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Category Archives: First Amendment

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What Is in a Name? That Which We Call Heisman; by Any Other Name Would Be Ambiguous

Posted in Articles, Domain Names, Fair Use, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Sight, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

It’s fall, and you know what that means: football season! For many, this means a return to the couch each weekend to spectate America’s most-watched sport. But the popularity of doing so appears to be in decline. This shift isn’t only affecting the NFL, but also college football as well, as ticket sales continue to plummet…. 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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday: TTAB Turns Sixty in 2018

Posted in Articles, Branding, First Amendment, Infringement, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

We follow closely and write a lot about what goes on with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); these ironmongers do too, really well. Serious trademark and brand owners care about TTAB decisions because many trademark disputes begin and end there, as the TTAB determines the important… Continue Reading

Does Erik Brunetti Have Ford’s Attention Yet?

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

Last Friday was a big day for Erik Brunetti. He won his appeal at the CAFC, opening the door to federal trademark registration of his four-letter-word “fuct” clothing and fashion brand name. The same door swung wide open for all other vulgar, scandalous, and immoral designations used as trademarks, because the 112-year old registration prohibition… 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

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

University of North Dakota Abandons Sioux Mascot, but not Sioux Mark

Posted in Famous Marks, First Amendment, Loss of Rights, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

The weekend of October 20-21, 2017, the Minnesota Golden Gophers and North Dakota Fighting Hawks traded wins in one of college hockey’s most competitive series. While watching the NCHC broadcast, an ad for the “Sioux Shop” appeared on screen. The ad explained that the Sioux Shop sells North Dakota fan gear at Ralph Englestad Arena… 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

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

Posted in Articles, Copyrights, Dilution, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Trademarks, USPTO

As the drum roll proceeds to the upcoming Midwest IP Institute in Minneapolis and sharing the podium with Joel MacMull of the Archer firm (and Simon Tam fame) on Thursday September 28, in a few days, I’ll be making a stop south of the border, at the University of Iowa College of Law, where it… Continue Reading

A Special Thank You to Suzan Shown Harjo

Posted in Articles, Branding, First Amendment, Law Suits, Marketing, SoapBox, Trademarks, TTAB, USPTO

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the filing of the petition to cancel the R-Word registrations held by Pro-Football, Inc., the NFL franchise playing near the Nation’s capital. Indian Country Today has published an interview with Suzan Shown Harjo, lead petitioner in Harjo et al v. Pro-Football, Inc., and organizer of Blackhorse et al v…. Continue Reading

3:16 as a Trademark?

Posted in Articles, Branding, Fashion, First Amendment, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Television, Trademarks, Truncation

Over the weekend, IPBiz reported that WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has filed an application to register 3:16 as a trademark for clothing items. A Google search confirms that 3:16 has religious significance as it is a common truncation that signifies one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible, namely, John 3:16. Despite other… Continue Reading

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

Titleist Trademark Tarnishment?

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Dilution, Famous Marks, Fashion, First Amendment, Squirrelly Thoughts

-Wes Anderson, Attorney During today’s first round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, many a golf ball bearing the famous TITLEIST cursive script will be lofted into the heavens – meanwhile, back on the ground, the brand’s owner is attempting to stamp out a lewd parody of its trademark. An online golf apparel company,… Continue Reading

Sorry Justice Alito, “The Slants” is Not Okay

Posted in Branding, Famous Marks, First Amendment, Guest Bloggers, Law Suits, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Trademarks

– Jason Voiovich, Virtual Chief Marketing Officer, Vojvdec & Sigma According to the unanimous ruling by the US Supreme Court handed down last month, failing to allow registration of trademarks such as the “Redskins,” “Fighting Sioux” and “The Slants” violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Writing for the… 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

THE SLANTS Decision Affects More than a 2(a) and an (R)

Posted in First Amendment

In Monday’s decision in the newly minted Matal v. Tam case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit decision that the Trademark Office’s refusal to register THE SLANTS mark on disparagement grounds was unconstitutional.  Many were not surprised by this decision, foreshadowed in part by the transcript of the January oral argument where the justices… Continue Reading