Trademarks

Rock Band Disrupts Intellectual Property Law

By: Andrew Homer *| Guest Writer

By This image or media was taken or created by Matt H. Wade. To see his entire portfolio, click here. @thatmattwade     This image is protected by copyright! If you would like to use it, please read this first. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By This image or media was taken or created by Matt H. Wade. To see his entire portfolio, click here. @thatmattwade This image is protected by copyright! If you would like to use it, please read this first. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cannot deny the registration of a trademark because some may find the mark disparaging or offensive. The case that led to the ruling, Matal v. Tam, upended a 70-year-old tradition of federal trademark law found in 15 U.S.C. §1052 (a) and commonly named the disparagement clause. The Court holding that the disparagement clause is unconstitutional will have broad reaching effects to other aspects of intellectual property law and the nature of the corporation.

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Coachella Sues Urban Outfitters for Trademark Infringement

By: Maria Pigna*| Staff Writer 

https://pixabay.com/en/coachella-ferris-wheel-big-wheel-1083735/

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, commonly known as Coachella, is a three-day event known for its musical performances of top artists, delicious food, world-class art, and its celebrated commitment to sustainability. Aside from the global attention this event receives every year, it has given itself another reason to make headlines. Coachella filed a trademark lawsuit against Urban Outfitters in the U.S. Central District Court of California on March 14, 2017.

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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.

Pirate Joe’s is a Canadian grocery store that sells Trader Joe’s goods. The goods are purchased at Trader Joe’s in America and then moved across the border to Vancouver. The goods are sold at a 30-40% markup. Pirate Joe’s also imports other brands that Canadians do not have access to. 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 »