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

No What? ZERO Means 0 and 0 Means ZERO!

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

Taking our discussion about Coke Zero a little further than Monday’s discussion, is it any wonder that “zero” stands for nothing, none, nada, when it comes to calories, given icons like this one: In other words, it doesn’t and it can’t hold trademark significance for calorie-free, no-calorie, or zero-calorie food products and beverages, and spelling out “0” as ZERO… Continue Reading

Coke Opening ZERO Genericness Floodgates?

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

We’ve been writing about the COKE ZERO trademark for nearly a decade now, noting in 2014: “[I]t will be worth watching to see whether the [TTAB] finds that ‘ZERO’ primarily means Coke or just a soft drink having ‘no calories, you know, a drink about nothing . . . .’” Turns out, in May 2016, Coke obtained a favorable… Continue Reading

Cat Calling Attention to Women’s Footwear?

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

When ideas from different realms converge in a single moment of time, a new blog post is born. “Catcalling” — albeit a rebranded, reimagined, or redefined version of it — recently has been front and center in a political Twitter storm and remains a lightning rod in the non-stop news cycle. So, imagine my surprise also to see the sturdy Cat… Continue Reading

Will Mr. Wonderful Become a TM Nutcracker?

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

Two months ago, our attention seized on a nutty and woefully deficient USPTO examination of a trademark application to register — Mr. Wonderful — for roasted nuts, and nut-based snack foods, among other food products, given the prior WONDERFUL trademark rights owned by these folks: Just like clockwork, events now appear to be playing out as expected,… Continue Reading

Color Marks: Looking for Look-for Advertising

Posted in Articles, Branding, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Product Packaging, Sight, Trademarks, USPTO

These lime green building sites caught my eye and jogged my trademark memory. First, the future home of the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, at beam signing, on May 4, 2018: Second, the expansion of the Metro Transit headquarters near downtown Minneapolis, on June 12: Of course, the obviously common element of both building sites, besides… Continue Reading

No Gold TM Stars for This Red Star Brand!

Posted in Advertising, Almost Advice, Articles, Branding, Food, Loss of Rights, Marketing, Product Packaging, Trademarks

As I’ve been known to do long before now, this past weekend I found myself gazing intently, this time, into the front label and back copy on this S. Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water bottle: Putting aside the question of the shiny red star logo, which we already have bloviated about, here, a few years… Continue Reading

Green Straws, Dots, Aprons, and Letters?

Posted in Agreements, Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Food, Look-For Ads, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Starbucks is moving away from green straws, actually any plastic straws, to live a little more green. So, we’re unlikely to see any straw trademark filings, despite decent look-for advertising. While Starbucks appears to have drawn the short straw at the USPTO on its efforts to federally-register a pair of green dot marks, appeals to the TTAB are… Continue Reading

Vacuum Wars: On-Product Comparative Ads?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fair Use, First Amendment, Infringement, Marketing, Technology, Trademarks

When can a brand owner lawfully use a competitor’s trademark on the brand owner’s product? Over the years, we’ve lifted away a lot of dust on the hairy subjects of classic trademark fair use, nominative fair use, and comparative advertising, especially in the context of billboard ads. It isn’t every day we see comparative billboard ads actually affixed to… Continue Reading

Brands, Who Could Hang a Name on You?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Food, Infringement, International, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Over the years, we’ve written much about trademark bullying. When the mantle fits, and when it doesn’t. When a brand has a realistic view of its rights, and when the claimed scope is bloated. We’ve never before written about “Ruby Tuesday,” neither the Rolling Stones’ song nor the struggling restaurant chain, until now — and… Continue Reading

Velcro Sequel Sticks With “Hook and Loop”

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

On the heels of discussing trademark genericide through the Anything is Popsicle prism yesterday, let us turn our attention back to Velcro, who is at it again, this time making a genericide sequel. The sequel is called “Thank You for Your Feedback — Don’t Say Velcro.” Like any sequel I’ve ever seen, I’m not feeling Velcro’s second… Continue Reading

Mission Popsicle: Telling You It’s a Brand?

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

Welcome to another edition of Genericide Watch, where we consider brands on the edge, working hard to maintain brand status and exclusive rights, while trying to avoid trademark genericide. The primary meaning to the relevant public decides genericness, so trademark owners will try to influence how consumers understand the word, to maintain at least 51% brand meaning. As we’ve written… Continue Reading

It’s Not a Wonderful Trademark Examination

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

It’s a wonderful life, collaborating with brand owners and marketing teams to advance their goals. Our work for brand owners also involves a collaboration of sorts with the U.S. Trademark Office. We work with the USPTO to obtain registrations for our clients and this triggers USPTO obligations. As such, when examining applications, the USPTO must search its records for… Continue Reading

A Minnowsotan Perspective on TM Disclaimers

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

There is at least one more 2018 Rapala billboard out there, just netted this one over the weekend: Rapala’s clever Minnowsotan billboard inspired me to cast a few lines about the law concerning trademark disclaimers, as they often reel in some great questions from branding professionals. Tim did a helpful post on trademark disclaimers, guiding why the USPTO requires them, their legal implications, and encouraging brand owners to properly… Continue Reading

Scandalous Trademark Applications On Hold

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

Trademarks consisting of or comprising “scandalous or immoral” matter still won’t be granted federal registration “in the name of the United States of America,” at least for the time being. Immediately on the heels of the International Trademark Association’s 140th Annual Meeting in Seattle, and our well-received panel discussion concerning Trademarks and Free Speech, the United… Continue Reading

At INTA 2018: Trademarks and Free Speech

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Yesterday in Seattle — where nearly 11,000, sleepless, brand protection, trademark, and IP professionals from 150 countries have registered and converged for INTA’s 140th Annual Meeting — yours truly had the distinct pleasure of sharing some thoughts on the intersection between federal trademark registration and Free Speech. Here are some before, during and after pics:… Continue Reading

Hamm It Up? The Latest Brand to Verb It Up!

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

It’s been a little while since the last example we’ve shared showing a brand turning its face, or a blind eye, on age-old rigid trademark advice, counseling against using a brand name as a verb. Given the more common trend of many alcoholic beverage brands focusing attention and their messaging on drinking responsibly, MillerCoors has made… Continue Reading

Rapala’s 2018 Fishing Opener Billboard Ads

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Marketing, Trademarks

What would Mother’s Day be, at least in Minnesota, without the fishing opener near by? What would another fishing opener be without Rapala’s distinctive slate of billboard ads? Here is an engaging pair of billboard ads currently running, if you’ve seen others, let us know: My personal favorite between them would be Wassup, dock? — love the double… Continue Reading

Uncertain Case of Google Trademark Fair Use

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Infringement, Marketing, Search Engines, Trademarks

Aren’t digital advertising billboards amazing? My iPhone captured this rolling series of images just yesterday, for a health care organization using the Google trademark in the Minneapolis skyway: My questions, permission, co-branding, no permission, but classic or nominative fair use? Is Google flattered? Free advertising? Do they care? Should they care? Discuss, to quote John Welch,… Continue Reading

The Uncertain Case of Deadwood Trademarks

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

Last week, I enjoyed the privilege of returning to Iowa City (where it all began) for Executive Leadership Board Meetings at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Great meetings there! During a stroll through downtown, I was reminded of Deadwood, a legendary Iowa City tavern, so I snapped a few photos, having long forgotten the creative tagline — Institute of… Continue Reading

Owning Some TM Happiness: Bubly ≠ Bubbly?

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

For a few months now, the Minneapolis skyway system has been flooded with a variety of fresh, creative, eye-popping advertising to promote Pepsi’s new bubly sparkling water collection: Although not a lie (the bottles I’ve seen clearly reference Pepsi), you’d never know from this ad or the trademark registration that Pepsi is behind bubly, since an Irish entity… Continue Reading