Posts Tagged: "Lanham Act"

Matal v. Tam: What’s New and What to Watch in Registration of Disparaging, Immoral, and Scandalous Trademarks

Many other related issues remain ripe for consideration in Brunetti and future cases. Most significantly, are trademarks considered “commercial speech?”  If so, laws relating to trademarks might be subject to relaxed scrutiny for constitutional compliance rather than strict scrutiny… While Tam settled some issues related to The Slants, the Washington Redskins, and D*kes on Bikes, the decision’s full impact remains to be seen.  Brunetti seems to be a promising avenue for the Supreme Court to address some of the tangential issues left open by the Tam decision.

Disparaging, Immoral, and Scandalous Trademarks Since Matal v. Tam

A little more than one year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Lanham Act’s disparagement clause as unconstitutional in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (June 19, 2017).  While Tam settled some issues related to The Slants, the Washington Redskins, and D*kes on Bikes, the decision’s full impact remains to be seen. Issues remain ripe for future consideration. Most significantly, are trademarks considered “commercial speech?”  If so, laws relating to trademarks might be subject to relaxed scrutiny for constitutional compliance rather than strict scrutiny.

Can You Trademark a Color?

Yes, under certain circumstances you can trademark a color… Examples of protectable color marks include: red soles for women’s high-heel dress shoes, where the rest of the shoe is not also red (Louboutin); pink fiberglass insulation (Owens-Corning); red knobs on cooking appliances (Wolf); light blue for jewelry boxes (Tiffany); brown for parcel delivery trucks and uniforms (UPS); magenta for telecommunications services (T-Mobile); and orange for scissor handles (Fiskars).

Burberry Sues Target Over Sale of Fashion Products Using Burberry Check Design

British luxury fashion brand Burberry filed a complaint alleging trademark infringement and dilution against American retailer Target Corporation in the Southern District of New York. At issue in the case is the sale of scarves and other fashion items in Target stores which include a pattern closely resembling the iconic Burberry check trademark.

Florida Restaurateurs Face Off in Trademark Suit Over Frenchy’s Name

On February 20th, Clearwater Beach, FL-based restaurateur Frenchy’s Corporate filed a suit alleging trademark infringement against the owners and operators of Frenchy’s Pizzeria & Tavern, located less than an hour’s drive away from Clearwater in Port Richey, FL. The suit, filed in the Middle District of Florida, aims to protect Frenchy’s Corporate trademark rights to the unregistered trademark “FRENCHY’STM” under…

Making Sense of the Nonsensical: A look at Scent Trademarks and their Complexities

Hasbro’s recent application to trademark the scent of Play-Doh is an example of how companies in the digital age market their products and protect their market share by using an complex intellectual property strategies. As more companies begin to implement nontraditional branding into their marketing strategies, they face legal uncertainties of how the law protects this form of intellectual property. Unfortunately, what qualifies as a legitimate scent mark remains opaque. This article will review the requirements of scent trademarks and discuss the complications associated with various aspects of these marks, including (1) the functionary doctrine; (2) the issue of scent subjectivity; (3) administrative and application difficulties; (4) the possibility of scent depletion; and (5) the uncertain benefits of scent trademarks.

Law & Odor: Hasbro Sniffing Out the Opportunities for Trademark Registration

The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) provides some guidance on what an aroma needs to demonstrate before being registered, asserting that “the amount of evidence required to establish that a scent or fragrance functions as a mark is substantial.” To overcome the “substantial” threshold, an applicant must satisfy two conditions by establishing that the mark is (1) nonfunctional and (2) distinctive. An aroma that meets both of these requirements is eligible for registration on the Principal Register under §2(f) of the Latham Act, or on the Supplemental Register if the scent is nonfunctional but has not yet acquired distinctiveness. Hasbro is hoping that the scent of Play-Doh can be a source identifier for its modeling compound in the noses of consumers.

Trademark a Band Name: What’s in a Rock Band’s Name?

While it is possible to copyright the design of a band logo, the band name itself is not copyrightable (see here and here). Band names are protectable under trademark law, because like brand names they allow us to distinguish one band’s music and identity from another. They are what enable us to distinguish between a “Beatles” record on the one hand, and a “Chipmunks” record on the other… The more unique the name, the greater the degree of trademark protection, but also the more the name will stand out and set the band apart from others, which is generally the goal.

Octane Standard for Attorney’s Fees Applies to Lanham Act and Patent Act Cases

In mag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., Romag sued Fossil for patent and trademark infringement and a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) after one batch of Fossil’s handbags appeared to have counterfeit magnetic snaps. The jury found Fossil liable for patent and trademark infringement and for violating the CUTPA. The Federal Circuit affirmed the patent and trademark infringement verdicts. After that appeal, Romag sought attorney’s fees under the Patent Act, Lanham Act, and the CUTPA. The district court awarded attorney’s fees under all but the Lanham Act… The Supreme Court’s “objectively unreasonable” standard for attorney’s fees set forth in Octane applies to infringement cases under the Lanham Act and the Patent Act. In attorney’s fee disputes, courts must consider the totality of the circumstances, including the conduct of both parties.

USPTO Navigates New Territory In The Wake of Matal v. Tam

The USPTO issued Examination Guide 01-17 on Monday, June 26, 2017, entitled “Examination Guidance for Section 2(a)’s Disparagement Provision after Matal v. Tam and Examination for Compliance with Section 2(a)’s Scandalousness Provision While Constitutionality Remains in Question.” This Guide explains how trademark applications with arguably disparaging or scandalous content will be examined in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Matal… The Supreme Court’s ruling in Matal cleared the way for a slew of new and possibly offensive trademark applications of a kind that have been consistently denied since 1946. Whether this protection will be extended to a wider category of potentially incendiary marks hinges on the Federal Court’s pending review of Brunetti.

The Ninth Circuit Writes the Script on Pleading and Proving Reverse Confusion Claims

The Ninth Circuit clarified the requirements for pleading and establishing a trademark infringement claim under a reverse confusion theory in Marketquest Group v. BIC, Case No. 15-55755 (9th Cir. July 7, 2017). The court relieved plaintiffs from having to specifically plead reverse confusion if it is compatible with the theory of infringement alleged in the complaint, and supported a more malleable standard for proving intent in reverse confusion cases. The court also held that good faith is an element—not just a factor—of a fair use defense, and that the fair use defense may only be raised after a likelihood of confusion is established. Marketquest further reinforces courts’ reluctance to decide trademark cases on summary judgment, and makes it more difficult for defendants to dispose of reverse confusion claims through pretrial motions. 

Ninth Circuit Confirms Willfulness is Required to Award Profits in Trademark Cases

As Stone Creek deepens the divide among circuits, the issue of whether willfulness is required for disgorgement of a defendant’s profits in trademark cases is ripe for Supreme Court review… The Stone Creek decision solidifies the Ninth Circuit’s position that willfulness is required for a recovery of profits in trademark cases. This approach is consistent with equitable principles because disgorgement is generally used to deter culpable behavior and deterrence would not be necessary, and would not work, for an innocent infringer. Depending on the facts of a case, trademark law provides sufficient remedies to prevent a likelihood of confusion and compensate a plaintiff for its losses—beyond a defendant’s profits—like an injunction, actual damages and/or corrective advertising. An award of profits can be reserved for willful infringers, without depriving a plaintiff of remedies for non-willful infringement.

Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door to Additional Constitutional Challenges to the Lanham Act

The Supreme Court ruled that the anti-disparagement clause in the Lanham Act violates the Free Speech Clause in the First Amendment. Matal v. Tam. As a result, the United States Patent and Trademark Office may no longer deny registration of a federal trademark application on the ground of disparagement. Several states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have anti-disparagement trademark provisions that will no longer be enforceable either… The statute does not define ‘scandalous’, but like the restriction against disparaging marks, the courts and the PTO focus on whether a mark is offensive.

Supreme Court Rocks the Trademark Office in ‘Slants’ Case

After a streak of six patent decisions uniformly overruling the Federal Circuit, and for the first time all term, the Supreme Court finally handed the Federal Circuit a win this week. In its landmark ruling in Matal v. Tam (formerly Lee v. Tam), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the restriction on the registration of marks that “disparage” under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote unanimously for the eight justices in holding that Section 2(a)’s prohibition on disparaging registrations violates “a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

Industry Reaction to SCOTUS First Amendment Decision in Matal v. Tam

Lauren Emerson, Baker Botts, LLP: “Today’s decision, while not surprising, is momentous, as any decision striking a longstanding legislative provision based on freedom of speech would be.  From a trademark practitioner’s perspective, Matal v. Tam is also remarkable in that it is the second decision in just over two years in which the Supreme Court specifically has taken note of the importance and value of trademark registration.   The decision has drawn additional attention as it undoubtedly marks the end of Pro-Football, Inc. (“PFI”)’s longstanding battle over its REDSKINS marks, as 2(a) will no longer bar registration of those marks either.   I have little doubt that in the weeks and months to come, we will see many new filings that will be more challenging to celebrate than Simon Tam’s hard-won victory.”