Posts in Trademark

USPTO Will Ramp Up Identity Verification Rules for Trademark Filers Starting in August

Starting August 6, 2022, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will require all trademark filers to verify their identities in order to file electronic trademark forms. The move comes as an attempt to stop trademark scam entities and was announced in a blog post penned by USPTO Director Kathi Vidal and Commissioner for Trademarks David Gooder last week. According to the post, the identity verification process started as a voluntary option in January 2022 “to better serve our legitimate customers and help prevent bad actors from violating our USPTO Rules of Practice and website terms of use.” The Office has seen a sharp increase in fraudulent trademark filings over the last six years, as well as a rise in foreign scammers from China, Pakistan, and elsewhere outside the U.S.

Good Faith Doctrine and NFTs – How a Bored Ape NFT Dilemma May Present Unique Copyright and Contract Issues

Can something called a “Bored Ape” be embodied in a non-fungible token (NFT) and be associated with smart contracts? How could this present unique and challenging issues regarding copyright law? Over the course of the last two months, the general public has tracked what started out as a phishing scam involving actor Seth Green’s NFT from the Board Ape Yacht Club. It then evolved into a public quest to regain the NFT and the rights to develop a broadcast program based on the character depicted in the digital image. The trials and tribulations related to Seth Green’s efforts to ultimately regain his “lost” NFT made for interesting media clicks. It also raised awareness to copyright issues that are yet to be fully resolved. Seth Green may rest easy knowing he is again the rightful owner of his Bored Ape NFT, but the legal community should not be as quick to move on.

INTA Asks Second Circuit to Limit Rogers’ Definition of ‘Expressive Work’ to Prevent Application of Test on Ordinary Consumer Products

On June 24, the International Trademark Association (INTA) filed an amicus brief in Vans, Inc. v. MSCHF Product Studio, Inc., a case currently on appeal from the Eastern District of New York to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In the brief, INTA urges the Second Circuit to clarify the kinds of “expressive works” to which the Rogers test may be applied, and in such a way that the use of Vans trade dress on sneakers sold by MSCHF Product Studio would be actionable for infringement and not protected by the First Amendment simply because MSCHF claims the sneakers are works of art.

Hermès’ Challenge of ‘MetaBirkin’ NFTs Foretells Future Trademark Litigation Trends

There are not many trademark cases that are of equal interest to high fashion, the art world and cutting-edge tech. The ongoing “MetaBirkin” lawsuit is unusual, however, in that it involves a designer brand and two of the latest, trending topics – non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse. In a case that has bagged global attention, luxury design house Hermès is suing artist Mason Rothschild in New York for trademark infringement and dilution, misappropriation of its BIRKIN trademark, cybersquatting, false designation of origin and description, and injury to business reputation.

Coca-Cola Win Reversed at CAFC in Case Over Indian Soda Trademarks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today reversed a decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that had canceled two marks for Thums Up cola and Limca lemon-lime soda owned by Meenaxi Enterprise, Inc. The CAFC held that Coca-Cola had not established a statutory cause of action based on lost sales or reputational injury under Section 14(3) of the Lanham Act and thus reversed the decision. Judge Reyna wrote separately in concurrence but said he would have focused the inquiry on the territoriality principle and the well-known mark exception, rather than lost sales and reputational injury among U.S. consumers, as the majority did.

Amazon Brand Protection Report Details Major Anticounterfeiting Investments But Small Businesses Want Stronger Policing Against Knock-Offs

Earlier this month, e-commerce giant Amazon.com issued its latest Brand Protection Report detailing steps taken by the tech titan to reduce the tide of counterfeit products being sold to consumers around the globe. While the report identifies several concrete steps taken by Amazon to prevent knock-offs from being listed for sale, there are plenty of questions that yet remain as to whether Amazon is genuinely committed to eliminating sales of fake branded products that the company has been known to ignore.

CAFC Says District Court Correctly Invalidated Design Patent

On June 22, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granting summary judgment in favor of Golden Eye Media USA Inc (GEM) over Evo Lifestyle Products Limited, formerly known as Trolley Bags UK Ltd (TB UK) after holding TB UK’s U.S. Design Patent No. D779,828 (‘828 patent) invalid. The district court held the ‘828 patent to be invalid for reasons of functionality and obviousness.

CJEU Advocate General Recommends Clarifying What Constitutes Trademark ‘Use’ by Online Intermediaries

On June 2, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a press release discussing the results of the Advocate General’s opinion on two actions filed by French footwear designer Christian Louboutin, one in Luxembourg and another in Belgium, against the Amazon group (Amazon) alleging trademark infringement. As detailed in the opinion, Amazon regularly advertises red-soled platform shoes which are for sale on its platform without the consent of Louboutin. Louboutin is the owner of the EU position mark referred to as the “red sole” for goods in International Class 25 covering “high-heeled shoes (and other orthopedic footwear).” The mark at issue “consists of the colour red (Pantone 18-1663TP) applied to the sole of a shoe.” Louboutin also has national protection for the mark in both Belgium and Luxembourg.

INTA: ‘COVIDIOT’ Trademark Should Prevail Under Narrower Test for Principles of Morality

The International Trademark Association (INTA) on Friday filed an amicus brief with the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO’s) Grand Board of Appeal, arguing that “the terms ‘public policy’ and ‘principles of morality’ are inherently vague and therefore carry with them a risk of an inconsistent application and a danger of each examiner being tempted to follow personal preferences rather than clear legal guidance” with respect to a trademark on the term “COVIDIOT” not being “fully in line with public standards.” The case is Matthias Zirnsack vs. EUIPO, Case R-260/2021-G.

Protecting Color Trademarks in Asia

With their creative minds, marketing and advertising folks never disappoint in coming up with brilliant ways to distinguish their goods and services from the competition – for example, Tiffany’s robin’s egg blue and Hermes’ orange. This type of marketing genius allows one to immediately recognize a brand without even seeing the word “Hermes” or knowing how to pronounce it. On the flip side, these ideas are prime targets for copycats. After all, by simply changing the jewelry box color to the exact pantone shade of Tiffany’s turquoise blue, a seller could immediately quadruple his/her revenue by profiting from consumer confusion without having to increase the inventory quality or spend a dime on marketing. The question then is: is it possible to protect a color (or color combination) in all jurisdictions by registering it as a trademark?

CAFC Upholds Barclays’ Claim to LEHMAN BROTHERS Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today issued a precedential trademark decision upholding a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) ruling that sustained two oppositions filed by Barclays Capital Inc. against Tiger Lily Ventures’ applications for registration of the standard character mark “LEHMAN BROTHERS.” The court also affirmed the dismissal of Tiger Lily’s opposition to Barclays’ application for registration of the LEHMAN BROTHERS mark and dismissed Barclays’ cross-appeal.

Protecting Intellectual Property in Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (“AR”), along with Virtual Reality (“VR”), is rapidly growing in prominence and will be transformative to the way we live, work, learn and play. Both AR and VR will undoubtedly bring a whole set of novel IP issues for individuals, companies, IP practitioners and the courts. Like any new technological area, such as cyber law for the nascent internet technology in the early 1990s, many legal issues need to be addressed and many more are yet to be discovered as this area evolves.  

Nike’s Trademark Fight Against StockX Moves Offline

StockX, which describes its e-commerce resale platform as “[t]he current culture marketplace,” is primarily used by consumers to resell and buy sneakers, among other items. In January 2022, StockX announced its plans to launch The Vault, which uses non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to allow buyers to track ownership of physical products resold on its e-market and warrant their authenticity, including Nike shoes. Swiftly thereafter, Nike sued StockX in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), alleging that StockX’s use of Nike’s famous marks in connection with its NFTs constitutes trademark infringement. Nike, Inc. v. StockX LLC, 1:22-cv-00983-VEC. In its original February 3, 2022, complaint, Nike alleged that StockX mints NFTs using Nike’s trademarks without authorization and sells them to consumers, who either believe or are likely to believe that StockX’s NFTs are connected with Nike when they are not.

As Companies Employ Clever Crypto Options, Beware of Common Trademark Traps

While some companies have not yet jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon, others are rolling out processes to accept payment for goods via cryptocurrency. Some companies are also embracing cryptocurrency internally, in the form of employee benefits. Earlier this year, BTCS, Inc., the blockchain technology company, announced that it will offer dividends payable in Bitcoin. This should come as no surprise, since the company was the first “pure play” U.S. publicly traded company focused on digital assets and blockchain when it went public in 2014. Continuing to lead the digital asset industry, it is now also the first Nasdaq-listed firm to offer shareholders the option to receive dividends in bitcoin.

Doing Business in Russia After the Ukraine Invasion—Justifications and Risks

As horrifying images continue to flow from Ukraine, politicians in the United States and Europe find themselves increasingly pressured to expand economic sanctions against Russia. On April 6, 2022, the White House announced a prohibition on new investment in Russia by any U.S. person. This move has undoubtedly been a factor in the stunning exodus of U.S. companies from the region, as it leaves management teams in legal limbo as to whether maintaining current facilities—or even repairing equipment—could be considered a prohibited “investment.”