Does the Emperor Really Have No Clothes?

A Teachable Moment in the Way of the TRUMP Brand and Naked Licensing of Trademarks

 

The current POTUS has a lot of things on his plate right now, and the status of his trademark rights (or, perhaps, more appropriately, the trademark rights of the Trump Organization) around the globe shouldn’t be top of mind. That said, the Trump Organization’s pattern of not controlling the quality of services that are provided under the TRUMP brand provides a teachable moment in the world of trademarks and branding.

The news media have reported repeatedly about the Trump Organization’s penchant for distancing itself from TRUMP-branded projects that have failed, including those in Baja California, and Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as developments outside the U.S. in Panama and Azerbaijan, among others. While the details of these projects vary, all of them follow a similar narrative. The Trump Organization involves itself in the promotion of an upcoming TRUMP-branded real estate development, and then, despite hype and ample purchases by willing consumers and investors seeking to own a piece of TRUMP real estate, the project never properly gets off the ground, the developers flee with the deposits, and the purchasers … Keep reading

IP Challenges for Ganjapreneurs

Like any industry, cannabusinesses and ganjapreneurs need to be thoughtful about protecting their proprietary material, in order to mitigate their risk of being ripped off – or worse, being accused of infringing other people’s rights. This post provides a brief overview of trademark and copyright issues to consider when developing and protecting your business in this space.

Protecting Cannabusiness Branding

If your product is king, then your brand is certainly queen. Your brand name, or trademark, tells consumers that a product or service comes from you and not your competitors. Accordingly, identifying and protecting the name of your new business could be fundamental to your success.

Some Quick General Rules on Trademark Protection
Regardless of your industry, under U.S. law, trademark rights involve a business’s use of a name, term, phrase, or logo in connection with the sale of specific goods and services. Generally, the first business to use a name in the marketplace is entitled to claim ownership of it. It is, however, possible to obtain rights beforehand, if an application for registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is filed. If your business adopts a trademark that is too similar to a mark used by an … Keep reading

The "Lowdown" on DMCA Regulations and Take-Downs

Chances are, if you have ever posted or published content on the web, or your company operates a website, you have heard the term “take-down notice.” Perhaps you have even been on the receiving end of such a notice, claiming that content on your website is owned by a third party, and that if you do not remove the content, your website will be taken down or a lawsuit will be filed claiming copyright infringement.

These notices are part of a mechanism available to copyright owners—including those who have not registered their copyrights— under a U.S. law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  This statute was enacted in the late 1990s as an attempt to bring the U.S. Copyright Act up to speed with society’s increased engagement via the Internet. The take-down procedure was introduced to provide a “safe harbor” for internet service providers that provide platforms for others to post content. Essentially, by following the procedures detailed in the DMCA, a website owner (or ISP) may be able to shelter him/herself from liability for infringement if a user posts infringing content, provided the website owner is not actively participating in or encouraging infringement and otherwise … Keep reading

To Refresh or Relaunch...That Is the Question

If you work in marketing, you know what a “brand refresh” is, and how it differs from a “brand relaunch.” Both can be equal parts perilously challenging and thrilling. And both can serve useful purposes, both in reminding customers about a product’s continued existence, and in introducing a product to a new audience as a way of increasing market share.

Legally, most trademark lawyers will face brand refreshes and rebrands with some skepticism. Our traditional view, predicated on legal principles, is that trademarks are easier to enforce and maintain if nothing changes and the branding remains utterly consistent. Making changes that undermine consistency of use can result (albeit rarely) in a loss of rights, or at least a loss in priority. But a skillful refresh is marvelous, not just because it can manage to maintain the tradition (and enforceability) of the original brand, but because seemingly subtle changes to branding can result in profound and novel messages to consumers.

Depending on scope and goals, the result of a refresh can be akin to renovating your house. You might add a new kitchen or a fresh coat of paint, and suddenly something that seemed tired is reborn and reinvigorated. … Keep reading

… and “How a Doll Can Help Teach Networking to the Next Generation of Trademark Lawyers”

 

shutterstock_112218026Dateline: May 2, 2015, San Diego, CA. The International Trademark Association (INTA) has just launched its annual ginormous conference here in “America’s Finest City.” My colleagues back at the office feign jealousy that we are in San Diego on a ‘junket.’ But the truth is, this five day mega-networking meeting presents tremendous challenges.

The opportunity beckons: Come and network with 10,000 of your colleagues (some of whom are your competitors!). Highlight your talents and skills! Be erudite, witty, knowledgeable, magnetic and fun, all while running (really, literally, running) from venue to venue meeting as many people as you can, current and potential clients and colleagues for about 18 hours a day for 5 days straight…

shutterstock_81091828It’s grueling. It requires a plan, a steely yet warm exterior, and boundless energy. Without a plan, it can feel like you are back on the playground egging to get picked for someone’s team and wondering what you need to do to get in the game.

While 10,000 potential targets is obviously a daunting number, INTA tries to reduce the intimidation by helping young practitioners learn … Keep reading

shutterstock_268287902Anyone who knows me at all knows that I suffer from a terrible affliction called “early adopter syndrome.” I had a cell phone when it really was more of a brick with a speaker and the first smartphone, I can tell you, was not terribly smart at all. There was a lot of staring at the screen waiting for it to bring up a website or a low res photo… As a result of my affliction, there is a veritable cemetery of old devices at my house, all acquired soon after launch.

So now I’ve been hit again – this time with Apple’s… iWatch, er… the Apple Watch. What is that thing called? Officially it’s the “Apple Watch.” A simple name. All business, elegant design, understated but direct. The name fits the device. Just a watch – but it’s not just a watch right? It’s the Apple watch. It’s about as much of a watch as a Tesla vehicle is just a car. Why is a company that has invested so much in the “i” prefix to connote that its devices are “new,” “more,” and “unique” suddenly reverted to referring to its super integrated wrist candy as a mere … Keep reading

shutterstock_244812262 (2)Trademark owners are in the midst of another ‘think’ about the best way to protect and preserve their reputations online.  Specifically, beginning on March 30, 2015 the Sunrise Period opened for brand owners to fork over $2499 for domain names that end in .sucks. This $2499 payment is necessary annually to keep yourbrand.sucks from the clutches of an unhappy customer who might use it to make a career out of publishing any material they wish (fair, unfair or otherwise) about your company, or if you are celebrity – about your performance or personal  life.  To add insult to this expensive injury, after the end of the Sunrise Period, pretty much anyone (other than the brand owner) can pick up the same domains for $9.99 making the barrier to entry for complainants rather low.

As reported by The World Trademark Review and others, the CEO of .sucks registrar Vox Populi, John Berard, claims that intent of the apparently inapt pricing scheme is to encourage brand owners to engage with consumers.  By making the price high, there will be less warehousing of domains and some brand domains will find their way into the hands of people who will … Keep reading

I can’t define disparagement, but I know it when I see it…

On Wednesday, June 18, 2014 the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the judicial body that provides review to all Federal trademark filings and disputes relating to such filings, released its second decision to CANCEL the trademark registrations owned by Pro-Football, Inc. and used by the National Football League’s Washington Redskins football team.  The decision is interesting for many reasons, legal, political, and socio-cultural.  But to me the most bloggable angle is how the media has exploded about the decision in the last couple of days, often misreporting the facts (and the law) and suggesting odd conclusions that purportedly flow from the decision.

CNN proclaimed: “If you want to start selling T-shirts with the Washington Redskins’ logo without permission, you may be in luck.”  This unsubstantiated assertion was repeated in other media outlets including Ad Age, which suggested that losing the registrations meant everyone could sell branded items without “fear of reprisal.”

First.  False.  If the decision of the Office stands, the Redskins team, and Pro-Football will still be able to sell their wares and stop others from doing so.  Thousands of unregistered trademark … Keep reading

The Noise About Privacy: Is Big Brother Watching, Or Is He Just the Most Compulsive Hoarder of ‘Random’ on the Planet?

 

On May 19, CNNMoney’s Jose Pagliery published a provocative piece: “What you really accept to when you click ‘accept’“–an exposé on the privacy policies of 18 of the most popular websites and mobile apps.  The article shines the klieg lights on one of the dirty little secrets of consumer internet usage– that online privacy policies are ephemeral, dense, rarely read, one-sided and, sometimes, over-reaching.  Pagliery infers from these conditions that most companies care little for a user’s privacy and want nothing more than to collect the maximum information and use it in any way that increases the bottom line.

At the risk of sounding defensive, I’d say that conclusion is largely unsupported and pretty far from accurate for most web-based companies.  In fact, the density and vagueness of privacy policies often is caused by a variety of competing pressures faced by online companies.  Varied international laws and regulatory schemes applicable in different jurisdictions to different kinds of data create part of the problem. There is no single or baseline set of standards for … Keep reading

You Can Trademark That?  They Can Own What? Who Knew?

There are many reasons we have IP laws – but primary among them is to encourage creative types like artists and inventors to profit from their efforts by way of royalties or exclusive rights.  To encourage those efforts, the intellectual property laws give authors and creators a relative monopoly over something they’ve created – a trademark, an invention, a script, a computer program, etc.  It’s like society is saying “you made it, so you can own it – at least for a while…”

But a natural tension immediately presents itself when we grant these exclusive rights.  Our culture wants to embrace, use and assimilate all that is cutting edge and new without having to ask for permission.  We take – no, we borrow Pharrell Williams’  “Happy” riffs and make them background music to our YouTube® videos of our cats and our dogs.  We expropriate “just a” screen capture from the Godzilla movie and create e-cards or embed them on our Facebook® pages.  Our post-90s, crowd sourced, media-centered sensibility has created this “if it’s out there it must be free” (or “it wants to be free”) ethos … Keep reading