Once a company owns a trademark, it must police the mark for unauthorized use, or risk losing its rights. As a result, companies will send “cease and desist” letters to enforce and protect their marks. At times, however, legal rights are only one consideration. Public opinion and consumer perception are also part of the equation, as the Aloha Poke Co. (“Aloha Poke”), a Chicago based restaurant, recently learned firsthand.
The MLB team in Cleveland has finally decided to stop wearing "Chief Wahoo," a caricature of a Native American, on their uniforms. The change will happen in 2019. Interestingly, however, the team told ESPN that it "will still sell merchandise featuring the mascot in Northeast Ohio" because "[t]he team must maintain a retail presence so that MLB and the Indians can keep ownership of the trademark."
In perhaps the least surprising trademark decision of the past 12 months, and one that could have been rendered in under 5 pages (rather than the 50 it actually took), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last Friday held that the Lanham Act’s Section 2(a) bar on registration of marks which “consist of or comprises immoral…or scandalous matter” is an unconstitutional, content-based restriction on speech. In re Brunetti, Appeal No. 2015-1109 (Fed. Cir. December 15, 2017). In that case, Erik Brunetti had toiled for more than 6 years attempting to register his mark, FUCT, for clothing. Those efforts were uniformly unsuccessful despite some weakly-creative arguments that the word, “fuct,” was not actually vulgar, and even if it was, Section 2(a) did not bar registration of “vulgar” marks.
In a non-precedential decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) recently reversed a refusal to register Heritage Distilling Company’s application for the mark, BSB, for “distilled spirits” based on the following mark owned by Black Shirt Brewing Co. for “brewpub services; taproom services; taproom services featuring beer brewed on the premises”:
In response to a rise in craft beer trademark disputes, research scientist Janelle Shane recently set loose a "neural network" – a type of computer program that can "learn" from data sets that are given to it – to create new craft beer names. The thought was that the computer program could learn from thousands of existing beer names, and come up with a long list of new ones built on detected patterns. Last month, Shane published a list of dozens of names, saying: "It worked . . . I give you: craft beer names, invented by neural network."
As Fiona the hippo, at the Cincinnati Zoo, battled from being born six weeks premature to weighing 375 pounds with a healthy side of sass, she gathered a huge and fierce following. #TeamFiona has taken the world by storm.
Although substantive portions of trademark license agreements receive most of the attention, as shown in a recent decision of the Delaware Court of Chancery, choice of law provisions, such as those frequently found in the boilerplate of most agreements, should receive careful consideration as well. In Mrs. Fields Brand, Inc. v. Interbake Foods LLC (a copy of which is viewable here), a well-known cookie company, Mrs. Fields as licensor, sought a declaratory judgment that its contract manufacturer, Interbake as licensee, could not terminate their license agreement before the expiration of the then-current term.
Although about half of the states have legalized medical marijuana, and the department of justice has declared it to be a low enforcement priority, marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law, with criminal penalties for possession and sale.
An exploding craft beer industry has led to an uptick in lawsuits about beer names and labels. Craft beer lovers do not always appreciate the lawsuits. But what do the federal courts think about them?
This morning, we awoke to the news that the U.K. has voted to exit the European Union. Our first thought was whether this vote, and the expected unwinding of the U.K. from the European legal system, will have any impact on our clients’ European intellectual property rights in the U.K.
- Intellectual Property
- Social Media
- Craft Brewing
- Trademark Litigation
- Medical Marijuana
- United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
- Registered Trademark
- Federal Trademark
- Amazon's Brand Registry
- Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Uniform Trade Secrets Act
- E-Discovery Case Law
- Regulation Fair Disclosure
- Securities Law
- Securities Regulation
- EU Trademarks Post-Brexit: Now What?
- Don’t end up on The Elf on the Shelf’s naughty list!
- Stay Out of Trouble With the Federal Trade Commission
- "Aloha Poke": Social Media and Consumer Perception are Part of the Trademark Enforcement Equation
- Could Any Old Yahoo Nab Chief Wahoo?
- Trademark Registration Practice is Officially…umm…Well, You’ll See
- Booze is Booze, Right? Not so fast...
- Did A Neural Network Just Solve Craft Brewing's Trademark Problems?
- Enroll in Amazon’s Brand Registry 2.0… But Only if You Own a Registered Trademark
- Fiona Versus the Counterfeiters: What About Her Rights?