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Category Archives: Fair Use

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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

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

Can a Word Which Means a Lot (Aloha) Mean Almost Nothing in Trademark?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Fair Use, Genericide, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sight, Sound, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks, USPTO

Hawaii seems to be on the mind here at DuetsBlog lately. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting three Hawaiian islands for the first time. While there, I quickly became acquainted with Hawaiian life and language. It’s a beautiful place; I recommend everyone visit. When I first landed on Kauai, the “garden island,” I… Continue Reading

Buc-ee’s Beaver Chomps Reptilian Competitor

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sight, Trademarks

About a week ago, we reported on an interesting case out of the Southern District of Texas involving two competing convenience stores with cartoon animal mascots: Buc-ee’s (a beaver) and Choke Canyon (an alligator). As someone who has personally visited Buc-ee’s stores, I can tell you that they are quite the destination. Buc-ee’s tend to… Continue Reading

Trader Joe’s Takes on Trademark “Schmo”

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sound, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

In recent USPTO news, Trader Joe’s, the supermarket chain known for its eclectic and unique foodstuffs, recently filed an opposition to registration of the mark “Trader Schmo,” which is described as designating a wide variety of Kosher foods. Understandably, Trader Joe’s took issue with the mark, and particularly its use in the food category. The… 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

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

Carvana and Google: Co-Branding Nirvana?

Posted in Advertising, Agreements, Articles, Branding, Contracts, Fair Use, Marketing, Television, Trademarks

Carvana — online car dealer and operator of “a higher state of car buying” — sports a halo in its non-verbal logo shown above, but is it an angel when using the Google name and logo in t.v. ads? In other words, is the use licensed by Google or could it be defended successfully without permission as trademark nominative fair use?… Continue Reading

Coming Soon: Creative Brand Protection Event

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Domain Names, Fair Use, Guest Bloggers, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

We’re always looking forward, but every once in a while we look in the rear-view mirror and become amazed at how far we’ve come since our humble beginnings a short nine years ago. Well, it’s almost time to celebrate another birthday here at DuetsBlog, and if we make it to March 5th, Duey will be… Continue Reading

Legitimate Super Bowl Ambush Marketing

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, False Advertising, First Amendment, Infringement, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Not all ambush marketing is created equal. Some can cross the line and create a likelihood of confusion as to sponsorship. Some falsely advertises. But, some is totally fair use and lawful. This current promotional banner by La-Z-Boy is capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the upcoming Super Bowl weekend festivities, but without reasonable risk of… Continue Reading

Green Bay Packers Enforce “Titletown” Mark Against High School Football News Series

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Infringement, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sight, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Tis’ the season for football, not just on the gridiron, but also at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Shortly after the “Minneapolis Miracle,” as we reported this week, the Minnesota Vikings applied for registered marks on the phrase. And with the “big game” approaching, teams have titles on the mind–even those that aren’t in… Continue Reading

Court Protects Louis Vuitton from Inability to Understand Obvious Joke

Posted in Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, Fashion, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sight, Trademarks

For the past several years, DuetsBlog has covered fashion house Louis Vuitton’s outlandish trademark “bullying” against law schools, dog toys, photographers, and movie studios. Most recently, we discussed the brand’s latest high-profile lawsuit against rival luxury canvas tote maker (sarcasm), My Other Bag, for trademark infringement and dilution. To the casual observer, one might not… Continue Reading

Super Bowl Ambush Marketing Games Begin?

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Fair Use, False Advertising, Marketing, Non-Traditional Trademarks, Trademarks

We continue to have Super Bowl LII on our minds here in the Twin Cities. It’s hard to avoid thinking about the upcoming “Big Game” with ads like these blanketing our skyway maze: Turns out, everyone wants to have a little piece of the action in this upcoming event, even without the formality and cost… Continue Reading

Beer Brand Battles: David Takes on City Hall (with Goliath on the sidelines)

Posted in Copyrights, Fair Use, Food, Infringement, Trademarks, USPTO

The City of Portland is known as a hub for craft beer, and its local government couldn’t be prouder. The Travel Portland website proudly proclaims that Portland is “home to more breweries than any other city on earth.” Yet the city’s relationship with the local craft beer scene is not so bubbly at the moment,… Continue Reading

When Names become Brand Names

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Contracts, Fair Use, Fashion, Goodwill, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademarks

And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. Genesis 2:19 Naming things is a fundamentally personal, human act that sometimes – in a profession all about brand names – we take for granted. It’s easy to forget when we are clearing, registering, and protecting names, that at a basic level we… Continue Reading

Call of Duty Trademark Lawsuit: A Humvee Humdinger

Posted in Branding, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

AM General, manufacturer of Humvee military vehicles, has sued Activision Blizzard for trademark infringement, based on the use of the “Humvee” and “HMMWV” marks for the virtual military vehicles displayed in Activision’s Call of Duty video games. See the complaint here, filed last week in the Southern District of New York. For those of you who are not avid… Continue Reading

Classic Trademark Fair Use of Google Mark?

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

North Memorial Health must be spending significant advertising dollars at the moment, with a variety of ads appearing all over the Minneapolis skyway system, above is one current example. In addition, there are a series of humorous and sarcastic TV ads that were designed to poke the bear of our broken health care system, congrats to Brandfire on… Continue Reading

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

Posted in Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Marketing, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Of course, loyal readers have been eagerly awaiting Part III of the series (see Part I and Part II) focusing on Tam’s intersection of federal trademark registration and the First Amendment. In terms of the certain and practical implications flowing from the decision, it opens the door to a host of new trademark applications containing religious and… Continue Reading

Making Fair Use of the Super Bowl Trademark

Posted in Advertising, Articles, Branding, Dilution, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

Over the weekend, the Star Tribune continued the growing drum beat of understandable excitement for Super Bowl LII, as it steadily approaches U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The article also plays the typical NFL-enabling drum beat of caution against local businesses that might see fit to fairly and truthfully reference the Super Bowl in some… Continue Reading