Trademarks

Pirate Joe’s Days on the High Seas May Be Numbered

By: Libby Casale*| Staff Writer

http://www.traderjoes.com/images/announcement/768-Orlando-Dr-Phillips-Store-Front.jpg

Trader Joe’s in Orlando, Florida

Trader Joe’s first opened in 1967 in Southern California. Trader Joe’s seeks to embody a farmer’s market style feel, with unique and exclusive products. There are Trader Joe’s stores in forty-one states and Washington, D.C. There are no Trader Joe’s stores in Canada. Continue reading »

The Intellectual Property Behind “Real Women” Advertising

By: Dana Sisk*| Staff Writer 

https://americaneagleoutfitters.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/aerierealpoem.jpg?w=672&h=672

From blog.ae.com

During the past decade, there has been a steady increase in the number of companies that feature untouched images of “average sized” women, rather than the highly edited images of tall and slender supermodels.  This movement toward promoting body positivity and positive body image in young women has garnered a lot of praise throughout the advertising and modeling world, and more and more companies are jumping on board. Continue reading »

Coca-Cola versus Dr. Pepper: Cola War Over “Zero” Trademark

By: Amanda Whorton* | Guest Writer 

Photo by woolenniumAfter over a decade of litigation, Coca-Cola has had “zero” luck gaining a trademark for the term “zero” in connection with its beverage brands.  In 2005, Coke filed a U.S. trademark registration for the mark “zero” in connection with their popular “Coca-Cola Zero” soda brand, which Dr. Pepper challenged in 2007.  Arguments ended in December 2015 and a ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office may come as soon as this spring. Continue reading »

Who Claims the Real 12th Man?

By: Tyler Hood* | Staff Writer

Photo by Kipp Jones

Football is serious business at Texas A&M University, which recently expanded its stadium, Kyle Field, to a capacity of 102,512. This expansion made Kyle Field the largest in the SEC. Football at A&M is also big money; the expansion in capacity came at a cost of roughly $485 million. Students at A&M (as well as alumni) take football very seriously as well, and are known for their love of traditions. One of the oldest, and perhaps best known tradition is that of the Twelfth Man. The Twelfth Man tradition originates in 1922, when E. King Gill left the stands and suited up, ready to help the shorthanded Aggies should the need arise. Now, the entire student body is the Twelfth Man, standing by to aid the team whenever and however it may be needed. Kyle Field is the “Home of the 12th Man,” and Texas A&M holds a trademark on the phrase and as well as trademarks on a few variations. Regardless of the apparently common usage of “12th Man” in football, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Texas A&M owns the expression. The word mark “12TH MAN” was first obtained in 1989 and remains current.

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Chubby Checker Gets “Twisted” Over Cufflinks

By: Alexandra Braverman* | Staff Writer 

The famous musician known for recording “The Twist,” Ernest Evans, aka “Chubby Checker,” brought suit against major retailers Nordstrom, Inc., Amazon, Inc., Macys, Inc., Squire Fine Men’s Apparel LLC, and Würkin Stiffs over a recently released line of cufflinks bearing the Chubby Checker trademark.  The complaint, filed in Florida federal court, included claims of federal trademark dilution and infringement, federal unfair competition, and false endorsement.  According to Mr. Evans, the cufflink manufacturer – Wurkin’ Stiffs – manufactured and marketed the cufflinks with the Chubby Checker name without obtaining consent from Mr. Evans or his related entities.  In light of the use, Mr. Evans seeks injunctive relief, treble damages, and punitive damages to the tune of 8-figures, according to Mr. Evans’s lawyer. 

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Snack Subscription Services, Thinking Inside the Box?

By: Alexandra Braverman* | Staff Writer

Subscription snack and food box businesses are popping up everywhere, hoping to cash in on America’s insatiable appetite for novelty, convenience and munchies.” – The New York Times 

Fancy Food Box Subscription

Fancy Food Box Subscription

Since the introduction of Birchbox in 2010, the demand for specialized goods via subscription has boomed.  With the option of having personalized boxes delivered monthly, customers are now choosing to buy beauty products, clothes, and food through online subscriptions.  According to the New York Times, the competition among the subscription snack market is particularly fierce.  Entrepreneurs have exploded into every corner of the food box market, introducing variations on the original box that feature regional, organic, portion-controlled, and novelty-themed options. Continue reading »

Offensive Penalty: The Cancellation of the Redskins Trademark

By: Sarah Remes* | Summer Guest Writer

This summer, the Washington Redskins lost.  Although defeat is nothing new to the infamous franchise, this time it came off the field when a federal judge upheld the cancellation of the team’s federal trademark registrations, finding that the term “redskin” was disparaging, and therefore that the mark had been registered in violation of the Lanham Act.

The namesake of the Redskins, William “Lone Star” Dietz

The namesake of the Redskins, William “Lone Star” Dietz

The Redskins began defending their trademark registrations in the early 1990s but until recently had been successful in fending off legal opposition.  The first major challenge was brought in 1992 when a group of Native Americans filed a petition to cancel multiple Redskins trademarks, claiming that their protection violated the Lanham Act, a federal law that prohibits protection of marks that “consist of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt.” That case was successfully appealed by the team on two grounds: first, that the theory of laches barred the petition, as one of the plaintiffs was only one year old at the time the Redskins trademarks were registered in 1967; and second that the plaintiffs had not provided enough evidence as to the “disparaging” nature of the trademark, which must have occurred at the time they were registered.  While controversy surrounding the name continued to grow – even President Obama couldn’t avoid commenting – legally the team appeared in the clear.

This time, the plaintiffs, led by Susan Blackhorse, were determined not to make the same mistakes.  In June of 2014, Blackhorse challenged six Redskins trademarks, again under the Lanham Act, which led to their cancellation by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Not surprisingly, the team contested the decision, arguing instead that the name represents a strong and proud history that serves to celebrate and pay tribute to Native Americans, not degrade them.  “A Redskin is a football player.  A Redskin is our fans,” owner Dan Snyder explained.  “The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride.  Hopefully winning.” (This last part is definitely still up for debate).  On appeal, the court sided with Blackhorse, holding that the trademarks were disparaging at the time of their registration, and should not have received protection.

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Time to Trademark: Athletes Capitalize on Phrases, Nicknames

Beast Mode Apparel Hat

Beast Mode Apparel Hat

By: Blaydes Moore* | Staff Writer

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”  This statement from Marshawn Lynch, aka “Beast Mode,” dominated the weekly ESPN news cycle leading up to the Super Bowl.  Mr. Lynch responded to all twenty-nine questions posed to him at Super Bowl Media Day with these eight words.  The NFL saw this as an improvement over last year when he did not even attend the event.  The Pro-Bowl running back from Seattle, famous for his attachment to Skittles, won even more fans by refusing to engage in the hoopla surrounding arguable the biggest event in sports. Continue reading »

Princess Property: A Consideration of Copyright Laws and the Alteration of Disney Princesses

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By: Katie Ott* | Staff Writer

Imagine: the Disney princesses, childhood heroes for many young American girls, featured topless with skin and scars for all viewers to see. Viewers of the art have described the images as “disgusting,” “terrifying,” and “propaganda.” But these critics miss the essential point: the princesses’ scars support breast cancer survivors with similar scars from the mastectomy procedure used to treat the deadly disease. The artist, AleXsandro Palombo, explains the paintings honor a woman’s pain connected to “the acceptance of [a woman’s] body mutilated by a mastectomy [which] is one of the devastating moments that is part of the disease.” Continue reading »

How Can “How” Be Trademarked?

By: Alec Roberson* | Staff Writer

Credit: ibtimes.com

Credit: ibtimes.com

Having trademark protection over certain words or phrases is perfectly adequate and sometimes even necessary for the preservation and profitability of a business.  However, where is the line drawn over what words or phrases should or shouldn’t be protected? According to bestselling author Dov Seidman, the simple, common word “how” is included in this protection.

Seidman is the founder and CEO of the company LRN, a business that helps companies create ethical cultures, and is the bestselling author of the book HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything.  Earlier this year (2014), Seidman brought suit against the Greek yogurt company Chobani and advertising firm Droga5 for Chobani’s use of the word “how” in their marketing campaign stating, “How Matters” (which Chobani has a trademark on) to push that their yogurt is 100% natural.  Seidman claims that Chobani’s use of the word “how” was to convey that they are an ethical company and this is the same way LRN has used the word in its business.  This suit is premised on the assertion that the meaning of “how” was trademark protected and not the word “how” itself.  Chobani responded by denying they had knowledge of Seidman or of the trademark protection, and by asking the court to deny LRN’s trademark protection over “how”.

Almost any phrase, word, logo or symbol can be registered for trademark protection under the Lanham Act as long as two requirements are met: it’s used in commerce and it is distinctive.  Seidman’s use of “how” is clearly used in commerce.  The second requirement, trademark distinctiveness, is usually divided into four categories: arbitrary/fanciful, suggestive, descriptive, and generic.  A descriptive category is only protected if it has a secondary meaning known to the public that refers to the specific product or service, while a generic category is never protected because it refers to common terms that do not refer to any particular source. Continue reading »