The global COVID-19 crisis has created dynamic shifts in how businesses source and sell goods and services. Whether those shifts are temporary or will solidify into more permanent structures ushering in a “new normal” era of consumerism, remains to be seen. As I write this, it is the weekend after Memorial Day 2020. Just yesterday, my home state of Virginia commenced phase I of a graduated reopening of the state economy, while last weekend’s headlines focused on widespread defiance of stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines as the U.S. death toll climbed towards 100,000 (a milestone it has now passed). It is clear that there are limits to our willingness to stay home, and that bodes well for the survival of some brick-and-mortar retailers. But brick-and-mortar retail and business in general may look significantly different in a post-pandemic world. The companies emerging stronger will likely be those that use this time to rethink who they are, what they do, and how they do it — and the ways in which they convey that message to consumers.
We are noticing a common theme in advertising: recent commercials, web pages and social media include a series of still images of essential workers, or short videos submitted by the companies’ own clients. In case your company decides to feature similar elements in its promotional efforts, here is a short list of frequently-encountered intellectual property issues you may wish to address prior to launching the campaign:
The Faegre Drinker Trademark, Copyright, Advertising and Media (T-CAM) Team is seeking an experienced trademark prosecution attorney for our thriving Intellectual Property practice. Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP is an Am Law 50 firm with offices located throughout the U.S., Europe, and China. This position offers the opportunity to play a key role in growing our existing trademark, copyright, and advertising practice in our Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. office.
Like much of the federal government, the U.S. Copyright Office (the “Office”) is adjusting its practices and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike registration and recordation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, copyright registration and recordation regulations still require the submission of hard copy materials in many instances. The Office’s technical infrastructure will not permit electronic filing of certain types of applications and cannot accommodate electronic submission of documents for recordation. The Office has been closed since March 13, 2020, with registration specialists working remotely. Hand deliveries are not accepted at this time; mail sent through the postal system or by commercial carrier is received at an off-site facility but will not be processed until the Office reopens.
The mechanics of litigation in the federal courts have changed dramatically over the course of the past two months. Intellectual property enforcement is certainly not immune to these changes. Now that stay at home orders have been in effect in many states, enforcing copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights through litigation involves a different set of considerations. Here are a few of the more significant considerations you can’t afford to ignore:
The functionality doctrine remains strong. In a recent decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board relied on the doctrine of functionality in finding that the product configuration mark at issue was unprotectable under Section 2(e)(5) of the Lanham Act.
Updated May 29, 2020
On May 27, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced updated measures granting relief for trademark owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline extensions that the USPTO announced through previous notices will expire on May 31.
The USPTO will now provide relief on a case-by-case basis for mark owners who have missed certain deadlines as a result of the pandemic. In particular, if mark owners have failed to timely submit responses or fees in connection with Office Actions, or failed to timely meet statutory deadlines, they may file a petition to revive an application or a petition to the director, as appropriate. The petition should explain that the delay in filing or payment was due to the pandemic. For now, if such a statement is included, the USPTO will waive the fees associated with filing the petition.
If the pandemic has interfered with filings with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, mark owners may make a request or motion, as appropriate, for an extension or reopening of time.
We’ll continue to post updates here. If you have missed a deadline and wish to better understand the steps you can take to continue protecting your trademark rights, please feel free to contact the Faegre Drinker trademark team.
The Faegre Drinker Intellectual Property Team is committed to our clients and contacts during this difficult time. It was impossible to listen to the news of the last week and be unaffected as many ordinary things we take for granted changed so quickly. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Faegre Drinker has asked our colleagues to work remotely until at least March 31, 2020. Like so many of you, our priority is protecting the health and safety of our colleagues, clients, visitors and their loved ones. We also want to do our part to contain the pandemic.
In a world where social media influencers can wield more power over consumers than network media buys, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Endorsement Guides felt increasingly like a relic from an earlier era. While not wholly ineffective, the FTC’s formal guidance to businesses on the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising was still a policy with roots in the limited media environment of the 1970s, the decade when the Guides originated. There were no Instagram influencers, no sponsored posts, and no hashtags in 1980, when the Guides were finally enacted, and even cable television was in its infancy. And despite important and well-intentioned 2009 amendments crafted during the early days of social media, so much has happened in the intervening years that the Guides never seemed fully engaged with the radical implications of a marketing environment where blurring the lines between advertising and reality is more often a feature rather than a bug.
Companies in 2020 must comply with more data privacy laws than ever before. Effective on January 1, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) contains the most complex data privacy compliance requirements in U.S. history. Some other states have their own requirements, and more states are following suit; many are considering data protection laws while their legislatures are in session.
Compliance with the CCPA and other relevant privacy laws and industry standards involves much more than a brief privacy law update and presents multiple opportunities for customer engagement. Consider using those opportunities to enhance your relationship with your customers. How companies handle consumer data has already become one way in which consumers evaluate whether to do or continue doing business with a particular company. Poorly handled data privacy issues quickly create negative customer experiences, online reviews, and bad press. Differentiate your company by handling customer data — and customer relationships — with intentionality and care.