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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It’s Perfect! Or, Perfecting Security Interests in Intellectual Property

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In our recent post, we discussed the Seven Secrets of Security Interests relevant for owners or buyers of intellectual property.  But after an IP owner grants a security interest in intellectual property, how do you make it official?

Welcome to the mysterious world known as perfection.  That’s a fancy word for filing the right documents with the correct organizations so everyone knows that the lender has that security interest in intellectual property – and to make sure that the lender has priority over other parties who might have a future interest in the IP.

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High Court TM Profit Award Standard May Be Coming

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On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Romag Fasteners Inc. v. Fossil Inc. et al., agreeing to weigh in on the question of whether plaintiffs in trademark infringement cases must demonstrate that defendants acted willfully in order for plaintiffs to receive a portion of defendants’ profits.

Whether willfulness is a prerequisite to an award of defendants’ profits in trademark infringement cases is a question that has deeply divided the U.S. circuit courts. Half of the circuits have answered the question in the affirmative.[1] The other half have answered the question in the negative.[2] These latter circuits that do not require a threshold showing of willfulness merely view willfulness as one of many factors considered in fashioning an equitable remedy.

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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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Trademark Security Interests in Canada (Guest Post from Canadian Firm)

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We recently shared our Seven Secrets of Security Interests with some tips about security interests in IP registered in the U.S.  But often, U.S. IP goes hand-in-hand with trademarks, patents, and copyrights registered in Canada.  Should security interests against Canadian IP be treated the same as in the U.S.?

We asked our colleague Silvia de Sousa from Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP in Winnipeg, Manitoba to describe the basics of security interests involving Canadian trademarks (as well as patents and copyrights).  Silvia’s answers appear below.  Enjoy!

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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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Debunking Copyright Myths

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While most of our posts relate to trademark matters, brand owners should also be aware of some common misconceptions about copyright law, which we debunk in the following article. This post is based on the authors’ article “Debunking Copyright Myths,” originally published in Landslide® magazine, Vol. 11, No. 6, July/August 2019, by the American Bar Association.

These days it seems that copyright law is everywhere, from lawsuits alleging that the multiplayer online battle game Fortnite infringed popular dance moves such as the floss,1 to the Ninth Circuit agreeing that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” infringed Marvin Gaye’s copyrighted hit song “Got to Give It Up.”2 As the Internet and technology have become omnipresent in our lives, the constant availability of copyrighted content—from streamed music to photos and posts on social media—has led to the perpetuation of copyright myths. Unfortunately, these myths and numerous others have caused misconceptions over the rights of the copyright holder and the obligations of the user.

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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. 

New US Counsel Rule For Foreign TMs Promises Sea Change

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This month’s dramatic announcement by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that all foreign domiciled trademark applicants, registrants and parties to USPTO trademark proceedings will now be required to retain U.S. counsel is expected to result in the most significant practical change to domestic trademark prosecution practice in years.

For casual observers, this new rule — set to be effective on Aug. 3, 2019 — may have arrived as an unexpected, or even shocking, development. After all, with this announcement, literally tens of thousands of active, foreign-domiciled participants in the trademark processes of the USPTO will suddenly now require representation by a U.S. attorney, altering years of common practice.

Moreover, the time from announcement to implementation — only 32 days — is remarkably short for agency action of any kind, let alone a new rule set to transform the role of trademark practitioners in relation to a massive class of new clients.

Read the full article on Law360.