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

Federal Trademark Registration, the First Amendment, and Freedom of Speech: Part I

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

Looking forward to sharing the podium with Joel MacMull of the Archer firm (counsel for Simon Tam, where our friend Ron Coleman is a partner) to discuss “Trademark Registration and the First Amendment,” on September 28th at the Midwest IP Institute in Minneapolis. As a drum roll leading up to that discussion, and since there… Continue Reading

“Not So Fast,” Mr. THRILLED Daniel Snyder

Posted in Mixed Bag of Nuts

Lee Corso (former coach and ESPN football analyst) frequently utters this famous sports media catchphrase on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program: “Not so fast, my friend!” The first three words of that phrase come to mind upon hearing that THRILLED Daniel Snyder (majority owner of the NFL football franchise nearest the Nation’s Capitol) is celebrating Simon… Continue Reading

It’s as Suggestive as a Butter Knife for Steak

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

We’ve written quite a bit over the years about the Spectrum of Distinctiveness for trademarks, and the all-important difference between suggestive marks and merely descriptive ones, with only the former being allowed immediate rights based on first use. Creativity is what separates the power of suggestion from the weakness and limbo of descriptiveness. Remember the floating feather… Continue Reading

The Brand With 3 Stripes, Bands, or Stitches?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Fashion, Infringement, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

We’ve written a lot over the years about Adidas’ three-stripe non-verbal, non-traditional trademark. Turns out, Adidas actually owns a federally-registered trademark for the verbal, spelled-out, look-for advertising equivalent too, called: The Brand With The 3 Stripes®. We haven’t until now probed the meaning of “stripe” though: “A long narrow band or strip, typically of the… Continue Reading

Nominative Fair Use of Ride-Share Logos?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fair Use, Infringement, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

Earlier this year, we contemplated a suitable, accurate, and efficient generic name for the service category created by the highly-disruptive Uber brand: App-Based Ride Service. A visit to Chicago this past weekend, left me thinking that Ride-Share Service or Ride Sharing are suitable alternatives, that appear to be gaining some traction, as seen here: The… Continue Reading

Rapala’s Public Service Announcement?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Social Media, Social Networking, Trademarks

Sorry for my delay in reporting Rapala’s annual billboard campaign, which began about a month ago, right around the fishing opener, more on my delay later. As you can see, it reads more like a tongue-in-cheek public service announcement than past billboards, playing on the serious problem of texting while driving. Anglers probably handle their… 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

The Careful Timing of Trademark Truncation

Posted in Articles, Branding, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks, Truncation

A recent stroll through a big box store opened my eyes to a brand of steel toe boots I hadn’t encountered before, take a look at the CAT that will be protecting my son’s toes this Summer: CAT is an excellent example of successful trademark truncation, a single-syllable truncated brand name for the four-syllable CATERPILLAR… Continue Reading

All for Saving the Original Minnesota State Fair Curds, Say Aye, Better Yet . . . #s and @s

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Food, Marketing, Social Media, Trademarks

When Aaron Keller of Capsule deeply cares about an issue (in a deeply fried kind of way), it’s hard not to stand up, pay attention, and follow instructions, especially when his picture of golden little nuggetized cheese curds are involved and the Minnesota State Fair is at stake. As you might have discerned over the… 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

Here’s to Calling the Kettle, Brand Too?

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

The teapot read my post from last week and is not only calling the kettle black, but brand too: So, we’ll have to see whether saying it’s so makes it so, after we stir the pot a bit, of course. Like the previous Virginia Brand ham example, the chip packaging above prominently incorporates the word… 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

Aaron Keller Explains the Physics of Brand

Posted in Articles, Branding, Marketing

We enjoyed connecting with our many friends at Fuse 2017 last week in Miami Beach, and experiencing the larger-than-life Martha Stewart and the living display of her fearless brand. One of the many Fuse highlights was experiencing Aaron Keller explain the Physics of Brand, Capsule’s third book — this one Aaron Keller co-authored with Renee… Continue Reading

April Thanksgiving for Ron’s March Accolades

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Technology, Trademarks

Imagine my surprise as I was scanning some recent posts from some of the leading IP blogs — multitasking while watching the Zags beat South Carolina on Saturday evening — to find my brand name in the title of Ron Coleman’s recent post on his famous Likelihood of Confusion blog: “Steve Baird makes trademark blogging… Continue Reading

April Madness, the NCAA’s One Month Buffer?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

We write a lot here about the scope and strength of trademark rights and how that determination is often intertwined to making intelligent likelihood of confusion determinations. Does “April Madness” fall within the NCAA’s scope of trademark rights for “March Madness“? Likelihood of confusion? Is “March Madness” a famous mark deserving protection from dilution? How… Continue Reading

Stripe Three, Adidas Called a Trademark Bully

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Infringement, Law Suits, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Sight, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Trademark bullying allegations are in the news again. Not only is Forever 21 calling Adidas a trademark bully for asserting rights in the three stripe design mark, it is asking a federal court to say it has not done anything wrong and award it fees: “Tired of operating with a cloud over its head with… Continue Reading