In VIP Products v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc., No. 18-16012 (9th Cir. March 31, 2020), the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held this week that a rubber dog toy designed to resemble a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Black Label Tennessee Whiskey — the “Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker” — is an “expressive work” and therefore entitled to interpose a First Amendment defense against the whiskey company’s trademark infringement claims.
The lawsuit began in 2014 when Jack Daniel’s demanded that VIP Products stop selling the Bad Spaniels on trademark infringement grounds. The manufacturer filed suit asking an Arizona District Court to weigh in and determine whether the whiskey bottle was entitled to trademark protection at all. Jack Daniel’s responded with trademark infringement and trademark dilution claims, arguing that the dog toy diluted the commercial power, meaning and value of its brand by tarnishing what the image of the iconic whiskey bottle represents. The District Judge agreed with Jack Daniel’s that there was a high likelihood of consumer confusion between the products and ordered VIP Products to stop making and selling the Bad Spaniels toy. Continue reading “Freedom of Squeak: The Ninth Circuit Finds First Amendment Protection For Parody Dog Toy”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) announced earlier this week a thirty-day extension of certain trademark deadlines due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The extension applies broadly to trademark deadlines that fall between March 27, 2020 and April 30, 2020, including, in particular:
Responses to office actions, including notices of appeal from a final refusal;
Statements of use or requests to extend the time to file a statement of use;
Notices of opposition or requests to extend the time to file a notice of opposition;
Transformations of international registration into a national trademark application;
On March 31st, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed with prejudice all but one of plaintiff’s claims in Pellegrino v. Epic Games, No. 19-1806 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2020). As in several other recent cases, the dispute in Pellegrino arose out of an unauthorized use of dance moves in the popular video game Fortnite Battle Royale. Unlike those other cases, however, instead of suing for copyright infringement, professional saxophone player Leo Pellegrino brought claims for misappropriation of likeness and for trademark infringement under both the Lanham Act and Pennsylvania state law.
This week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it considers the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak to be an “extraordinary situation” within the meaning of 37 CFR 2.146 for affected trademark applicants and trademark owners. In response, it is waiving the petition fees (set by regulation, rather than statute) that it normally charges to revive an abandoned trademark application and to reinstate a canceled or expired trademark registration if they were abandoned or canceled/expired as a result of the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. Other trademark-related deadlines and fees will not change.
Specifically, the USPTO is waiving the petition fee to revive an abandoned application or to reinstate a canceled or expired registration if it was abandoned or canceled/expired “due to an inability to timely respond to a trademark-related Office communication as a result of the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.” A petition must be accompanied by a statement that explains “how the failure to respond to the Office communication was due to the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.” Continue reading “COVID-19 Triggers Savings”
On February 15, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) new rules will go into effect (84 Fed. Reg. 37081) requiring applicants, registrants, and parties to a proceeding before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to provide their own email address to receive USPTO correspondence, and file all trademark submissions electronically using the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), with limited exceptions. In addition, the new rule amends the requirements for specimens in accordance with the Trademark Act and precedential case law.
Requirement to Provide Applicant, Registrant and Party Email Address
As of February 15, 2020, applicants, registrants, and parties to a proceeding before the TTAB, will be required to provide and maintain their own valid email address for receipt of correspondence from the USPTO. This requirement is in addition to the attorney address that is already required. The applicant’s, registrant’s, or party’s email address will be publicly displayed along with other contact information already available in the USPTO’s public database. Continue reading “New USPTO Guidelines for Electronic Filings and Specimens”
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a new rule on July 2, 2019, requiring trademark applicants, registrants, and parties to Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceedings whose domicile is not located within the United States or its territories to be represented before the USPTO by a U.S.-licensed attorney as of August 3, 2019. Domicile is typically defined as the permanent legal place of residence of an individual or the headquarters of an entity. The rule does not retroactively apply to applications filed before August 3, 2019, but impacts such applications if an office action is issued on or after August 3, 2019, requiring the applicant to designate a U.S.-licensed attorney to respond. This rule is intended to streamline trademark registrations and reduce the potential of invalidations by providing the USPTO a more efficient way to enforce statutory and regulatory requirements.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”) has struck down the Lanham Act’s ban on the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks as an unconstitutional restriction of free speech under the First Amendment. See In re: Erik Brunetti, No. 2015-1109 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 15, 2017). The ruling comes less than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017), in which it similarly struck down the Lanham Act’s ban on “disparaging” marks as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
It has been my experience that when many U.S. clients expand their businesses beyond national borders, they are unaware that their U.S. trademark registrations provide no protection in foreign jurisdictions.
Trademark ownership provides important commercial and legal benefits including the exclusive right to use the registered trademark and the right to sell or license it to another for profit. Further, trademark ownership gives one legal standing to prevent others from using or attempting to register similar or identical trademarks. Trademarks are considered to be tangible assets of the owner and add to the value of the shares of a company. If you are an exporter, or thinking about exporting in the future, you should seriously consider securing protection for your trademarks at the earliest possible date in those foreign markets which are or could be of interest. Continue reading “Protecting Your Brand Overseas”
When you start to think about protecting your business’s intellectual property, some things might immediately jump to mind – like trademarking your logo or filing a patent application for the functional invention that underlies your business. But other things, like the design or appearance of your product, may not be so obvious. In fact, it may not have occurred to you that you can and should consider seeking protection for the appearance or ornamental characteristics of your company’s product – whether that product is an actual article of manufacture, like the Apple iPhone, or the user interface of your mobile application. Intellectual property law offers protection for both via copyright and patent law.
Here are 10 ways to build a rock-solid foundation for your new company and avoid constructing a masterpiece on top of quicksand:
Make sure your company’s name isn’t already taken. As a starting point, search the name on Google and other Internet search engines. Then search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov). Important: repeat this process each time you pick the name of a new product or service.