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Posts in Trademark

Federal Circuit Says Army’s Broad Approval Discretion in Trademark License Is Not at Odds with Trademark Law

In an appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) last week affirmed a decision granting summary judgment in favor of the U.S. government with respect to a nonexclusive trademark license between the Department of the Army and an apparel company (Authentic Apparel Group, LLC v. United States). In the March 4 opinion, the CAFC agreed with the Claims Court that a license agreement’s provision giving the Army broad approval discretion over Authentic’s requests to use the Army’s trademarks on proposed products or marketing materials was not at odds with the principles of trademark law. The CAFC also held that Authentic did not present any legal or factual reasons to deviate from a plain reading of the license agreement’s exculpatory clauses.

Analyzing the Three Key Provisions of the Trademark Modernization Act

Most people associate the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 with its COVID relief and stimulus measures, rather than trademarks. While these measures are of course the primary focus of the Act, its changes to the process of registering, maintaining, and enforcing trademarks are likewise important for companies that rely on their branding to achieve their business goals. The Trademark Modernization Act, which is one of many acts included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, makes several significant changes to the Lanham Act (aka the Trademark Act) which many trademark holders may find beneficial.

Joint EPO-EUIPO Report Finds SMEs Stand to Benefit Most from IP Ownership

The latest in a series of reports by the European Patent Office (EPO) and European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) studying IP-intensive industries and their contribution to economic performance and employment in the European Union has found that companies owning at least one patent, registered design or trademark generate higher revenues per employee than companies that do not own IP rights and pay higher wages on average than other companies. The EPO-EUIPO report is titled “Intellectual property rights and firm performance in the European Union” and builds on research conducted in 2013, 2016 and 2019 regarding the contribution of IP-intensive companies to the EU economy, as well as a 2015 EUIPO study based on data from 12 Member States. The latest report analyzes over 127,000 European firms and compares the economic performance of firms that own IPRs with those that do not.

Should the Biden Administration Look to Pharma for New USPTO Director?

The United States is not even two weeks into the administration of President Joe Biden and it’s likely that the administration’s selection for Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not become clear for a few months yet. Many members of the U.S. innovation community, however, are well aware of the high stakes in play with that selection. The tenure of outgoing Director Andrei Iancu was lauded across many sectors of the U.S. patent system, perhaps with the exception of the tech sector. As we consider candidates for the next USPTO head, perhaps we should look to the political moment in which we find ourselves to guide our search.  

The Day One Project Examined: USPTO Transition Proposals Advocate Questionable PTAB, Section 101 Policies

Recently, the Day One Project, an initiative of the Federation of American Scientists, released a transition document drafted by a collection of veteran policymakers discussing a range of policy ideas to be implemented at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) starting from the earliest days of the Biden Administration. The ideas advocated by the Day One Project focus on a mix of policies related to diversity, international IP systems, patent quality, agency budgeting and governance and ways that the USPTO can contribute to broader administrative policy initiatives. While there are many sound policy positions advocated by the Day One Project, patent owners may want to be aware of the document’s stance on the “public benefit of PTAB review of a patent” as well as the agency’s role in developing policy on patentable subject matter reform. Interestingly, the policy document indicates that there is broad consensus for continuing policies from the Trump Administration relating to China’s influence on the world of intellectual property.

ipAwarenessAssessment: Inventors and Business Owners Should Start Their IP Journey with this USPTO-NIST Tool

The ipAwarenessAssessment (the Tool) is engineered for both business owners and inventors so that they can comprehensively value their intellectual property (IP) and manage their IP portfolios accordingly. Developed as a joint effort by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology/Manufacturing Extending Partnership (NIST/MEP), the Tool allows a participant to asses their overall IP awareness, usage, and maintenance. The Tool itself is comprised of online multiple choice questionnaires where the pre-assessment contains five questions covering various types of IP; a customized assessment based on the answers provided during the pre-assessment that ranges from five to ten categories only relevant to the pre-assessment answers; and the full assessment which contains 10 categories and over 60 questions. These categories span a comprehensive spectrum of many aspects of IP and the individual questions are engineered to discover the user’s overall IP awareness.

Washington Insiders Say Farewell to 2020 and Look Ahead to 2021

As we thankfully see 2020 fading into the rear-view mirror and all look forward to a hopefully much better 2021, we want to take a moment to reflect on what the past year brought us and how the stage is set for another very fluid and consequential year for intellectual property policy. In times like these, it is clear that leadership matters more than ever. During some of the most challenging times our country has faced, there were a number of places where we saw strong leadership result in tangible progress. This year has already shown us a dramatic first few days. Beyond the tragic events in the U.S. Capitol, we saw the somewhat unexpected shift of power in the Senate to Democratic control based on the election of both Rev. Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in Georgia. It is clear that the new Congress and the new Biden Administration will face huge challenges before we approach anything close to “normal” in any sense. That said, when it comes to IP, what can we expect?

USPTO Report Puts Chinese Innovation Growth in Context

On January 13, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a new report on the impact of patent and trademark filing trends in China. The report, titled Trademarks and Patents in China: The Impact of Non-Market Factors on Filing Trends and IP Systems, discusses how the high rate of Chinese patent and trademark filings may well be influenced by government subsidies and other non-market factors, rather than inventiveness and organic economic activity within China.

National Advertising Division Says Pre-Launch Investor Presentation Can Be Challenged Under Advertising Law

It has long been a fundamental tenet of advertising law that comments made to investors, and particularly those made before the commercial launch of a product or service, do not constitute the kind of “advertising” that is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau (NAD), and are outside the reach of the Lanham Act. That is because advertising law regulates communications that propose a commercial transaction; in contrast, the securities laws govern communications to investors that are designed to promote investments. A recent decision from the NAD has put a big crack in that jurisdictional wall, and threatens to breach the dam that has long shielded comments made in investor presentations from potential liability for false advertising.

Federal Circuit Affirms TTAB Dismissal of QuikTrip’s Opposition to Convenience Store Mark

On January 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) dismissing QuikTrip West, Inc.’s (QuikTrip) opposition to Weigel Stores, Inc.’s (Weigel) registration of the mark W WEIGEL’S KITCHEN NOW OPEN on the ground that there was not likelihood of confusion with QuikTrip’s registered design mark, QT KITCHENS (QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc.).

U.S. Customs Recordation – A Valuable Enforcement Tool

Owners of trademarks and copyrights registered in the U.S. have available a potent enforcement tool to stave off entry of increasing volume of infringing and counterfeit goods into the U.S. – recordation of these rights with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. CBP has recently extended recordation eligibility to pending copyright applications on a temporary six-month basis. The investment for recordation is nominal, the process is simple, and the IP rights enforcement services received in return are significant.

Top USPTO Developments of 2020—and What to Expect in 2021

Novel and non-obvious can be easily used to describe the events of 2020, both here in the United States and around the world. Despite all the challenges, there have been positive developments in the way we conduct business—and that certainly was true at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Below we recap some of the most significant developments at the USPTO in 2020 and topics to keep an eye on in 2021.

Europe’s Top Five (Non-Patent) IP Developments of 2020

In a previous piece, we covered the top five patent developments of the year in Europe. Here, we review some of the key cases and legislation that shaped 2020 in other areas of IP, including trademarks, copyright, design and legislative actions. At number one, in its judgment in Sky v SkyKick (Case C-371/18) in January, the CJEU said that an EU trademark cannot be invalidated for lack of clarity and precision, and provided guidance on what constitutes bad faith. The decision reassured owners of trademarks in Europe, who had feared that many marks would be invalidated if the Advocate General’s Opinion were followed.

Ready for 2021?  Beware Non-Use of Your Trademarks in 2020

Some businesses, as a result of the pandemic, have been pressed to discontinue manufacture or sale of products or have otherwise limited the scope of their business activities. As a result, in 2020 the use of one or more of the trademarks owned by your business may have stopped. Under U.S. trademark law, in the fifth year of a trademark registration term, and every ten years thereafter, a post-registration maintenance filing at the USPTO is required (e.g., evidence and a sworn statement about continuous trademark use in U.S. commerce). If sustained discontinuity of trademark use has occurred what options are available to keep a trademark registration active?

Looking Back at the Highest Impact Trademark Cases of 2020

This year saw its fair share of high profile trademark cases: the Second Circuit vacated Tiffany & Co.’s $25 million summary judgment win against Costco Wholesale Corp. in a dispute over Costco’s use of the word “Tiffany” to identify a specific type of six-prong diamond ring setting in Tiffany and Co. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 971 F.3d 74 (2d Cir. 2020);* the District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the First Amendment protects the use of Humvees in the acclaimed video game Call of Duty from claims of trademark infringement and dilution, and unfair competition in AM General LLC v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., 450 F. Supp. 3d 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2020).; and the District Court for the Western District of Texas refused to grant a “Brizzy” hard seltzer brand a preliminary injunction against Molson Coors over a competing “Vizzy” product because both names were based on the common descriptive term fizzy in Future Proof Brands, LLC v. Molson Coors Beverage, 2020 WL 3578327 (W.D. Tex. Mar. 24, 2020), aff’d, 2020 WL 7064607 (5th Cir. Dec. 3, 2020). But among all of the cases, a select few stand out as ones that have shaped trademark law and are already having an impact that may last for years to come.