Ira S. Sacks

Ira S. Sacks

Ira Sacks practices in the area of litigation with an emphasis on trademark and branding matters. He handles complex and high-profile cases involving trademark, copyright, and patent infringement issues, distribution disputes, false advertising, price fixing, dealer termination, monopolization and unfair competition, unfair trade practices, and trade secrets. Ira’s clients include fragrance and fashion companies as well as national scientific laboratories, real estate developers, and financial institutions.

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APOGEE at its Nadir for Louis Vuitton at Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit recently sustained the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (“TTAB” or the “Board”)  refusal to register Louis Vuitton Malletier’s (“LVM”) trademark APOGÉE for perfumes, a decision that will concern trademark prosecution attorneys who seek to distinguish trademarks in United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) likelihood of confusion refusals.… Continue Reading

Will Lucky Get Lucky This Time Around?

On Friday, June 28, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether, in cases where a plaintiff asserts new claims, federal preclusion principles bar a defendant from raising defenses that were not actually litigated and resolved in any prior case between the parties.  Lucky Brand Dungarees Inc., et al. v. Marcel Fashion Group Inc., No. 18-1086. … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Will Decide When Trademark Infringers May Be Ordered to Forfeit Profits

On Friday, June 28, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the circumstances necessary to support an award of a trademark infringer’s profits under section 35 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a). Romag Fasteners Inc. v. Fossil Inc., et al., No. 18-1233. The ruling hopefully will resolve a long-standing circuit split over whether willfulness is a … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Holds Ban on Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks Unconstitutional

On June 24, 2019, the United States Supreme Court, in Iancu v. Brunetti, reviewing the trademark application for “FUCT”, held that the Lanham’s Act’s provision, prohibiting the registration of “immoral[] or scandalous” trademarks, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a)(1), violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This blog has followed the evolving judicial views concerning “disparaging” trademarks, culminating in the Supreme … Continue Reading

Supreme Court to Rule on Copyright Protection of State Annotated Legal Codes

On June 24, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether states can claim copyright protection in annotated codes. State of Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., No. 18-1150. Annotated codes, in addition to the text of the statute, include summaries of judicial opinions, regulations, and attorney general opinions related to the statute. Georgia, like many states, offers a … Continue Reading

Rejection (In Bankruptcy) Does Not Spurn Trademark Licensees

The United States Supreme Court in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC (No. 17-1657) (May 20, 2019) resolved a deep circuit split and held that a licensees’ rights under trademark licenses survive a debtor-licensor’s rejection in bankruptcy, resolving an ambiguity presented in the intersection of intellectual property law and bankruptcy law that has plagued courts for decades.… Continue Reading

Copyright Doubleheader At The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court unanimously decided two Copyright Act cases on March 4, 2019.

  • In Rimini Street, Inc. v. Oracle USA, Inc., the Court held that the provision in the Copyright Act that gives federal district courts discretion to award “full costs” to a party in copyright litigation, 17 U. S. C. §505, covers only the six categories specified in
Continue Reading

Disparaging, Immoral and Scandalous Trademarks in the Supreme Court: Beyond Tam to Brunetti

This blog has followed the evolving judicial views concerning disparaging trademarks, culminating in the Supreme Court’s decision in in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (June 19, 2017). Our extensive coverage can be found here. We have also followed the closely related issue of the “immoral or scandalous” clause presented in In re Brunetti, 877 F.3d … Continue Reading

Rapunzel May Be Released From Trademark Monopoly Tower

Rapunzel potentially was released from the trademark monopoly tower, not by her hair, but by trademark opposer and law professor Rebecca Curtin. In a decision issued on December 28, 2018, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) denied trademark applicant United Trademark Holdings, Inc.’s (“Applicant”) motion to dismiss Prof. Curtin’s opposition to registration … Continue Reading

The Skinny on “Thins”

According to the Federal Circuit, the skinny on the term “Thins” is that it may be generic for thinly cut snack crackers. Real Foods Pty Ltd. V. Frito-Lay North America, Inc., (October 4, 2018 Fed. Cir.).

In 2012, Real Foods Pty. Ltd. (“Real Foods”) applied to register the trademarks CORN THINS for “crispbread slices predominantly of corn, namely popped … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Extends Tam 1st Amendment Protections to Advertising

The Ninth Circuit extended the First Amendment protections enunciated by the Supreme Court in Matal v. Tam, 137 S.Ct. 1744 (2017)[1] to advertising in American Freedom Defense Initiative, et al. v. King County (9th Cir. Sept. 27, 2018).

Plaintiff American Freedom Defense Initiative is an organization co-founded by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, whose focus is to … Continue Reading

Hashtag Is Not Enough to Save Another will.i.am Trademark Application

William Adams is a musical performer who is more famously known by his stage name, will.i.am. A recent ruling from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, unfortunately makes him a two-time loser at the USPTO. The case, In re i.am.symbolic, llc, Serial No. 85916778 (TTAB, August 8, 2018) (precedential), is Mr. Adams’s second failed … Continue Reading

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority Pays a Big Toll for Pizza

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (“NJTA”) was forced to pay a big toll when the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”), dismissed its opposition to a pizza restaurant’s applied-for homage to the famous route to the Jersey shore.  In New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co., (Opposition No. 91219067 and Cancellation … Continue Reading

TTAB Guidance on Disclaimers and Acquired Distinctiveness: “Furniture Warehouse” Must Be Disclaimed, But “American” Need Not

In a precedential decision, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB” or the “Board”) affirmed a refusal to register the logo:

absent a disclaimer of the term “AMERICAN FURNITURE WAREHOUSE.” However, the Board also held that the phrase can acquire distinctiveness as a part of the overall trademark. In re American Furniture Warehouse CO,Continue Reading

Discovery Sanctions Affirmed Despite Dwarfing Potential Value of Entire Case

In Klipsch v. ePRO, the Second Circuit affirmed discovery sanctions commensurate with the costs incurred by the moving party in addressing the sanctionable conduct ($2.68 million), as well as security for the sanctions, potential damages and potential attorneys’ fees; and held that such sanctions are not unduly punitive even if the likely ultimate value of the case (perhaps as … Continue Reading

Tam Extended: Prohibition of “Immoral and Scandalous” Trademarks Unconstitutional

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently extended First Amendment protections for trademark applications in In re Brunetti, No. 15-1109 (Fed. Cir. December 15, 2017), ruling that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act’s prohibition against registration of “immoral and scandalous” matter violated free speech protections. This ruling comes as no surprise, in light of the rulings in … Continue Reading

B&B Hardware Precludes Defense To Likelihood Of Confusion In District Court

In 2015, the Supreme Court, in its decision in B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc. (“B&B”), held that sometimes issue preclusion should apply to prior Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) decisions. 135 S. Ct. 1293 (2015). Under this directive, if the TTAB decides the issue of “likelihood of confusion” when making a determination of trademark registrability … Continue Reading

TTAB Seals Fate of Trade Dress Claims for Design Covered By Utility Patent

It is natural for manufacturers to seek to widen their intellectual property protection. In the seminal case TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., 532 US 23 (2001), the Supreme Court struck down the plaintiff’s attempt to expand the reach of its expired utility patents by claiming trade dress protection in those designs. The Supreme Court ruled that “functional” … Continue Reading

No Twist on Pretzel Crisps on Remand

In a 54 page decision issued on September 6, 2017, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) ended (again) a long-standing dispute between snack food makers Frito-Lay, Inc. (“Frito”) and Princeton Vanguard, LLC (“Princeton Vanguard”) over the registrability of Princeton Vanguard’s PRETZEL CRISPS trademark. Frito claimed that “Pretzel Crisps” was a generic term that all parties are entitled to … Continue Reading

Supreme Court: Disparaging Speech Protected By First Amendment; Lanham Act Section 2(a) Unconstitutional: A Win for the Slants and the Skins

In a unanimous (albeit fractured) decision written by Justice Alito, the United States Supreme struck down a provision of the Lanham (Trademark) Act barring registration of “disparaging” trademarks, handing a victory to Asian-American rock band The Slants. In Matal v. Tam, No. 15-1293 (June 19, 2017), the Court held that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registering federal trademarks that … Continue Reading

Application or Registration? Eleventh Circuit Widens Circuit Split

The Eleventh Circuit has widened the circuit split on whether a copyright application or completed registration is required before filing a copyright infringement lawsuit. In Fourth Estate Public Benefit v. Wall-Street.com, the Eleventh Circuit held that a pending application to the Copyright Office is not sufficient. As a result, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Southern District of Florida’s dismissal … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Affirms That Designs Of Cheerleading Uniforms Are Copyrightable

As we previously blogged, the Sixth Circuit held in 2015, that the colors, stripes, chevrons, and similar graphic designs of the plaintiff’s cheerleading uniforms “are copyrightable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works” and are “not uncopyrightable useful articles.” The Supreme Court, in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., Doc. No. 15-866, affirmed, 6-2, in an opinion by Justice … Continue Reading

The Yellow Pages Live On

Calling the district court’s action an “abuse of discretion,” the 11th Circuit reversed a decision that cut by more than 90 percent a successful copyright infringement plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs. Yellow Pages Photos, Inc. v. Ziplocal, L.P., No. 16-11868 (January 24, 2017). This is the latest decision issued in the long-running dispute between Yellow Pages Photos, … Continue Reading

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