Trademark: to keep bands called THE SUPREMES from popping up in every State Reply

“Yeah, I know and can appreciate what you do (as a trademark attorney working with musicians). Back in the day, different bands called THE SUPREMES were popping up in every State. You can’t have that.” A jazz musician friend said this to me the other day and it was music to my ears.

from the USPTO online database

from the USPTO online database

This is right on point. For a band like THE SUPREMES, who became the most popular female group of the Sixties, owning the trademark of their name grants the trademark owner (Motown Records and now Motown Records’ successor) the exclusive right to use the name “THE SUPREMES” for various music performance and recording services. [USPTO Reg. No. 1003076]. Owning the trademark rights in the name of your band grants the trademark owner the exclusive right to use the trademarked band name for specific uses – like music performance and recording services. This can be a tool to keep other bands or music groups from performing under the same name or a confusingly similar name without permission of the trademark owner.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: the USPTO TESS data base at http://www.uspto.gov/; a copy of the USPTO Certificate of Trademark Registration for THE SUPREMES, USPTO Reg. No. 1003076; The Supremes bio at http://rockhall.com/inductees/the-supremes/ ; Baby Love on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23UkIkwy5ZM; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

WORLD CUP – National Teams & Big Brands out on the field Reply

While watching the US play Ghana yesterday in the World Cup, I couldn’t help but notice that in soccer ballsaddition to the rivalry between the two national teams on the field… there was also a competition between famous brands on the field too.  Adidas, Nike and Puma were the three famous brands and trademarks that I noticed all over the field, players, officials, equipment and gear.  Adidas trademarks were on the game ball, officials and frequently appeared on the stadium’s sidewall advertising. Nike’s swoosh trademark was on the US jerseys and many cleats.  Puma’s leaping-cat trademark was prominently featured on Ghana’s jerseys.

Adidas, Nike and Puma are all famous brands.  Nike owns nearly 300 USPTO trademarks including their famous swoosh.  Adidas owns close to 150 USPTO trademarks including their famous three stripes.  Puma also owns many USPTO trademarks featuring its leaping cat.

Flashing trademarks out on the field, and World Cup endorsements is big business.  According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Nike is the largest sportswear company in the world, with $25 billion in revenue.  Adidas (based in Germany) is a close second with $20 billion in revenue. Combined, these two brands control 70 % of the market for soccer gear.  Soccer is a big focus for Adidas and the brand has a long history with soccer sponsorship, including sponsoring FIFA since 1970.  Nike joined the soccer sponsorship game more recently in 1994 when the US hosted the World Cup.

Enjoy watching the rivalries play out during the World Cup this summer!  National Teams (and the sponsoring brands) will be giving it their all.

Great game last night. Thrilling 2-1 victory by the US over Ghana.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also FIFA stats on the US v Ghana game at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=255931/match=300186512/index.html#nosticky; the USPTO TESS data base at http://www.uspto.gov/; Bloomberg Businessweek article by Brendan Greeley, titled “Shootout Can Nike Beat Adidas at Soccer?”; Scores online at http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/index.html and http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/schedule?competition=12&season=2014; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Meet .NYC – the new domain for New Yorkers Reply

A new class of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) is rolling out, including “.nyc”!  This is a new domain for New Yorkers.  Here is a bit of information about the new .nyc domain from the official website: http://www.nic.nyc/about/ 

Who Will Own .nyc?

  • Any New Yorker whose work, ideas and creativity are based in the City.
  • Locals who provide services, products or content to fellow New Yorkers.
  • Companies, organizations and individuals wishing to showcase the value of their location online.

When can I register a .nyc domain name?

It is currently expected that .nyc will launch as early as May 2014, with phasing as follows.

PHASE 1 (May 2014): Trademarks Sunrise (45 days – ending June 20, 2014)

Sunrise is an initial period designed to protect intellectual property rights holders: those with registered trademarks. Trademark owners can take advantage of the Sunrise phase to safeguard the domain name that matches their trademark. As required by ICANN, all trademark owners must have their marks validated and registered in the Trademark Clearinghouse as a minimum requirement if they wish to register during Sunrise. Submit a trademark to the Clearinghouse at: http://trademark-clearinghouse.com.  After marks are registered with the Trademark Clearinghouse, registered trademark owners may apply for their own .nyc web address at: http://www.nic.nyc/trademarks.  The steps for priority registration for registered trademark owners are outlined here: http://www.trademark-clearinghouse.com/content/nyc-priority-registration-trademark-holders?utm_source=.NYC&utm_medium=clickthrough&utm_campaign=NYCSunrise

Learn more about the Trademark Clearinghouse on ICANN’s website: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/trademark-clearinghouse

If there is more than one qualified trademark holder applying for the same domain name, an auction will be held to determine the registrant.

PHASE 2 (June/July 2014): City Government-Affiliated Reserve List (30 days) / Sunrise Auctions

During this phase, City government and government-affiliated .nyc entities will have the right to register .NYC domains through a City-designated single point of contact that will authenticate eligibility.

PHASE 3 (August/September 2014): Landrush (60 days)

All businesses, organizations and residents with a physical address in the City will have an equal opportunity to register .nyc domains during the Landrush phase. There will be a slightly higher fee for registrations occurring during the Landrush phase. If there is only one application for a .nyc domain name during this period, the applicant for that name will be granted the registration. If there are multiple applications for a domain name during this period, however, an auction will be held to determine the registrant after completion of the Landrush period.

PHASE 4 (October 2014): General Availability

After the Landrush phase, all businesses, organizations and residents with a physical address in the City of New York shall be entitled to register .nyc domain names in real-time on a first-come, first-served basis. For the first ninety (90) days of General Availability, in the event that a domain name registrant applied for a domain name that is an exact match of a trademark appearing in the Trademark Clearinghouse, the registrant will receive a notice about that trademark during the registration process and asked whether or not it wishes to proceed with the registration. If it does, the name will proceed to registration, but may subsequently be challenged by the Trademark owner through an ICANN dispute resolution procedure if the name is likely to cause confusion with the trademark.

For more information see the Official Website at http://www.nic.nyc/  and http://www.nic.nyc/trademarks/.  For folks outside of NYC, a new generic top-level domain may be launching in your area too.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

One can love chicken & Bob Marley tunes (ONE LOVE trademark dispute settles) 2

The ONE LOVE trademark dispute between Bob Marley’s estate and Raising Cane’s tess picchicken finger restaurant raises some interesting trademark and copyright issues. According to Louisiana newspapers, the trademark dispute recently settled on undisclosed terms; however, the issue at the heart of the dispute is interesting.

THE ISSUE: Trademarking someone else’s song title for restaurant services.

THE STORY: In 2005, Raising Cane’s chicken finger restaurant obtained a USPTO registered trademark for ONE LOVE to be used to sell “restaurant services” (Reg. No. 3033511).  This same phrase ONE LOVE is part of the title and refrain to the famous Bob Marley tune, “One Love/People Get Ready,” recorded with his band The Wailers.  In 2007, Marley’s estate (represented by Fifty-Six Hope Road Music) applied for a USPTO trademark registration for ONE LOVE for “hotel, bar, and restaurant services” but was refused trademark registration because of the pre-existing ONE LOVE trademark registered to Raising Cane’s for similar services.  (A likelihood-of-confusion refusal).  The dispute escalated, the courts became involved and evidently the parties recently settled on undisclosed terms.

THE SCOOP: As demonstrated by this series of events, the title of a song will not necessarily block or cancel a USPTO trademark application or registration.  Songs and original music are protected by copyright laws; however, copyright protection does not extend to short phrases and titles.  The USPTO trademark registration system is available for protecting short phrases.  Timing of a USPTO application is also a determinative factor.  For example, if Bob Marley’s estate had applied for a ONE LOVE trademark to be used with restaurant and related services BEFORE Raising Cane’s applied for it, then the outcome would likely be reversed and Marley’s estate would have blocked Raising Cane’s trademark application.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: “One Love” dispute transfer order at http://www.scribd.com/doc/206584538/One-Love-dispute-transfer-order; an earlier blog post: Title Copycats; News articles: Raising Cane’s, Bob Marley estate reach agreement by Joe Gyan Jr, Bob Marley’s estate’s legal saga over Raising Cane’s ‘One Love’ to play out in Louisiana by Emily Lane on 2/11/14, and Raising Cane’s, Bob Marley’s estate settle ‘One Love’ slogan dispute by Diana Samuels on 5/23/14; the USPTO trademark search at http://www.uspto.gov/ @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

Imitating Others On Social Media Reply

photo(2)Social media sites generally frown upon users who imitate others and list impersonation as a no-no within their Terms Of Use and Privacy Policy.  By using, joining or registering with a social media site, folks “agree to” and “accept” the terms and policies of the social media site.  Note, that the terms and policies of a social media site (that you should, although, may have never read) apply merely by the simple act of using the site, joining or registering.

Imbedded within these terms and policies are several common elements that relate to impersonation and the treatment of imitators.  Often, these are listed as things that a user is permitted to do and not do.  “Shall not” language is commonly used in these lists (perhaps modeled off the Ten Commandments).  Here are a few examples:

THOU SHALT NOT (as per terms and policies of various social media sites):

  • provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission [excerpt from Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities]
  • create any account for anyone other than yourself without such person’s permission [excerpt from Foursquare’s Terms Of Use]
  • use a User Name that is the name of another person with the intent to impersonate that person [excerpt from Foursquare’s Terms Of Use]
  • post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law [excerpt from Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities]
  • upload, download, post, submit or otherwise distribute or facilitate distribution of any Content on or through the Service, including without limitation any User Submission, that:
    • infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, right of publicity or other right of any other person or entity or violates any law or contractual duty;
    • you know is false, misleading, untruthful or inaccurate;
    • impersonates any person or entity, including any employee or representative of Foursquare  [excerpt from Foursquare’s Terms Of Use]

These are short, illustrative excerpts from the Terms and Policies currently posted on the Facebook and Foursquare sites.  The Terms and Policies also include information on how to report imitators.  Generally, a valid imitation claim will result in the imitator being removed from the site and possibly forfeiting other privileges and use of the site as well.  While Terms and Policies are subject to change, discouraging imitation will likely remain standard protocol.  Social media sites have a vested interest in discouraging imitators on their sites, because, this keeps their sites user friendly for original celebrity users.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

The Terms of Use and Privacy Policy for various social media sites can generally be found with a Google Search or are available on the social media site, often at the bottom on the login page. 

See also: a related post on What to do if someone is using your stuff on social media sites; The Terms of Use and How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms and https://www.facebook.com/help/www/39922488347420; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

 

How to use the trademark & copyright symbols: ®, TM, SM, © Reply

The ® Registered Trademark Symbol

Once a trademark is federally registered with the USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office), the coveted ® symbol can be used. While use of the ® symbol is not required, it is highly recommend. Using the ® symbol lends credibility to a registered mark.  Additionally, it puts potential infringers on notice of the trademark owner’s rights and makes it easier for the trademark owner to collect certain damages in the event someone infringes these rights.

The TM and SM Trademark Symbolsphoto (1)

The TM and SM symbols can be used with an unregistered trademark or service mark to inform the public that a word mark, logo, or design mark is being used as a trademark and that the owner of the mark claims rights to it.  Using either of these symbols gives notice that the mark owner is intentionally establishing ‘common law trademark rights’ in the mark. For example:  MY TRADEMARK ™  or MY SERVICE MARK ℠    (For more information on how to use the TM or SM symbols click here).

The © Copyright Symbol

Another familiar symbol is the  copyright symbol.  Using the © symbol is an easy way to notify the world that copyright exists in your original, creative work.  While it’s not required by law to use the © to establish copyright in a photograph, piece of music or other original work, it’s simple to do and could save you a lot of headache down the road.  Use of the the © copyright symbol does not require permission from, or registration with the US Copyright Office.  (For more information on how to write a © copyright notice click here).

Many creative works may contain both a trademark symbol and a copyright notice.   A website, for example, will often contain the website owner’s trademark (registered or unregistered) and a copyright notice.  A novel may have the publisher’s registered trademark and the author’s copyright notice on it.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office) resources at www.uspto.gov; www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/register.jsp; and www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp#_Toc275426682 ; US Copyright Office Circular 3 on Copyright Notice at www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03.pdf; US Copyright Office Circular 1 on Copyright Basics at www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

MoveOn.org lawsuit- the billboard can stay Reply

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that the billboard using the PICK YOUR PASSION trademark to criticize MoveOn billboardLouisiana’s governor for refusing to expand Medicaid can stay up.  The judge denied a preliminary injunction requesting that the billboard be taken down asap.   The judge’s preliminary ruling that the billboard can stay up is an indication that she does not feel folks were confused by the billboard.  Evidently, the judge stated in her decision that, “[i]n this Court’s view, the Lieutenant Governor underestimates the intelligence and reasonableness of people viewing the billboard.”  On an interesting aside, MoveOn stated in a campaign drive this week that initially they had only intended to keep the billboard up for a month.   Now MoveOn is raising money to “ensure our winning billboard will stay up.”  (I grew up in Louisiana and made a contribution to MoveOn’s billboard fund).

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: The case, Dardenne v. MoveOn.org, case number 3:14-cv-00150 available at http://media.nola.com/politics/other/Dardenne%20Complaint.pdf; McCarthy On Trademarks, vol 4 and vol 6; MoveOn.org which features the lawsuit on their website’s homepage at http://front.moveon.org/; The Louisiana Office of Tourism’s website at http://www.crt.state.la.us/; photo by Pam Kaster at www.pamkaster.com; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

MoveOn.org lawsuit- Trademark Infringement or Free Speech? Reply

Did you know that it’s a trademark infringement issue that Louisiana’s lieutenant MoveOn billboardgovernor has sued the nonprofit MoveOn.org over? (I gotta tell you that the defense of “free speech” keeps coming to my mind).

The trademark at issue is PICK YOUR PASSION [likely USPTO Reg. No. 4022761] which is owned by the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism for the purpose of “promoting culture, tourism and business in Louisiana.”  The claimed infringement is an alleged misuse of the tourism trademark PICK YOUR PASSION by MoveOn.org which criticizes Louisiana’s governor for refusing to expand Medicaid with the following slogan, “LOU!SIANA Pick your passion! But hope you don’t love your health. Gov. Jindal’s denying Medicaid to 242,000 people.”

The complaint filed in the lawsuit alleges that MoveOn’s “political statement” (which is on a highway billboard, YouTube videos and television commercials) is a trademark infringement, because, it “confuses the viewing public as to the source” of the billboard message.

Confusion, specifically, the likelihood of confusion as to the source of goods and services is paramount in evaluating trademark infringement (codified in the Lanham Act).  However, the free speech protections granted by the First Amendment can be a defense to allegations of trademark infringement (parody is one type of free speech).  The general rule, regarding the free speech defense, is that “anyone, competitor, critic or comedian” is permitted to use a trademark to criticize the policies of the mark owner.   Here, MoveOn is using non-commercial speech to criticize the governor of the State of Louisiana and not the State’s Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism (who owns the PICK YOUR PASSION trademark) with their political statement.  It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit develops.

It seems the lawsuit has already launched a whirlwind, national campaign for MoveOn.org to raise money and awareness about their political agenda.  It’s hard to say how many folks noticed the billboard on the I-10 interstate approaching Baton Rouge, Louisiana before the lawsuit was filed…. it’s getting attention now.

The MoveOn.org billboard was still up yesterday (3/25/14), when my mom took the photo above.  (And as a humorous post script, the next next billboardbillboard on I-10 after the “pick your passion” billboard at issue touts a steamier message).

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

See also: The case, Dardenne v. MoveOn.org, case number 3:14-cv-00150 available at http://media.nola.com/politics/other/Dardenne%20Complaint.pdf; McCarthy On Trademarks, vol 4 and vol 6 on parody and free speech defenses; MoveOn.org which features the lawsuit on their website’s homepage at http://front.moveon.org/; The Louisiana Office of Tourism’s website at http://www.crt.state.la.us/;  photos by Pam Kaster at www.pamkaster.com; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

 

Maasai Trademark – Maasai tribe wants control over commercial uses of its name 2

The Maasai tribe in Tanzania has a unique identity, name and culture that various companies use to sell products.maasai  For example, Diane von Furstenberg sold pillows and necklaces using the Maasai name and Jaguar Land Rover sold a limited-edition vehicle named after the tribe.  Presently, the Maasai tribe is seeking control over commercial uses of its name.   Seems fair for the Maasai tribe to share in the profits earned by folks using their name, especially, since the Massai name is used to invoke the integrity, sensibility and style of the tribe members.

Personally, I find the arguments against granting the Maasai tribe ownership rights, trademark rights, and licensing rights to their name offensive.

CLAIM 1 AGAINST THE MAASAI OWNING THEIR NAME: because the tribe has never made an effort to enforce ownership of its culture and name until now, the rights have been lost.

COUNTER THIS CLAIM: To me, this is a rather colonial, imperialistic view of rights and ownership; however, tribes and indigenous people all over the world continually fight against this claim.  In an effort to set a global standard for respecting indigenous peoples’ rights in their names, culture, trademarks, traditional knowledge and other intellectual property, the UN has adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It may take a high profile challenge by the Maasai to raise international awareness regarding the rights of tribes and indigenous people to their name, trademarks, customs, traditional knowledge and other intellectual property.

CLAIM 2 AGAINST THE MAASAI OWNING THEIR NAME: “It’s a nice idea, but if it would work, the French deficit would be gone by asking for royalties on French Fries.”

COUNTER TO THIS CLAIM:  A more accurate comparison than the french fry comment (which I don’t believe the French have ever claimed and may not even want) is the French zeal and persistence in successfully laying claims to and defending the right to use the word CHAMPAGNE as a regional indicator of bubbly wine from the Champagne region of France.

Evidently, the Maasai have launched a campaign to reclaim their name, traditional knowledge and other intellectual property so that they can share in the profits made off their name and likeness.  (They also have an attorney and a USPTO grant for support).

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

For more information see, The United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf; WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/tk/en/wipo_grtkf_ic_26/wipo_grtkf_ic_26_inf_8.pdf;  article by Stephan Faris in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine titled, For Years, Companies Have Been Making Millions Off The Maasai Name, Now The Tribe Wants Its Cut; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.

“DUMB STARBUCKS” – a fake parody Reply

Did you hear that a “DUMB STARBUCKS COFFEE” shop opened in California recently?  (AND this fake Dumb-Starbucks-Logoparody was a comedian’s publicity stunt)(AND the shop has already been shut down by the LA County health inspectors)?  In addition to branding the pop-up cafe with a mocked-up Starbucks logo that added the word “dumb” into the logo, the cafe also featured a virtually identical menu to Starbucks and added the word “dumb” onto the menu boards.  (For example selling “Dumb Iced Espresso” in a “Dumb Tall” size cup).

How was this permissible?  Short answer, it wasn’t.  Parody was being claimed although this was not a parody.  Folks often think that just because something is FUNNY it is legally a PARODY.  This is a not the case.  FUNNY ≠ PARODY.  Because this is such a common assumption it’s worthwhile to mention it again (and again, and again).  For a terrific analysis of the DUMB STARBUCKS parody claim see on my friend Ron’s blog www.likelihoodofconfusion.com (post written by Matthew David Brozik).

Not surprisingly, a spokeswoman for Starbucks Coffee said that despite the humor, the store cannot use the Starbucks name.

A few other interesting elements raised by this DUMB STARBUCKS parody claim:

  • Dumb Starbucks made a claim that their parody was similar to Weird Al Yankovic’s music.  However, they left out a critical detail – permission.  Weird Al Yankovic ALWAYS gets permission for his music.
  • The fact that the shop was closed down by county health inspectors is an interesting detail in this Dumb saga.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for various local inspection agencies to become involved when counterfeit merchandise is being sold (technically, the Dumb Starbucks scheme was a misappropriation of the Starbucks brand akin to counterfeiting).  If a trademark-infringing business is violating health or building codes in addition to selling counterfeit products, nipping them in the bud for applicable health or building code violations can quickly close the doors.  Hence this was the case with the Dumb Starbucks shop being shut down by health inspectors.

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

For more information see, TMEP on trademark parody section 1207.01(b)(x) at http://tmep.uspto.gov/RDMS/detail/manual/TMEP/Oct2012/TMEP-1200d1e5036.xml; another blog post on parody; for other blogs posts on trademarks; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.