Category - "Branding"

College T-shirts and Trademarks – Ornamental or Protectable?

Share

As college freshmen head to campus for the start of classes, there is one vital campus bookstore purchase before classes begin: a T-shirt bearing the college’s logo. This purchase is not only a rite of passage for freshmen; it also touches on an important concept in trademark law: ornamental use of trademarks on T-shirts.

What is ornamental use?

Under sections 1, 2, and 45 of the Trademark Act, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) can refuse registration of a trademark on the ground that the applied-for matter is decorative and therefore does not function as a mark because it is merely ornamentation. In re Peace Love World Live, LLC, 127 U.S.P.Q.2d 1400 (TTAB 2018). Ornamental matter can include words, designs, slogans, or trade dress.

Continue reading “College T-shirts and Trademarks – Ornamental or Protectable?”

Branding Success: How to Select a Strong Trademark

Share

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, but did you know a trademark can be worth BILLIONS of dollars? In fact, some of the top trademarks in the world are worth hundreds of billions. What’s the secret to this branding success? A strong trademark!

A trademark serves many purposes. Two of the more important purposes are: (1) identifying the source of a company’s or individual’s goods or services; and (2) indicating to consumers the quality or type of goods or services identified by the mark. Consumers rely on trademarks to make informed decisions about the goods and services they purchase or use.

Continue reading “Branding Success: How to Select a Strong Trademark”

Four Costly Trademark Horror Stories and How to Avoid Them

Share

Since Halloween candy is already in stores (why…?), we‘re here to tell you some trademark tales that are sure to make you shiver – if you care about your pocketbook, that is.  We’ve encountered these spooky situations – with worldwide implications — when we’ve been brought in to clean up.  (Who you gonna call? Faegre Drinker!)

Continue reading “Four Costly Trademark Horror Stories and How to Avoid Them”

The Ohio State University’s Federal Trademark Registration for “THE” – Can They Do That?

Share

Graduates of The Ohio State University (“Ohio State”) are familiar with fans and supporters (and sometimes, Michigan fans) placing an emphasis on the “THE” when saying the school’s name. But the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) recent decision1 to grant federal trademark registration No. 6,763,118 to Ohio State for the most popular word in the English language2 has garnered much mainstream media attention and confusion. This blog post provides a brief overview of the background and potential implications of this registration.

How did Ohio State register such a common word?

Ohio State first applied to register the word THE in 2019 in connection with Clothing, namely, t-shirts, baseball caps and hats3. The application was initially refused4 by the USPTO because: (1) a third-party clothing company had already filed an application for the word THE beforehand; and (2) because the mark was “merely ornamental” (in other words, the USPTO believed that THE did not function to indicate the source of Ohio State’s clothing goods). Ohio State eventually overcame those issues by submitting evidence and images to demonstrate that THE had source-indicating function, and by entering into a consent agreement with the third-party clothing company5. With these issues both resolved, and no additional refusals or challenges being raised, the USPTO granted a federal registration to Ohio State for THE on June 21, 2022, to many commentators’ surprise.

Continue reading “The Ohio State University’s Federal Trademark Registration for “THE” – Can They Do That?”

Considerations for Applying to Register Trademarks in Connection with Virtual Goods and Services ‒ An Overview on Protecting Your Brand in the Metaverse

Share

Due to the sheer volume of recent media coverage, readers of this blog are likely familiar with the “metaverse,” or the idea of a virtual world where users can interact with an immersive computer-generated environment, objects, and other users. But why does anyone care about trademarks in the metaverse? Put simply, trademarks are almost certain to insert themselves in several scenarios in these immersive environments that are designed to be an extension or replica of the real world, such as:

  • Creation of virtual shops to buy branded “virtual” goods;
  • Branded virtual services, such as fitness classes, concerts, performances, or sporting events;
  • Product placement, such as virtual characters wearing branded virtual goods or display of virtual advertisements within the metaverse; and
  • Real and virtual combination marketing, where buying a real-world product allows the user to obtain a copy of the product in the virtual world as well for use in the metaverse.

Continue reading “Considerations for Applying to Register Trademarks in Connection with Virtual Goods and Services ‒ An Overview on Protecting Your Brand in the Metaverse”

Tips for developing an efficient worldwide trademark application filing strategy

Share

So you’re launching a new product line worldwide. Or maybe you’re rebranding a division of your global business. Or perhaps you’ve recently conducted an audit of your trademark portfolio and noticed several gaps in coverage.

Regardless, you’re ready to file new trademark applications around the world ‒ and we’re sure you want to make these filings as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

One way to keep costs down is to take advantage of trademark application filing systems that cover multiple jurisdictions. These systems allow you to register a trademark in more than one country by filing only a single application.

Continue reading “Tips for developing an efficient worldwide trademark application filing strategy”

The Impact on Brands when Trademarks are Used in Military Strategy

Share

Western companies with trademark rights in Russia are feeling the ripple effects of the Ukrainian conflict.  In response to the economic sanctions and boycotts imposed by the U.S. and other Western countries, Russia has threatened to suspend the intellectual property rights of companies that have ceased operations in Russia.  Additionally, there has recently been an increase in bad faith trademark filings for various brands across a wide range of industries from Chanel to Audi.  Moreover, it appears that Russian courts may allow the infringement and misappropriation of trademarks owned by Western companies in light of a recent decision involving the character Peppa Pig, where the court cited sanctions as a basis for refusing to recognize the Western-based company’s intellectual property rights in the popular cartoon character.

Even those businesses with longstanding ties within Russia don’t appear to be safe.  Certain companies closing locations in the country in response to the conflict in Ukraine are finding that third parties are filing trademark applications for blatant replicas of their brands.  Even more disturbing is that should the Russian government decide to remove trademark protections for Western companies altogether, then a third party could step in and offer goods and services under identical marks.  Depending upon how things play out in Russia, Western brand owners are in serious danger of losing their intellectual property investments in the country.  Exacerbating the problem for these brands is that finding local counsel willing to assist them may be extremely difficult.  Fear for personal safety and the threat of retribution may encourage many trademark attorneys in Russia to steer clear of matters involving companies from “unfriendly” countries.

Continue reading “The Impact on Brands when Trademarks are Used in Military Strategy”

NFTs: The Harbinger of Property Rights in the Metaverse?

Share

Non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) continue to dominate the crypto-zeitgeist. It is beyond dispute that they are currently a major economic and cultural force. In 2021, sales surged to approximately $25 billion. They have been featured in high profile television commercials during the Olympics and the Super Bowl. And Nike recently purchased the NFT developer RTFKT Studios, signaling its intention to be a dominant provider of digital fashion in the metaverse.

Despite all this, it remains unclear what legal rights are conveyed with the purchase of an NFT. The academic consensus is that, absent a “smart contract” that expressly includes intellectual property (“IP”) rights, purchasing an NFT does not convey any copyrights or trademark rights. Yet, the creation of an NFT (called “minting”) is almost certainly limited by recognized IP and other legal principles. These issues have begun to percolate up through the courts.

This article explores lingering, undefined NFT questions through the lens of several pending lawsuits. While many articles just describe the facts of each case, this article focuses on the most interesting legal arguments that each makes. It also identifies how decisions by these courts may form the basis of property rights within the metaverse. And ultimately, it questions whether the emergence of such lawsuits undermines blockchain as a decentralized institution.

Continue reading “NFTs: The Harbinger of Property Rights in the Metaverse?”

Help! Our Intellectual Property is Being Infringed – An Investigatory Checklist

Share

I don’t love surprises. Well, if you want to send me a surprise red velvet birthday cake, please feel free. Otherwise, I like being prepared – and infringement of intellectual property is one type of surprise that you can prepare yourself to handle. To assist in that effort, here’s a non-exhaustive list of questions you can ask yourself and your team members, to help determine next steps if you suspect infringement of your trademarks or copyrights. These questions may also come in handy if you find yourself on the receiving end of an allegation of infringement.

Continue reading “Help! Our Intellectual Property is Being Infringed – An Investigatory Checklist”

Ho, Ho, Ho … Hold On … Did Legal Approve That?

Share

The holidays are upon us — and so too are holiday advertising campaigns. With an unusual holiday season last year, many retailers are gearing up for what they hope to be a robust holiday season. Even with concerns over supply chain issues, retailers and brands are doubling down on holiday advertising campaigns this year and pushing out festive, eye-catching content to lure customers. To stop the Legal Grinch from stealing the gifts from these campaigns, here’s a quick refresher on a few important legal considerations:

Continue reading “Ho, Ho, Ho … Hold On … Did Legal Approve That?”