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Posts Tagged: "TMEP"

Restrictive IP Policies Could Limit Innovation Opportunity

In the wake of fraudulent IP applications from foreign nations—namely China—the United States has recently enacted or called for policies that require foreign entities to complete more thorough IP applications. For instance, in August, we heard about the new USPTO rule requiring all foreign trademark applicants and registrants to be represented by a licensed U.S. attorney when filing. According to the USPTO website, this is intended to “increase USPTO customer compliance with U.S. trademark law and USPTO regulations, improve the accuracy of trademark submissions to the USPTO and safeguard the integrity of the U.S. trademark register.” And then just last week, news broke that the USPTO had issued new instructions requiring trademark examiners to ask applicants for proof of legal residence in the United States to enforce this new rule (note: these instructions have since been rolled back). The reasoning behind these legislations, or proposed legislations, seems to be that by making the IP application process more involved and more challenging, the USPTO will limit the number of foreign IP applications received—and therefore the number of fraudulent applications received. This will undoubtedly work, but is it the right approach?

CBD Wins with USPTO’s New Examination Guide for Cannabis Marks, but Lawful Use Requirements Remain Intact

On May 2, 2019, the USPTO issued a new examination guide titled “Examination of Marks for Cannabis and Cannabis-Related Goods and Services after Enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.” A hasty reader may have assumed that this guide would offer options for the cannabis business whose federal trademark applications have been thwarted by the lawful use requirement, but this is not the case.The lawful use requirement, as explained by the USPTO, mandates that “use of a mark in commerce must be lawful use to be the basis for federal registration of the mark.” TMEP §907, citing to 37 C.F.R. §2.69 and §§1, 45 of the Lanham Act. In other words, if a product cannot be legally sold in interstate commerce then, according to the USPTO, the mark cannot be used legally in interstate commerce and, lacking trademark use, the trademark cannot be registered. Alas, the new examination guide only allows federal trademark registrations under very narrow circumstances. Under Sections 6 and 297A of the Farm Bill 2018, “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” are removed from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). In effect, these plants and their parts have become legal. Similarly, cannabidiol—commonly referred to as CBD—and those CBD products that have very low THC content, have become legal under the CSA. Being legal under the CSA means that these products can be legally sold in interstate commerce.

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.

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.

#UNDECIDED: Trademark Protection for Hashtags

Can a hashtag be a protectable trademark? And when does use of another’s trademark in hashtags constitute infringement? Disagreement has arisen among the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”), the courts, and commentators about whether hashtags can be protected at all. A trademark, of course, is a source-identifier – a “word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” used “to identify and distinguish … goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods.” 15 U.S.C. § 1127(a).