Section 43(a) of Lanham Act

Brand owners and managers may wonder, is a trademark license required when another’s unregistered color scheme is used? Depending on the facts, it may very well be.

About four years ago brand owners scored a major victory in LSU v. Smack Apparel, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to the existence and

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Seth Godin has an amazing knack for creating and spreading ideas that matter, mostly really good ones, by the way. I always look forward to his daily riffs and I have been known to spread some of his important ideas too when they overlap with things I happen to care a lot about.

When it comes to Mr.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an Accountemps billboard advertisement that prominently features what appears to be a 3M Post-it brand removable adhesive note, and I asked whether it constitutes fair use, and whether 3M’s permission is necessary to run the advertisement, since 3M owns a federal trademark registration for the color "canary yellow" in connection with these notes.

As the comments to that post reveal, some recognize the billboard image as a 3M Post-it note, and believe permission should be required to run the ad, others were unaware that 3M has a trademark on the color canary yellow, others believe that yellow adhesive notes are generic, and several apparently believe that even if the billboard depicts a 3M canary yellow Post-it note, no permission should be required. In fact, several pointed out that yellow adhesive notes can be obtained from a variety of sources, raising the question of how close those shades of yellow are to 3M’s trademarked canary yellow?

So, just for you, I collected six different pads of yellow-colored adhesive notes and fixed them to a dark green background for a little follow-up quiz. Can you identify any "canary yellow" and name the sources of the six different yellow adhesive notes shown below (answers below the jump)?


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There is no question that attempting to own “hot” or versions of “hot” appears to have great value and importance in the marketing world. So, how many original, unique, and memorable ways are there to communicate spicy “hot” anyway?

As to memorable, perhaps painfully memorable, Paris Hilton apparently sells designer clothes under her “That’s Hot” brand, and judging from her pending federal trademark filings, she still has an intention of expanding her “That’s Hot” brand to cell phones and alcoholic beverages, among other items, but apparently not buffalo chicken wing sauce or potato chips, thankfully.

Otherwise, it really might distract from a recent pair of trademark food fights in Minneapolis, both involving chips claiming to be “hot” too. You may recall the “Red Hot” Chip Fight between Barrel O’Fun and Old Vienna discussed here, that was quickly bagged here.

So, here are the current contenders in the most recent “Blazin’ Hot” trademark food fight:

   Vs.        

A copy of the Buffalo Wild Wings trademark infringement complaint against P&G and Pringles is here.

The most interesting aspect of the complaint, from a trademark strategy perspective, is the fact that Buffalo Wild Wings did not bring a claim for infringement of a federally-registered trademark (Section 32 of the Lanham Act). Instead, it only relies on Section 43 of the Lanham Act (designed to protect unregistered trademarks) and a pair of Minnesota state law causes of action, even though it refers to owning some federal trademark and service mark registrations for and containing the term BLAZIN’. Perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings is attempting to insulate them from attack or challenge by P&G, since none is five years old yet or incontestable. Stay tuned to learn whether P&G turns up the heat on this dispute and counterclaims for cancellation anyway.

Now, as to the “original and unique” point raised above, it is worth asking, who else appears to have a stake in “Blazin” hot trademarks for food products? Uh, let’s just say, more than a few . . . .


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