and trademark value is filtered out: The intersecting themes on tap for the day are: Zero, Branding, Trademarks, and Loss of Rights. ZEROWATER is a perfectly suggestive, inherently distinctive, and federally-registered trademark with “incontestable” status as a source-identifier for “water filtering units for household use.” Judging from the specimens… Continue Reading

Whistling While You Work to Parody a Brand?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Food, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks

This is quite a collection of art pieces, inspired by some pretty recognizable candy bar brands: The fine print reads: “Each handmade . . . sculpture is a real working whistle!” Parodies, anyone? Here’s a question, does the functionality of these pieces make them any less expressive as art, any more likely to be confused, any more likely… Continue Reading

Chief Justice John Roberts Talks Trademarks

Posted in Articles, First Amendment, Patents, Trademarks

It’s not every day you’re presented with the unique opportunity of seeing and hearing the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court live in your own backyard, thanks very much Caleb! Tuesday was that day, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. was here in Minneapolis for the 2018 Stein Lecture at the University of Minnesota’s Northrup Auditorium, as the… Continue Reading

Verbing a Wine Brand Won’t Make You a Star

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

Welcome to another edition of trademark stories that are inspired by billboard advertisements: This one was captured for obvious reasons, if you’re familiar with our interest in brandverbing: Just Verb It? A Legal Perspective on Using Brands As Verbs: Part I Just Verb It? Part II: A Legal Perspective on Using Brands as Verbs Just Verb It? Part… Continue Reading

Look-For Louboutin Kick-in-the-Pants Shoes?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fashion, International, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Configurations, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

A recent Mall of America and Nordstrom shopping trip (with visiting extended family), coupled with some initial moments of admitted boredom, led me to wandering through the shoe department: Let’s just say, the stroll through the shoe department made it all worthwhile, to capture the above image, showing Louboutin’s latest fashion sense, leading to my mental… Continue Reading

When Are You in a Lather About Trademarks?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

As you know, I enjoy telling trademark stories about soaps encountered on my various trips: Lather® (brand) soap recently caught my eye — and the lens of my iPhone — while in Palo Alto. Interestingly, the USPTO has treated the word as inherently distinctive, in Lather’s registrations. In other words, not merely descriptive, even though using the product surely produces some…. Continue Reading

Is a Wellness Brand Vaped by Nicotine?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, FDA Approval, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

Juut, an award-winning salon and spa founded in Minneapolis, has grown over the last 30 years, expanding into Arizona and California, with a focus not only on beauty, but health and wellness. Juut was founded by David Wagner (author of Life as a Daymaker — How to Change the World by Making Someone’s Day), naturally the Juut name means: “to uplift humanity… Continue Reading

Creative Brand Protection II — A Picture Book

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Another Creative Brand Protection event is in the books, thanks to our incredible panel of experts: Karen Brennan, Senior Director, Intellectual Property, Best Buy Anne Hall, Technology Strategy Manager-Life Sciences, University of Minnesota Aaron Keller, Co-Author: The Physics of Brand; Co-Founder Capsule Design Tim Sitzmann, Trademark and Brand Protection Attorney, Winthrop & Weinstine Their insights… Continue Reading

If Only HoneyCrisp Was an Apple Trademark

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Food, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Trademarks

Yeah, we usually mean this Apple, when we spill digital ink, not today, instead the edible varieties: Hat tip to Erik Pelton who tweeted about the federal registration of LUDACRISP for fresh apples. We know something about non-ludicrous trademark protection for apples > First Kiss and Rave. They are newly minted brands for the MN55 Apple, a cross… Continue Reading

Scandalous/Shocking Trademark Applications

Posted in Articles, Branding, First Amendment, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Erik Brunetti is not one step closer to being able to federally-register his vulgar and scandalous FUCT trademark for clothing; his portfolio of applications remain log jammed (here and here): So, scandalous trademark applications are still on hold at the U.S. Trademark Office, since the government is now asking for the Supreme Court to reverse… Continue Reading

Budweiser and Jim Beam on the Same Team

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

In April, news broke that two iconic alcohol brands were joining forces to create a remarkable new beer: Jim Beam Budweiser Copper Lager. Fruit of the joint labor is now available for consumption: The unique combination doesn’t appear destined to fall flat, as in the early days since launch, it seems to be attracting even… Continue Reading

A Zero Sum Game in the Trademark World?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Genericide, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Product Packaging, SoapBox, USPTO

We’ve had a lot of nothing — meaning zero, and the trademark meaning, if any, of zero — on our mind lately, so imagine my surprise to see this soap “brand” for the first time last week in a hotel: Not sure how to pronounce it, but as we know, there really is no “correct”… Continue Reading

How to Master the Patentese of Trademarks

Posted in Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Trademarks, USPTO

Since launching almost ten years ago, we’ve focused on helping and guiding marketing/branding professionals, as we seek to facilitate their graceful collaborations with trademark professionals. Our approach has strived to deliver valuable information, without the typical jargon and legalese. It seriously borders the obvious to say that folks who connect with us here know the… Continue Reading