Last month, you will recall we wrote about the important difference between the right to register a trademark and the right to use a trademark, here and here.

Despite the fact that in most cases, a “likelihood of confusion” test governs both determinations, the right to use and the right to register are not

Lately we’ve been discussing more and more the difference between the right to register a trademark and the right to use a trademark. In many trademark disputes the perfect forum for an amicable resolution is the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the USPTO.

The TTAB can be a cost effective forum for parties

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

In November I commented on Gibson Guitar Corp.’s suit against the makers and retailers of PAPER JAMZ toy guitars.  To recap briefly, past efforts by both Gibson and Fender Music to enforce trademark interests in their respective guitar body shapes have been largely unsuccessful.

Until now.

On December 21, 2010, the U.S.

More on single color trademarks today. Eighteen months ago, Wolf Appliance obtained a federal trademark registration in connection with "a red knob or knobs" of "domestic gas and electric cooking appliances, namely, ranges, dual-fuel ranges, cooktops, and barbeque grills."

Wolf put its registration to the test a couple of weeks ago in a federal

When brands and trademarks are at risk of being infringed, swift and immediate protective action is required, given the inherently reputational nature of the resulting damage. That is why the law typically presumes the necessary "irreparable damage" when issuing immediate injunctive relief, once a plaintiff is able to show, among other things, that it is likely to win its trademark infringement claim. Without "irreparable harm or damage" there can be no court’s injunction because the simple payment of money will right the wrong.

But, what about outside the context of trademark infringement and court ordered injunctions, in the world of contracts, for example, when a sponsor no longer wants to be associated with a celebrity endorser that has become damaging to the sponsor’s reputation? Is the same degree of immediacy required to erase all public signs of the relationship? Perhaps it depends on whether the damage rises to the level of irreparable damage or harm. If so, then perhaps no amount of money will be or should be spared to pull the ads immediately and stop the reputational bleeding.

One might ask how this dynamic has played out between Accenture and Tiger Woods.

After the New Year, and about three weeks after Accenture announced it had ended its relationship with Tiger Woods, I noticed a multitude of Accenture ads in three different airports (Minneapolis, Dallas, and Phoenix), all featuring guess who? Tiger.

My first thought was genuine surprise to see them, given it had been three weeks, and further given that Accenture was so promptly out of the gate as the first sponsor to publicly sever its ties with Tiger. Indeed, two weeks after Tiger’s reputational scandal broke in the news, Accenture announced Tiger "is no longer the right representative" for Accenture’s advertising, and it was reported the company would "immediately transition" to a new advertising campaign. Some experts even cautioned that Accenture’s Tiger billboards and airport advertising "need to be replaced quickly" for obvious reasons, as they now "damage" Accenture’s brand and reputation.

So, how damaging to the Accenture brand is the lingering association with Tiger and the smirks that seem to follow given the now rather awkward branding messages that Accenture had adopted as part of the Tiger relationship? If you read Accenture’s words from December 13, how quickly they were announced, and how others have praised Accenture for taking this swift and necessary action, the damage sounds quite serious, perhaps even irreparable, but isn’t talk cheap? Or at least, more inexpensive than actions? 

For example, I’m certain the cost of scrubbing a website and purging corporate headquarters of any sign that Accenture still knows "what it takes to be a tiger" is far less than the cost of purging all airports of any trace of the Accenture/Tiger endorsement arrangement. In any event, it would have been more than mildly interesting to be part of the dialogue that must have quantified the cost of implementing the directive for an "immediate" transition from Tiger, and the alternative quantifications of slower transition plans, and the one that the company eventually settled upon.

Do you agree that the greater the damage to Accenture, the more "immediate" the transition would have been, i.e., days, not weeks or months?


Continue Reading Irreparable Harm to the Accenture Brand?