BIG TRUSS: A Playoff Story of Opportunism at the Trademark Office

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As a trademark attorney, devoted Baltimore Ravens fan, and furtive TMZ reader, I couldn’t help but notice this story authored recently, describing how Mark Ingram’s aspirations of registering BIG TRUSS in the US Trademark Office are (potentially) being blocked by someone who applied to register the phrase first.

For those uninitiated, “Big Truss” is the pet name for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, coined by Mark Ingram, Ravens running back.  Mark and Lamar’s well-documented bromance is one for the ages.  The phrase first captured public attention when Mark Ingram uttered it in a November 21, 2019 press conference, although the origins of “Truss” appear to date back much further, to a 1991 album by Public Enemy, as this fascinating Baltimore Sun article explains.  The BIG TRUSS application blocking Mr. Ingram’s attempts to register the phrase was filed on December 13, 2019 – 3 weeks after the aforementioned press conference, and candidly, a lifetime in the trademark world.

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Don’t Miss Notices from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office regarding Madrid Protocol Trademark Applications

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Wondering why you haven’t received any updates on the progress of your client’s Madrid Protocol application designating Canada?  After reading that question, are you wondering what on earth a Madrid Protocol application is?

Let’s take a step back.  The Madrid system is a mechanism that facilitates the registration of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions around the world.  One way to file trademark applications in multiple jurisdictions is to engage local counsel in each jurisdiction of interest and work with counsel to file individual applications.  By using the Madrid system, however, a trademark owner can file a single international trademark application with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and designate one or more jurisdictions based on just this one application.

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FTC Releases New User-Friendly Disclosure Guidelines for Influencers

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is not hitting “like” on your influencer engagement campaign, and is down-voting your disclosures.

Earlier this month, the FTC released important new guidance targeted at social media influencers, in language designed to be read by non-lawyers, framing an often confusing legal issue for the people who need to understand it the most: the influencers themselves. These new guidelines, “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers,” were accompanied by a video “Do you endorse things on social media?”, and are designed to show influencers how and when they must disclose material connections to brands to their followers.

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Be on the Lookout for Potentially Misleading Trademark Solicitations

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If you own a U.S. trademark registration, chances are you’ve received official-looking solicitations offering to handle trademark services on your behalf in return for a fee. Read these notices carefully – more often than not, they don’t come from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Instead, they’re sent by private companies that have obtained your contact information from the publicly accessible USPTO trademark database. Worse than that, these notices may ask trademark owners to pay thousands of dollars in fees in exchange for services that aren’t even timely or necessary.

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Scandalous Marks? Nothing the Proverbial Bar of Soap Can’t Fix

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The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Iancu v. Brunetti will likely not be the last word on the subject of scandalous trademarks being granted registration. That certainly suggests there is room for further interpretation in the future, especially if Congress elects to amend the Lanham Act. Further, four Justices voiced some degree of concern about scandalous marks being granted registration.

Read the full alert. 

Mindful Management of Marks and Money (Or, Spring Cleaning: Do You Really Need to Renew That Trademark Registration?)

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This post is for those who gain pleasure from tidying up.  It’s springtime here in DC, so let’s roll up our sleeves and declutter!  Your trademark portfolio, that is.  You’ll gain a sense of accomplishment AND you can humble-brag about your magical money-saving skills.

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Tips & Tricks to Trademark Licensing

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As the proud owner of a trademark, you will encounter a number of situations that may prompt you or your company to consider granting a trademark license. Navigating the process of selecting a mark, conducting a trademark search and securing a trademark registration is no small feat. Now that you have accomplished these goals, it is important to make sure you are getting the most out of your investment of time, energy and money. A trademark license may be the most effective way to ensure that your trademark rights primarily benefit you and not a third party.

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To Claim or Not to Claim … Seniority (Guest Post from EU Firm Cleveland Scott York)

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Businesses operating in the European Union may be familiar with the concept of “seniority.”  By claiming seniority, an owner of an EU trademark registration may be able to claim prior rights based on existing national trademark registrations in EU member countries.  To illustrate when a business might claim seniority, take the following example:

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Five Reasons NOT to Register Your Trademark

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Our followers know that we get a little giddy at the prospect of registering trademarks.  It’s almost as much fun as deep-fried Twinkies!  (Um, make that “Twinkies® brand sponge cakes.”)  So why are we posting about reasons NOT to register your mark?  Well, although we love global brands, you may sometimes be better off skipping or delaying those new applications.  Consider, for example, the following:

  1. How long will you continue to use the brandIf you will only use the mark for a short time, or in a limited geographical area, maybe it’s not worth spending the money on registration.  You might even stop using the brand before the application matures to registration!
  2. Is your industry brand-focused?  In some industries, brands can be (gasp!) a little less important. If your competitors don’t tend to copy your brand names, consider applying to register only your most important brand names.
  3. Might the Trademark Office consider the mark descriptive? If you’re at risk of a refusal to register the mark on descriptiveness grounds, you might refrain from applying, or wait until after you have used the mark for five years.
  4. Is there a crowded field of similar marks? If you’re not keen on trying to persuade the Trademark Office to withdraw a refusal to register your mark on the ground of confusion with five prior third-party registrations (ugh), maybe your resources would be better spent on something other than a new application…like finding a new brand?
  5. Is there a compelling reason to register the mark now? In some cases, if you’ve been using an unregistered brand for a while, maybe there’s no need to disrupt the status quo, particularly if the brand isn’t especially valuable or distinctive, you’re facing serious registrability hurdles, and there’s no infringement you need to stamp out.  Why call attention to yourself and invite oppositions when no confusion has arisen in the real-world marketplace?

Of course, the above considerations may not apply in every case.  If a brand’s importance is increasing, you’re entering new territories, or you have infringement concerns, it’s often a good idea to conduct searches and file applications.  Just wanted to share some (fat-free) food for thought before you rush into filing globally!