Melissa S. Dillenbeck counsels her clients on mission critical marketing practices, focusing on trademark portfolio management, brand selection, and advertising and promotion law. Melissa is co-chair of the firm’s Advertising and Promotions Team. She works with companies in a variety of industries, ranging from consumer products to health care, and helps her clients understand the intersection of branding and modern global commerce.
View the full bio for Melissa Dillenbeck at the Faegre Drinker website.
Posts by Melissa Dillenbeck
You are thinking about buying a new laptop, or you want to try a new restaurant that’s been open a few months, so what do you do first? You check the online reviews, of course. Most consumers rely heavily on online reviews to make purchases and try new services, but how can you be sure the reviews you see are actually written by a real customer? And wouldn’t you want to know if the customer was paid or given free product in exchange for that review? The proliferation of online shopping platforms and social media have increased opportunities for consumers to find information about potential products they want to buy. However, it also makes it easier for companies to manipulate reviews or endorsements to make their products look better or their competitors look worse. Luckily, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently prioritizing this issue, through regulatory channels, enforcement actions, and litigation.
For background, when an advertiser uses an endorsement or review in connection with its products or services, there are guidelines to follow set forth by the FTC (the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising). The FTC Endorsement Guides emphasize the basic principle of truth in advertising: that endorsements must be honest and not misleading. The Guides further state that the endorsement must reflect the true opinion of the reviewer, who must actually have experience with the product or service, and that a material connection between the reviewer and the company needs to be disclosed, if that fact would matter to the purchaser. While the Guides are not regulations, and have no civil penalties for a violation, the FTC can investigate whether the practices are deceptive or unfair under the FTC Act if an advertiser does not follow the Guides.
Continue reading “Under Review: The FTC’s Focus on the Fakes”
It’s April, which means it’s time for Earth Day. But for so many consumers, sustainability is top of mind all year. Consumers are constantly seeking out products and services that they can feel good about using and purchasing. And marketers want to tout what their company is doing to be good to the environment. As a result, the marketplace is flooded with claims that our household cleaners are “non-toxic” and our packaging is “recyclable” along with many other environmental benefit statements for products and services.
To avoid what’s commonly known as “greenwashing,” marketers need to ensure that statements made about the environmental benefit of their products or services are clear, truthful, and evidence-based. A top resource in this area is the Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides,” which can help companies avoid making environmental benefit claims that can attract regulators and mislead consumers. While the Green Guides are not FTC regulations, they provide detailed guidance on the types of claims that the FTC considers deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which broadly prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” (15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(1).) Although these Guides have not been updated in almost 10 years, they remain instructive when it comes to a review of environmental benefit claims.
Continue reading “Environmental Marketing Claims – It’s Not Easy Being Green”
Intellectual property rights holders are constantly seeking creative ways to protect their brands, including preventing counterfeit products from entering the marketplace. There are the traditional methods – such as federal trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office – that are well-known to most companies. However, many companies are less familiar with the high-value, low-cost enforcement tools available through a Customs Recordation filing with United States Customs and Border Protection.
United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can be a vital partner in your company’s efforts to enforce its trademarks and copyrights, and to stop counterfeit imports. Intellectual property enforcement is currently a “Priority Trade Issue” for CBP, and the increased focus on such enforcement is highly beneficial to companies who can then leverage CBP’s database and workforce to identify and stop counterfeit product imports. CBP uses the information contained in its database of recorded trademarks and copyrights in order to target and seize imports of counterfeit and pirated goods at various U.S. ports of entry. In FY 2019, CBP seized more than 27,000 shipments containing counterfeit goods, enforcing over 18,500 active recordations1. Notably, CBP rarely takes action to detain or seize goods displaying trademarks or copyrights that are not recorded; therefore, it is critical to include CBP recordation as part of your enforcement strategy.
Continue reading “Protect Your Brand: U.S. Customs and Border Protection as Part of Your IP Enforcement Team”
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.