Archive | Trademarks

Why You Should Own and Control Your Domain Name

“Do you want to build your online brand on the sand of someone else’s domain registration or on a bedrock of a domain registered in your name?”

FLNBIf you buy a piece of land, a house, or a building, would you allow the title to that property to name your real estate agent or your maintenance contractor? No, you would not. When you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on something you make sure that you actually own it in your name.

The same should be true when you buy a domain name for your website, regardless of the price. You should own and register it in your name, and not your technology provider’s name or anyone else’s name. When this is not the case, it can …

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Incontestable Status of Mark Found Generic Does Not Prevent Exceptional Case Attorney Fees

REACTIVEGeoDynamics sued DynaEnergetics for trademark  infringement of GeoDynamics’ REACTIVE trademark. GeoDynamics owned U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,496,381 for the REACTIVE mark. After a bench trial the court found that REACTIVE was generic for the goods of fracturing charges for use in oil and gas wells and ordered the registration cancelled.

The defendant moved for fees and the court agreed that GeoDynamic’s trademark case was exceptional based on the weakness of its case. GeoDynamic asserted that the case was not exceptional because, among other reasons, the REACTIVE mark had achieved incontestability status at the USPTO. The court rejected that view. The incontestability status was not a bar to finding the case was exceptional.

Incontestability is somewhat misleading because “incontestability” is only achieved with respect to some grounds on which the registration …

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Multi-Color Design Trademarks and Trade Dress

SATA_Italco_PaintSATA GmbH sued Discount Auto Body and Paint Supply LLC for infringing its product design trademarks in the alleged sale of paint spray guns. SATA GmbH & Co. KG v. Discount Auto Body and Paint Supply LLC, No. 2-17-cv-03101 (D.N.V. 2017).

This case demonstrates that it is possible not only to obtain trademark protection in a product design comprising a single color applied to an area of the product, but also on any color applied to an area of a product. In other words, the use of any color on an area of a product can itself act as a trademark, indicating a source of goods and/or services.

One of the trademark SATA asserted was U.S. Trademark Registration No. 2,770,801 for a design mark of “a green band of color extended around the circumference …

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How to Find Cases Interpreting the Illinois Trademark Registration and Protection Act

The Illinois Trademark Registration and Protection Act (“Illinois Trademark Act”) provides a system for registering and enforcing trademarks in Illinois.  765 ILCS 1036/1 et seq. However, in many instances there may not be any relevant cases interpreting the provisions of the Illinois Trademark Act. Section 90 of the Act may solve this problem by providing that cases interpreting the federal Lanham Act are persuasive authority for interpreting similar provisions of the Illinois Trademark Act. 765 ILCS 1036/90.

In particular, section 90 states:

…The intent of this Act is to provide a system of State trademark registration and protection substantially consistent with the federal system of trademark registration and protection under the Trademark Act of 1946, as amended. To that end, the construction given the federal Act shall be examined as persuasive …

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Reversing Order of Words of a Mark and Consistent Use of a Mark

CAGE_PHConventus Orthopaedics applied to register two marks CAGE PH and PH CAGE for surgical implants. The Examining attorney refused registration on the basis that each mark was descriptive. The Examining attorney argued that PH was descriptive for proximal humerus (bone). The TTAB reversed finding that there was not enough evidence to show that PH was descriptive.

What’s interesting about this case is that the applicant applied to register CAGE PH (No. 86534128) and its reversed/transposed order PH CAGE (No. 86534174). This is unusual. Normally you want to use a mark consistently in order to properly build trademark rights. Inconsistent use of a mark can negatively impact your trademark rights.

Further, the TTAB has said that reversing or transposing the elements/words of a mark does not avoid a conflict when the overall commercial impression …

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Name with Dictionary Definition Involving Illegal Activity: How Will it Play with the Jury

ContrabandYesterday, I wrote about Contraband Sports LLC’s lawsuit for declaratory judgement that its four finger weight lifting glove does not infringe Fit Four LLC’s design patent D652,607. If this case goes to trial, could there be any difficulty arising out of Contraband’s name?

On one hand, a party’s name should have no bearing, merits-wise, on whether or not it infringes a patent. On the other hand, does Contraband’s name have a negative connotation that could impact the jury?

The Oxford English dictionary provides one definition of “contraband” as “goods that have been imported or exported illegally.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary provides an other definition of the term as “illegal or prohibited traffic in goods.” Dictionary.com provides a definition of the term as “anything prohibited by law from being imported or exported.”

Say …

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Stats Require Context to Support Assertion that Mark is Famous: $33M Sales, $1.8M Marketing Not Enough

KUHL_KUL_Marks

Daniel Shuff applied to register the mark KU:L for bicycles. Alfwear Inc opposed the application based on its registered marks KUHL, KÜHL, and KUUL for lip balm, fabrics clothing, including rugged outdoor clothing.

Alfwear attempted to show that its mark was famous. But showing that a mark is famous is hard. A famous mark must have extensive public recognition and renown. Aflwear presented evidence that:

  1. it had used the KÜHL mark since 1993,
  2. it used the mark on 200 styles of outdoor clothing per year,
  3. it had $33 million in retail sales in 2012,
  4. it sold over 1 million pairs of pants in 2015,
  5. it spent about 1.8 million a year between 2012 and 2016 marketing and advertising,
  6. it sold its products in over 1000 retailers through out the US, including in REI, Scheels,
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Spaces and Plurals Unlikely to Distinguish Trademarks

NEXTHOMESMainstream Property Group, LLC applied to register the mark NEXT HOMES  for providing assisted living facilities as well as for providing long-term care facilities and short term rehab facilities for seniors. NextHome, Inc. opposed the application based on its NEXTHOME mark, which was registered for real estate brokerage services.

The Board found that the only differences between the marks were (1) the space between “Next” and “Homes” and (2) the HOMES in the applicant’s mark is plural while the opposer’s mark has HOME singular. The Board concluded that “these minute changes do not distinguish the marks.”

The Board went on to find that there was a likelihood of confusion between the marks because the opposer provided its real estate brokerage services to seniors.

Minor differences, such as word spacing or …

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Bar on Registrating Disparaging Trademarks Violates the First Amendment

TheSlantsSimon Tam a member of the rock group “The Slants.” Tam applied to register the mark The Slants. But the USPTO refused registration under section 2(a) of the Lanham Act asserting that the mark was disparaging. In June of 2017, the Supreme Court found the section 2(a) prohibition on disparaging marks violated the First Amendment in Matal v. Tam, No. 15-1293 (2017). It is an important ruling in the Federal Circuit’s decision striking down the bar on registration of immoral and scandalous marks, so I’m going back to review it now.

Tam’s Aim to Reclaim Ethnic Slur

Tam chose the name “The Slants” to reclaim and take ownership of stereotypes about people of Asian ethnicity. The band draws inspiration for its lyrics from childhood slurs and mocking nursery rhymes. It has …

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Bar on Registering Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks Violates First Amendment

fuctErik Brunetti acquired ownership of a trademark application to register the mark FUCT for apparel. The USPTO refused to register the mark under section 2(a) of the Lanham Act asserting that it was immoral or scandalous. But the Federal Circuit found that the provision banning registration of marks comprising immoral or scandalous matter violated the First Amendment. In re Brunetti, no. 2015-1109 (Fed. Cir. 2017). This clears the way for FUCT to register, unless the government appeals this ruling.

The Brunetti case follows the Matal v. Tam, No. 15-1293 (2017) case where the Supreme Court struct down as violating the First Amendment another provision of section 2(a), which barred the registration of marks consisting of material that is disparaging. The outcome in Brunetti is not surprising in light of …

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