Likelihood of confusion? Likelihood of dilution? Blurring? Tarnishment? All to the left?

 

To closely examine Sears’ most recent trademark infringement and dilution law suit and complaint concerning the DIEHARD brand against the maker of DieHard Spray ("a numbing agent for male genitalia"), check out Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Rockhard Laboratories, Inc., venued in the

Look what the email spam filter snagged for the holidays:

As you may recall, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen iPad brand bait email solicitations. Back when they first appeared, the ownership of the iPad name was unsettled, but since then, it appears Apple has secured federal registration of the iPad brand name and trademark, at least, for a

—Karen Brennan, attorney

I found Fig. 1 (from what I am sure was a very valuable patent, although I could not locate it) to be very fitting for this post.  After three and half years, four Office Actions, a Petition to the Director and finally an appeal, our client’s product configuration mark for the PPK

Seems as though there is a lot of discussion and news reports these days about bullying and how to put a stop to it: School bullying, workplace bullying, and cyber-bullying, to name a few of the most common types. Fair enough, as I recall, my seventh grade PE teacher was a real bully.

However, for those of you who haven’t heard yet, there also is growing interest in examining a brand new type of bully, and they are calling this creature the "trademark bully".

That’s right, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is currently seeking information about various litigation tactics, including whether "you think trademark “bullies” are currently a problem for trademark owners, and if so, how significant is the problem?" If you have an opinion on these questions, please share your views below, and the USPTO would like to hear from you here.

So, what is a "trademark bully" you ask? The USPTO’s survey provides this definition: "A trademark ‘bully’ could be described as a trademark owner that uses its trademark rights to harass and intimidate another business beyond what the law might be reasonably interpreted to allow."

The USPTO’s "trademark bullying" inquiry apparently stems from some language in the Trademark and Technical Conforming Amendment of 2010, directing the Secretary of Commerce to "study and report" to Congress on “The extent to which small businesses may be harmed by litigation tactics attempting to enforce trademark rights beyond a reasonable interpretation of the scope of the rights granted to the trademark owner.”

Beyond a "reasonable" interpretation of the scope of rights granted to the trademark owner? Of course, the plaintiff and defendant will never agree on what might be considered a "reasonable" interpretation of the scope of plaintiff’s trademark rights, even in the most routine trademark cases, so whose perspective decides what is reasonable for the purpose of applying the trademark bully label, and what are the consequences, if guilty? Moreover, who decides what "might be" reasonable under the circumstances, since those additional qualifying terms appear in the USPTO query?

In addition, I’ve heard before that "reasonable" minds can differ on just about anything. And, in my experience that is especially so when it comes to arguing and deciding trademark disputes, where litigants argue over and decision makers are asked to carefully balance the evidence according to a number of multi-factor tests, including likelihood of confusion, trademark fame, likelihood of dilution, and bad faith intent to profit, to name just a few. This isn’t exactly black and white material. Then, add to all that, an understanding that trademark rights are dynamic, not static, their scope can shrink or grow over time, and also recognize that trademark attorneys have an ethical duty to zealously represent their clients

So, even with all that, we’re still to decide how to apply the trademark bullying label based on mere reasonableness? Sorry, but that seems, well, unreasonable to me.


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target-field

Let’s talk turf today, two kinds. OK, maybe three.

First, with Target Field looking more and more like the long-anticipated brand new outdoor home ballpark for the Minnesota Twins, all Twins fans and the local media can think or talk about this week is the new real bluegrass blend turf being installed now (as I type this blog post, in fact, see live webcam here), as it was just transported from Graff’s Turf Farms in Fort Morgan, Colorado.

Second, most are looking forward to saying goodbye to the artificial turf of the 27-year old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and have been counting down the final days for some time.

Last, and most importantly for the purposes of this blog, let’s talk about the importance of legal turf.

Selecting the legal turf or forum where a trademark dispute or battle is fought in federal court is often a very strategic decision. Litigants not infrequently end up battling over where the dispute will be decided, long before even getting to the substance of their dispute. Certain aspects of the federal trademark laws are interpreted differently around the country, which can lead to what lawyers call “forum shopping,” basically, making forum selections based on where the plaintiff believes his or her case will most likely receive a favorable judgment. Indeed, most companies who file trademark lawsuits would prefer to file them close to home (unless forum shopping benefits dictate otherwise), in their own backyard, for that perceived home field advantage, and, because the out-of-state defendant typically ends up needing to hire two sets of lawyers to defend, their usual trademark counsel and local counsel too.

The general legal rule is that the first to file a trademark lawsuit is the one who gets to select the turf where the battle will be decided. There are exceptions to this general rule, perhaps we’ll explore those another time. For now, however, suffice it to say, being the first to file, often creates some helpful advantage or at least some leverage to bring the matter to a more favorable amicable resolution. The first-to-file plaintiff is able to make his or her settlement demand, with the comfort of knowing that — if it is not accepted — he or she already has secured the place for the dispute to go forward. If it happens to be a place where the defendant does not want to litigate, for one reason or another, this can facilitate perhaps better settlement terms for the first-to-file plaintiff.


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— Karen Brennan, Attorney

As an opening note, I am able to write about more than being a new mom, but it does bring up previously unexplored and interesting topics. Today: Baby Einstein. While I am sure most mothers agree that television is not the best thing for an infant, given the success of the