Seriously, I stumbled upon the above web site last evening (without using this online tool), doing some research for a future blog post on trolls, and it really left me with just one question.
This little gem arrived yesterday, basically an email promotion for this weekend, featuring Randy Moss and celebrating his return to the Minnesota Vikings:
Of course, I’m thrilled too, that Randy Moss has returned to play ball in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean we forget all about his legal rights (name, image, likeness, right of publicity, to name a few), not to mention the legal rights, trademarks, and trade dress of the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL.
By the way, the purported disclaimer at the bottom of the promotion saying: "All registered trademarks are the properties of their respective owners" doesn’t help either. Putting aside the unanswered question about any unregistered trademarks shown in the promotion, all this statement reveals is that Lions Tap knows it doesn’t own what it is using, and it begs the question of whether the necessary permission was obtained from the necessary owners.
To the extent my assumption is correct, that Lions Tap didn’t obtain the necessary license and permission to run the above promotion, it appears Lions Tap may have forgotten all the intellectual property law it sought to teach McDonalds earlier this year when it filed a suit for trademark infringement over the Who’s Your Patty tagline . . . .
Earlier this week, the Minnesota State Fair (owned and operated by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, a Minnesota State Agency) was hot to skewer the unauthorized use of its nearly three-decade-old and more recently trademarked logo, by incumbent Republican U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in a political ad targeting DFL challenger Tarryl Clark’s record on tax policy.
This trademark objection has generated quite a bit of publicity, with coverage being reporting by MinnPost, The Minnesota Independent, the New York Times (blog), Politics Daily, MPR News, TPM, and Politico. The Bachmann ad referenced the MN State Fair and used its official logo while suggesting that Clark has voted to increase taxes on what foodies covet at the fair, including their favorite corn dogs, deep fried bacon, and beer.
Central in the debate over the lawfulness of the Bachmann campaign’s use of the logo is a question we have pondered on DuetsBlog before (e.g., here, here, and here), namely, whether the use of another’s logo crosses the legal line and is likely to cause confusion as to sponsorship, affiliation, approval, or endorsement, or whether it may constitute lawful nominative fair use. So, it should be no surprise to readers of DuetsBlog, that in the end, it is consumer understanding of the use in the ad that controls whether or not it is lawful.
The Minnesota State Fair’s objection certainly is not frivolous and is rooted in a common and traditional trademark concern over likelihood of confusion. Bachmann for Congress political ads begin with the statement: "I am Michele Bachmann and I approve this message." According to Minnesota State Fair officials, Bachmann’s use of the above Minnesota State Fair logo is likely to lead viewers to incorrectly believe that the Minnesota State Fair approves Congresswoman Bachmann’s message or has endorsed her campaign. What do you think, is that what viewers will believe?
Bachmann’s campaign denies that the logo use was unlawful, but without explaining why no confusion is likely and without specifically articulating what would likely be a nominative fair use defense, it voluntarily has decided to drop use of the official logo and instead opted to switch to a more "generic" image. Apparently what the campaign means by "generic" is not that it lacks the look of a trademark and/or logo, but rather is one not specifically used or owned by the Minnesota State Agricultural Society.
Bachmann for Congress’ revised television advertisement may be viewed here, showing no use of the trademarked official logo, but I’d hardly call the use "generic" — it remains a logo use, even if it is a fake one that swaps fireworks for a ferris wheel, and alters the color scheme and typeface. Do you think that consumers will notice or recognize the fake logo as being fake or just believe it is an additional logo used by the MN State Fair that they haven’t seen before?
Interestingly, the change may not be enough to satisfy the MN State Fair. Apparently, it continues to have concerns about the revised Bachmann ad, and it has asked the Attorney General to look into the question of whether the change is sufficient to avoid confusion as to endorsement of the Bachmann campaign. Having said that, with only a few more days left before the close of the 2010 MN State Fair, one must wonder whether the campaign will move on and moot this lingering concern too, leaving the State Fair ads behind, as it continues to run new ads down the final stretch of the campaign.
Stay tuned, tomorrow I’ll attempt to make the case for why the State of Minnesota needs to hire an experienced trademark attorney.
Bonus political speech consideration below the jump:
Someone who is in the business of repairing Volvo brand automobiles has the right to say so, in advertising, and elsewhere — without obtaining advance permission from Volvo — provided consumers aren’t likely to understand the advertisement or communication to mean that the repair services and/or the business providing them is authorized by, affiliated with, or otherwise connected to…
I have asked the question before about the Google brand appearing in a Rapala billboard ad, here.
Now I’m asking it again with a different brand and a different billboard ad: Does Morrie’s Automotive Group’s use of…
Unable to resist a good trademark story, I snapped this photo in one of the countless gift shops along Hollywood Boulevard, as my family searched for various stars and did the "Walk of Fame," a week or so ago. What drew us into this particular shop was a striking wall full of shelves displaying what appeared to be rows upon rows of mini-Oscar gift statuettes.
Unlikely, however, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences "has carefully limited reproductions of the Oscar statuette . . . ." In fact, the Academy has a pretty controlled press-kit full of legal regulations, and the only trinkets that the Oscar trademark is federally registered for appears to be clothing, books and pamphlets; and the non-verbal two-dimensional depiction of the Oscar statuette is federally registered as a trademark for only clothing, pre-recorded videotapes, and books and pamphlets, no trophies or other gift items, it appears.
Indeed, upon closer inspection, the shop’s sign appropriately reads: "Small Trophy $8.99." It struck me that this is literally the sign of an effective trademark enforcement program. Left to their own devices, it wouldn’t be surprising to see shopkeeper’s signage reading "take home your very own Oscar style trophy," or "Oscar style trophies for sale," but the well-trained sign makes no such mentions and it does not utter the words "Oscar" or "Academy Awards," presumably because the Academy’s Oscar trademark police frequently patrol these parts. Or, perhaps when you’re positioned on Hollywood Boulevard, tourists get the picture, so to speak, without the use of another’s probably famous trademark.
What about when your gift or trophy shop is not on Hollywood Boulevard, but instead, somewhere along the Information Superhighway or beyond?
The Easter Bunny eats lettuce, right? OK, not a very substantive tie-in for today’s Easter Day post . . . .
Anyway, about five weeks ago the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois rendered a trademark decision in Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises,Inc. v. Leila Sophia AR, LLC, d/b/a Lettuce Mix, granting plaintiff Lettuce Entertain You…
Putting aside, for now, the unsettled question of who currently owns the iPad trademark, and Dan’s perspective on Apple’s trademark clearance strategies, from last week, look at what our finely-tuned e-mail spam filter just snagged:
It is a similar story to my previous Free Dell XPS Laptop Spam Scam? blog post from last December. Here, however, the Apple, iPad, and the (possible)…