Category Archives: Trademarks

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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

Making United States Consumer Safer For Tequila?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) recently dismissed Luxco, Inc.’s (“Luxco”) opposition to registration of the mark TEQUILA (in standard character format) by an official Mexican regulator as a certification mark for “distilled spirits, namely, spirits distilled from the blue tequilana weber variety of agave plant.” Luxco, Inc. v. Consejo Regulador del Continue Reading

A Family Victory! Victory! Just Not for Little Caesars

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) modified its treatment of the “family of trademarks” doctrine in the recent case In re LC Trademarks, Inc., Serial No. 85890412 (December 29, 2016) [precedential]. All but breaking with its past decisions on the doctrine, the Board has now announced the new rule that ex Continue Reading

First Circuit BAP Protects Trademark Licensees In Bankruptcy Despite Section 365(n)

The First Circuit recently issued an important interpretation of bankruptcy law that directly impacts trademark licensing rights. In In re Tempnology LLC, 559 B.R. 809 (1st Cir. BAP 2016), the First Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that a debtor-licensor’s rejection of a trademark licensing agreement “did not vaporize” the licensee’s contractual right to use the debtor’s mark and logo.  … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Grants Cert. in USPTO Appeal of Slants Decision: Whether The Ban On Offensive Trademarks Violates The First Amendment

The Supreme Court granted the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s petition for certiorari in In re Tam, 117 USPQ2d 1101 (Fed. Cir. 2016), discussed here and here. In that case, the USPTO denied registration of an application to register the trademark THE SLANTS for a rock/dance on the grounds that it was offensive to Asians or Asian-Americans.… Continue Reading

Trade Dress Claim Based on Shoe’s Rectangular Metal Toe Plate Booted by SDNY

The Southern District of New York recently booted shoe manufacturer LVL XIII Brands, Inc.’s trade dress infringement suit against Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. in LVL XIII Brands, Inc. v. Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A.. At issue in this lawsuit was Plaintiff LVL XIII’s claim to exclusive trade dress rights in a rectangular metal toe plate on its athletic shoe and … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Revives Trader Joe’s Federal Trademark Claims Brought In Washington Against “Pirate Joe’s” Operating In Canada

In Trader Joe’s Company v. Michael Norman Hallatt, the Ninth Circuit recently found that Trader Joe’s allegations of infringing conduct occurring within Canada supported a cognizable claim under the Lanham Act.

In particular, Trader Joe’s, a well-known American grocery store chain, filed suit in federal court in Washington State in 2013, alleging trademark and unfair competition claims under the … Continue Reading

Nominative Fair Use: The Second Circuit Joins Neither The Third Nor Ninth Circuits In Its Approach

In an important decision delineating the boundaries of fair use of another person’s trademark, the Second Circuit announced a standard by which nominative fair use of a trademark will be evaluated in that Circuit in International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc. v. Security University, LLC. Because the Court ruled that the district court made several legal errors in … Continue Reading

Generic Churrascos at the Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit recently provided additional guidance concerning whether an applied-for mark is generic in In re Cordua Restaurants, Inc., (May 13, 2016).  This case stemmed from the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to register the trademark CHURRASCOS (Stylized) in connection with “bar and restaurant services; catering.”  Applicant Cordua Restaurants, LP (“Cordua”) has long owned and operated … Continue Reading

En Banc Reconsideration Sought in FLANAX Case

Belmora LLC filed a petition for reconsideration en banc of the Fourth Circuit’s FLANAX decision in Belmora LLC v Bayer Consumer Care AG, Appeal No. 15-1335 (4th Cir. March 23, 2016). As we previously have blogged [here], the 4th Circuit reversed the Eastern District of Virginia’s dismissal for lack of standing, and found that use of the mark … Continue Reading

USPTO Drops 11th Circuit Appeal of ND Alabama Order In Houndstooth Case

We previously blogged ([here]) on Judge Proctor’s (ND Ala.) order directing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “Board”) to comply with the Court’s prior order, approving a settlement agreement between the University of Alabama and trademark applicant Mafia Enterprises LLC, which included vacating a prior Board decision that had been appealed to the District Court.  Although … Continue Reading

In re Tam Redux Redux: Redskins Petition for Certiorari, Trying to Skip 4th Cir.

In response to the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (“USPTO”) petition for writ of certiorari in to the U.S. Supreme Court In re Tam (“THE SLANTS” case), the owners of the Washington Redskins filed their own petition for certiorari, asking the justices to hear their trademark case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals weighs in. Pro-Football Inc. Continue Reading

In re Tam Redux: The PTO seeks Certiorari

On April 20, 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Federal Circuit seeking Supreme Court review of that Court’s decision in In re Tam, 117 USPQ2d 1001 (Fed. Cir. 2016), holding the disparagement provision of Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 USC §1052(a), to be facially … Continue Reading

FLANAX: Protecting Foreign Marks from US Unfair Competition Under Section 43(a)

In today’s increasingly global economy, trademark owners are more frequently butting up against the territorial limitations of trademark law. It has long been a matter of black letter law that trademark rights are territorial, subsisting only within the borders of the country where they are obtained.  This general rule can present serious obstacles to foreign brand owners who seek to … Continue Reading

TTAB Finds That Coexistence Agreement Does Not Support Coexistence

In a decision bound to impact trademark prosecution practice in the future, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) recently found that a consent agreement between a trademark applicant and the registrant of a similar prior-registered mark – that is, a coexistence agreement – was insufficient evidence that the parties’ respective use of … Continue Reading

The Hound’s-Tooth Bites Back: The Ghost of Paul “Bear” Bryant

Recently, a District Court judge issued a scathing rebuke to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama et al. v. Houndstooth Mafia Enterprises LLC, (N.D. Alabama February 23, 2016).  Judge Proctor’s memorandum opinion upbraided the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”) for ignoring his earlier-issued order to vacate the … Continue Reading

First Sale Defense Blocks “Slam Dunk” Copyright Violation

The Ninth Circuit recently addressed the burden of proof applicable to the first sale defense to a copyright infringement claim. That defense provides that, once a copy of a work is lawfully sold or transferred, the new owner has the right to sell or otherwise dispose of that copy without the copyright owner’s permission. In Adobe Systems, Inc. v. ChristensonContinue Reading

Stolichnaya: Comity or Confiscation; and Is That For US Courts to Decide?

The Second Circuit recently issued its latest ruling in a long-running legal battle over the trademark rights to the STOLICHNAYA trademark. In this latest decision in the 12-year dispute, the Court ruled that an agency of the Russian Federation has standing to sue the record owners of the U.S. trademark registration and its distributors in federal court under § 32(1) … Continue Reading

In re Tam: Section 2(a) Unconstitutional Under The First Amendment

In a landmark First Amendment decision relating to the Lanham (Trademark) Act, the Federal Circuit, en banc, struck down § 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.  § 1052(a), the statutory provision barring registration of “disparaging” marks.  By a 9-3 vote, the Court held that § 2(a) violates a trademark applicant’s free speech rights.  In re Tam, No. … Continue Reading

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