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Posts in Trademark

USPTO Proposed Rule Outlines Process for New Ex Parte Trademark Proceedings on Nonuse and Other Changes Under Trademark Modernization Act

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) yesterday issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Changes To Implement Provisions of the Trademark Modernization Act (TMA) of 2020.” The Office is seeking input on the proposal, which would revise the rules in Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations, parts 2 and 7, and will be holding public roundtables to explain the amendments and answer questions. Here are some of the key proposed changes.

Lessons from Ice Cube’s Lawsuit Against Stock Trading App in Right of Publicity/Trademark Infringement Case

The multi-talented Ice Cube famously said “It was a good day” in his hit song of the same name. But the hip-hop icon and his team probably weren’t having a good day when they saw a digital ad featuring an image of Ice Cube and an altered version one of his most famous lyrics—that he claims was posted without his knowledge or consent. On March 31, 2021, Ice Cube (also known as O’Shea Jackson, Sr.) filed a lawsuit against Robinhood Financial LLC, and Robinhood Markets, Inc.,  financial services providers, alleging Lanham Act violations as well as violations of  California law, including misappropriation of likeness and unfair competition. He is just the latest celebrity to seek to protect his/her rights of publicity (giving a person commercial control of their name, image and likeness) through legal action. Based on outcomes of well-known cases filed by basketball legend Michael Jordan, film/TV actress Katherine Heigl, and beauty and style mogul Kim Kardashian West, Ice Cube would appear to be on well-trod legal ground in his court battle with the trading app.

The Common Thread of Innovation Ecosystems: Securing Ownership to Guarantee Creation

Over the past several weeks, it has been our pleasure at IPWatchdog to be a media sponsor for the excellent programming on intellectual property and the innovation ecosystem produced by the Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The last in the series, an overview of the common thread running through innovation ecosystems, took place on Wednesday, April 28. “One thing we all have in common is that everyone wants more innovation and creativity to meet societal challenges, never more so than in a pandemic,” Patrick Kilbride, Senior Vice President for Global Innovation Policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, told IPWatchdog following the conclusion of the Innovation Ecosystem series. “Sustaining the global middle class through COVID will require a steep trajectory of innovation. Our experience working with businesses of every size and sector, and governments around the world, shows intellectual property rights as a central enabler of innovation.”

Intellectual Property for Startups: Building a Toolkit to Protect Your Products and Design

Although it may seem like the name “startup” says it all, the reality for many inventors, engineers and companies is that it’s difficult to know where to start when what you have is just an idea for a product, a recently discovered process or an innovation. You may have the “million dollar idea,” but where do you start to move it from concept to market? While startups may be selling wildly different products, or developing different processes or innovations, one thing most have in common is a similar starting point, and a limited budget. Product design, branding and identity are always necessary, and protecting your brand, innovations and products from competition is essential.  But how do you allocate your limited resources while developing the best possible brand and product, and ensuring that your intellectual property is adequately protected?

Hasbro Loses Fight Over MONOPOLY Mark in Europe

Toy maker Hasbro has been rebuked by the EU General Court, after it was found to have applied to register an EU trademark (EUTM) for MONOPOLY in bad faith. The company has owned the MONOPOLY brand since acquiring Parker Bros in 1991. It filed the EUTM application, for various goods and services in classes 9, 16, 28 and 41, in April 2010 and the mark was registered in 2011. Hasbro owned three earlier EU word marks for MONOPOLY, which were registered in 1998, 2009 and 2010 and are still live. These covered some of the same goods and services as those specified in the 2010 application. After the latest application was registered, it was attacked by a Croatian company called Kreativni Doga?aji, which argued that the application was a “repeat filing” of the earlier marks and “was aimed at circumventing the obligation to prove genuine use of those marks.”

Open for Business: How Intellectual Property Supports Our Entrepreneurs

Starting a business is steeped with uncertainty, especially during a global pandemic. Small business owners are constantly running through the scenarios: Can I make payroll? Will I recoup my investment? Can I change my community for the better? There are plenty of systems at play that tell them, “No.” It’s too difficult to get a loan; the commercial real estate market is too competitive; advertising and marketing is too expensive. Even so, there’s one system that sings a resounding, “Yes!” That’s America’s intellectual property system.

Satan Shoes: Trademark Blasphemy or Free Speech?

Though the parties have quickly settled their case, the question remains open: was Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoe” an exercise of free speech or a trademark violation? What we do know is that sneaker giant Nike’s complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York on March 29, 2021 alleged a dispute of biblical proportions against Brooklyn art collective MSCHF Product Studio, Inc. Nike targeted its own Air Max 97 shoe, which it claimed MSCHF and its collaborator Lil Nas X (who was not named in the lawsuit) materially altered to feature an upside down cross, a pentagram, and an injection of human blood into the sole to create the “Satan Shoe” – 666 of them to be exact. The Satan Shoe still displays Nike’s famous Swoosh, which inspired calls to boycott the brand for its alleged association with the controversial shoes. Nike asserted claims of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition, and sought a temporary restraining order, a permanent injunction, and damages.

GIPC Event Underscores Scale of Dangerous COVID-Related Fakes During Pandemic

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) held a webinar on Tuesday, April 6, as part of its Innovation Ecosystem series, titled “Worth Protecting,” which included Steve Francis, Assistant Director, HSI Global Trade Investigations Division Director, National IPR Coordination Center, as one of the panelists. Francis explained that public-private partnerships have been key to combating the spike in illicit activity that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. 85%-90% of illicit activity on seizures over the last five years has originated from Hong Kong and China, said Francis.

INTA Urges EUIPO Grand Board to Provide Guidance on Similarity Between Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

The International Trademark Association (INTA) submitted observations in a trademark case before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Grand Board of Appeal on April 1. The case concerns the similarity of goods in Class 32 (non-alcoholic beverages, including flavored carbonated beverages, waters and vitamin-enriched sparkling water, as well as beers) and goods in Class 33 (alcoholic beverages except beers, including wines, spirits, liqueurs, and alcoholic preparations for making beverages). The dispute arose after the owner of the mark VIÑA ZORAYA, registered in Class 33, filed an opposition to an EUTM application for ZORAYA in Class 32 based on Article 8(1)(b) EUTMR. The opposition was rejected on the basis that the goods were dissimilar.

Peloton Wants to Cancel the Mark SPINNING for Being Generic – the TTAB Has Rarely Granted Such a Petition

Peloton’s petitions to cancel Mad Dogg’s registered trademarks for SPIN and SPINNING (in Classes 41 and 28) for genericism ask the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to do what it has rarely done before – cancel marks that were distinctive at the time of filing for losing distinctiveness due to the public’s overuse of the terms. While the TTAB has refused to register or cancel registered marks that were generic terms at the time the trademark applications were filed, the TTAB has rarely cancelled a mark that was distinctive when registered, but over time, became a generic term and lost its distinctiveness, as Peloton argues in its petitions. For example, “Kleenex” is often referenced when discussing generic brands, and while Kimberly-Clark Corporation has faced petitions for cancellation of its “Kleenex” mark, “Kleenex” has remained a registered mark of Kimberly-Clark Corporation since 1924.

PUMA TOKYO 2021: Legitimate Mark or False Association with the Olympic Games?

What comes to mind when you read these city/year combinations: London 2012. Sochi 2014. Sydney 2000. Did you immediately think of the Olympics? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and its Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) believe you did. In 1999, the Board held that the primary significance of “Sydney 2000” is a reference to the Olympics held in Sydney, Australia in 2000 and affirmed the USPTO’s refusal to register a Sydney 2000 mark because the mark falsely suggested a connection with the Olympics. In re Urbano, 51 U.S.P.Q.2d 1776 (T.T.A.B. 1999). Thus, the mark violated Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), and was not registrable. More than two decades later, the same question is before a federal district court in Colorado, home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). The sports apparel and equipment company PUMA SE filed applications in the USPTO to register trademarks consisting of its PUMA mark combined with cities and years for which Olympic Games will be held: PUMA TOKYO 2021, PUMA BEIJING 2022 and PUMA PARIS 2024, for bags, clothing and sports equipment. When the USPTO refused registration of each application based on likelihood of confusion and false connection with the USOPC’s TOKYO 2020, BEIJING 2022 and PARIS 2024 marks, PUMA initiated cancellation proceedings against the USOPC’s trademarks.

Fourth Circuit Finds ‘Pretzel Crisps’ Plaintiffs are Not Bound to Federal Circuit Across Appeals from Distinct TTAB Decisions

On March 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in a Lanham Act statutory interpretation case. The case involved plaintiffs Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. and Princeton Vanguard, LLC (collectively “Princeton Vanguard”) and defendant Frito-Lay North America, Inc. (“Frito-Lay”). The district court held that a party to a trademark dispute who appeals a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), resulting in the vacatur, remand and issuance of a new decision by the TTAB, may not then seek judicial review of that second decision in federal district court. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and ultimately reversed and remanded the case back to the district court.

Industry Groups Urge Quick Passage of Reintroduced IDEA Act

Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) yesterday reintroduced the Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement Act (IDEA Act), which seeks to direct the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) “to collect demographic data – including gender, race, military or veteran status, and income level, among others – from patent applicants on a voluntary basis.” Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Is Litigation Threatening to Burst the [Red]bubble? Courts Weigh in On IP Implications of Redbubble’s Unique Online Marketplace

With brick-and-mortar stores closing at rapid paces and online sales surging, marketers are developing new models to facilitate sales through innovative online platforms. One of those new business models is Redbubble’s hybrid “print-on-demand” service. Two recent Court of Appeals decisions – from the Sixth and Ninth Circuits – consider important questions about when these new approaches to online sales gives rise to liability for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, and right of publicity violations.

INTA Comments in George Orwell EUTM Cases on Names and Titles

The International Trademark Association (INTA) last week filed amicus briefs before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Grand Board of Appeal in three cases concerning applications to register EU trademarks (EUTMs) for the words GEORGE ORWELL, ANIMAL FARM and 1984. The  briefs concern the registration of trademarks for names of historical persons/famous authors (the GEORGE ORWELL case) and titles of literary or artistic works (the ANIMAL FARM and 1984 cases). All of the applications were filed in 2018 by The Estate of the Late Sonia Bronwell Orwell (George Orwell’s second wife, who survived him and died in 1980) without evidence of acquired distinctiveness through use.