Category Archives: Trademarks

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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

TTAB Makes Double Brown Ale Open to Nut Sack Mark

In a ruling bound to please 15 year-old boys everywhere, the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) reversed the Examining Attorney’s refusal to register the trademark NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE (in standard character format) for “beer” on the ground that it was immoral and scandalous under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act. In re Engine 15 Brewing Co., Continue Reading

The North Face Scales Sanyang Applications For Clothing and Services

In The North Face Apparel Corp. v. Sanyang Industry Co., Ltd., Opp. No. 91187593 (September 18, 2015), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) handed The North Face Apparel Corp. (“The North Face”) significant victories its battle against Sanyang Industry Co. Ltd.’s (“Sangyang”) registration of its trademark.  … Continue Reading

A Wolf in Swiss Clothing: TTAB Finds No Bona Fide Intent to Use

The number of successful oppositions against trademark applications based on a claim that the applicant had “no bona fide intent to use” has been increasing in recent years. On September 10, 2015, in Swiss Grill Ltd. v. Wolf Steel Ltd., the United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) maintained this trend by sustaining an … Continue Reading

Trademark Specimens: Singular or Plural Matters

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently re-designated as precedential its May 12, 2015 decision that affirmed refusal to register a mark because the applicant’s specimens – showing the proposed mark in plural form, rather than in singular form – did not show the mark’s use in connection with any of the services specified in its application.… Continue Reading

Caveat Opposer: Preclusion Lurks at the TTAB

Recently, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “TTAB”) held that an unsuccessful opposer was precluded from later pursuing a cancellation against the same trademark owner, even though the opposer assumed a different corporate identity and the marks, goods and services at issue in the opposition proceeding were different from the marks, goods and services at issue in the cancellation … Continue Reading

Watch Out! Split Ninth Circuit Panel Rules Amazon Search Results May Violate Watchmaker’s Trademarks

The Ninth Circuit recently held that online retailer Amazon.com could be liable for infringing the trademarks of a watch manufacturer based upon Amazon’s product search results when shoppers search for the manufacturer’s trademarked watches that Amazon does not carry.  In a 2-1 decision intersecting trademark law and technology, the Circuit in Multi Time Machine, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. reversed the … Continue Reading

WD-40 Squeaks By On Appeal Of Its Summary Judgment Win On “Long-Term Corrosion Inhibitor”

In Sorensen v. WD-40 Company, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the use of the term “inhibitor” for a rust-inhibitor product was not trademark infringement and constituted a descriptive fair use.  In 1997, Jeffrey Sorensen (“Sorensen”) founded a company called Van Patten Industries and began selling rust preventative products under the name “THE INHIBITOR.”  The products … Continue Reading

Heinz Seeks “Smart” De Novo Review In Light Of B&B Hardware

H.J. Heinz Co. (“Heinz”) filed a federal lawsuit recently against Boulder Brands USA (“Boulder”) seeking to vacate and reverse a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision finding that Boulder’s SMART BALANCE trademark is not likely to be confused with Heinz’s SMART ONES trademark, and that the SMART ONES trademark is not famous.  H.J. Heinz Co. v. Boulder Brands USA, IncContinue Reading

Fourth Circuit Finds that First Amendment Trumps Trademarks

The Fourth Circuit recently ruled that a Defendant’s online article entitled “NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” did not violate the trademark rights of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  It, therefore, vacated the Eastern District of Virginia’s injunction against the Defendant for its article criticizing the NAACP’s stance on abortion.  The … Continue Reading

US Polo Ass’n Wins Its Latest Polo Match in the Second Circuit

The Second Circuit recently vacated a contempt order entered against the U.S. Polo Association for selling sunglasses with its logo depicting two mounted polo players vying for a ball. The Second Circuit found that the Southern District of New York failed to apply a “market-by-market analysis” to determine whether the U.S. Polo Association’s logo was confusingly similar to Ralph Lauren’s … Continue Reading

The House That Juice Built: TTAB Denies Registration To Parodies

On May 8, 2015, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) issued a resounding blow to trademark applicants who seek to register others’ trademarks as parodies.  In New York Yankees Partnership v. IET Products and Services, Inc., Opposition No. 91189692 (May 8, 2015), the Board announced that “parody” or “fair use” can never function as a defense in … Continue Reading

Keeping Up With the Lanham Act: Lanham Act Applies Extraterritorially to Kardashian Vicarious Trademark Infringement

In Kroma Makeup EU Ltd., v. Boldface Licensing & Branding, Inc., the Middle District of Florida held that a foreign licensee of a registered U.S. trademark could sue Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian for their alleged extraterritorial infringement of the trademark and further sue its licensor for refusing to share in the proceeds of a settlement regarding the same … Continue Reading

In Mardi Gras Tradition, Fifth Circuit Tosses IP Rights in Bead Dog

In Nola Spice Designs L.L.C. v. Haydel Enterprises, Inc., the Fifth Circuit recently cancelled a New Orleans bakery’s word and design trademarks for “Mardi Gras Bead Dog” – the bakery’s mascot based on the Mardi Gras tradition of parade-goers twisting their plastic beads into the shape of a dog. The appellate court also affirmed the Eastern District of Louisiana’s … Continue Reading

Slep-Tone and Karaoke Redux: Under Dastar, Bar Must Face the Music For Trademark Infringement

The Northern District of Illinois recently held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23 (2003), did not protect a karaoke bar from claims of trademark infringement and unfair competition based on the bar’s knowing use of unauthorized recreations of karaoke tracks. In Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Sellis Enterprises, … Continue Reading

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: 6th Circuit Confirms That Post-Trial Motions Toll The Deadline To File Attorneys’ Fees Motions And Extends Octane Fitness To Trademark Litigations

In Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Karaoke Kandy Store, et al., No. 14-3117 (6th Cir. April 6, 2015), the Sixth Circuit confirmed that post-trial motions toll the deadline for filing motions for attorneys’ fees under Rule 54.  Moreover, the Court held that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the phrase “exceptional case,” as that phrase is used in the fees provision … Continue Reading

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