Category Archives: Trademark

Pick Your Passion: State’s Trademark May Be Used To Criticize Its Governor

In Dardenne v. MoveOn.org, the Middle Louisiana Federal District Court faced a conflict between trademark protection, on the one hand, and the First Amendment’s protection of political advocacy, on the other.  The Court concluded that trademark law cannot be used to suppress political advocacy, at least in the absence of a compelling need to protect […]

ICANN Top-Level Domain Name Opportunities and Risks

ICANN’s new generic top-level domain name (gTLD) program has introduced opportunities and risks for companies, and probably not in equal measure.  Several weeks ago, we posted some guidance  regarding steps all brand owners should be taking to secure their valuable trademarks in connection with the launches of the new top-level domain names.  Joshua Jarvis, a […]

Social Media Fan Accounts: Honoring a Celebrity’s Brand or a Trademark Violation?

Social media has become a powerful marketing tool, allowing celebrities to develop their brands and images with the help of Facebook updates or Tweets that can reach millions of fans at the same time. Given the importance of social media as a brand-building medium, how should the law treat “fan accounts,” which are created by […]

Crowd-Sourced Review Website May Incur Lanham Act Liability For Selectively Deleting Reviews

Today’s consumers depend on “crowd-sourced” review websites like Angie’s List and Yelp, which permit users to post and read reviews of goods and services.  Businesses feel a corresponding pressure to encourage favorable reviews on such websites.  But what happens when the website intervenes to regulate the reviews it hosts, perhaps (for example) by deleting reviews […]

Nine Thoughts On The Ninth Circuit’s “Innocence of Muslims” Copyright Decision

By now, you’ve probably heard the agonized shrieks of your friendly neighborhood copyright lawyer, decrying the Ninth Circuit’s opinion Garcia v. Google. If you haven’t had the time or inclination to read the opinion, here is a quick synopsis, followed by our list of nine ways in which many find the Ninth Circuit’s February 26, […]

“Facebook Said I Could” Defense Fails to Justify Digital Millennium “Trademark” Notice

CrossFit, Inc., the fitness training company, licenses its trademarked name and goodwill to over eight thousand affiliates worldwide at $3,000 per year per affiliate. When non-affiliate Jenni Alvies began posting on Facebook about fitness under the name “Crossfit Mamas” (including selling exercise apparel bearing the same name), CrossFit felt Alvies was infringing its mark. So […]

Hey, These Japanese Mushrooms Aren’t Organic: The Ninth Circuit Addresses the Material Difference Standard in Relation to Produce as Parallel Imports

The Ninth Circuit recently issued a decision upholding the lower court’s finding at summary judgment that a U.S. importer of branded, gray market mushrooms infringed upon the rights of the U.S. trademark owner.  Gray-market goods, also known as parallel imports, are branded goods legitimately produced and sold abroad that are imported into the United States […]

Celebrity Trademark Watch: What Do Bob Marley and Chicken Fingers Have in Common?

Apparently, the answer is “One Love.”  On December 6, 2013, Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd. (“Hope Road”), which controls reggae legend Bob Marley’s estate, filed a federal trademark infringement action against the restaurant company Raising Cane’s USA, LLC (“Raising Cane’s”).  Hope Road alleges ownership of the trademark ONE LOVE in connection with a number of […]

A Turkey of a Trademark: Why you can’t have “Baked Tam” for Thanksgiving

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from miser to profligate is marked by his purchase of a turkey for the Cratchit family.  Turkey used to be a luxury food, in most households suitable only for special occasions.  In the 1930’s, Americans ate an average of only 1.7 pounds of turkey each year […]

Summary Judgment Denied in Trademark Dispute over “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People”

Anti-abortion activist Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation thought  he had an unassailable First Amendment defense.  After all, his use of the phrase “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People,” in order to criticize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was in the context an on-line political dispute over abortion.  So […]

Zombie Trademarks: Are They Really an Undead Threat to Consumers?

 From AMC’s white-hot series The Walking Dead to the box office hit World War Z, the fictional zombie apocalypse is on a roll.  Be forewarned, however: there may be a real undead threat lurking in your local supermarket or shopping mall, namely the zombie trademark.  See, e.g., Anne Gilson Lalonde & Jerome Gilson, Gilson on […]

Sixth Circuit Rules that Trade Dress Law Does Not Prevent Copying of Functional Design

In Groeneveld Transport Efficiency, Inc. v. Lubecore International, Inc., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 18897 (6th Cir. Sept. 12, 2013), an industry veteran and a relative newcomer battled over the appearance of  a rather specialized product: automatic lubrication pumps for commercial trucks. The plaintiff, Groeneveld, began making its pump in the 1980s.  Lubecore, the defendant, began […]

The Madrid Protocol: Passage to India Now Open

We previously reported that India was scheduled to become the 90th member of the Madrid Protocol Concerning the International Registration of Trademarks (the “Protocol”).  We noted that this was a gratifying prospect, since India’s National Trademark Office is notoriously overburdened and slow-moving.  Under the Protocol, a country is typically required to examine a registration request […]

A Distinctive Fourth of July: Fireworks and Historical Figure Trademarks

Unless you are Leonardo Da Vinci or Julius Caesar, you would probably have trouble registering your last name as a trademark.  This is because last names are not generally considered to be inherently distinctive enough to qualify for trademark protection without proof of secondary meaning.  However, there is an exception for historical names that are likely […]

Mind Your Xs and Zs: Are These Letters Too Common in Pharmaceutical Trademarks?

  An interesting debate recently occurred in the New England Journal of Medicine between a physician and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding whether the letters X and Z are used too frequently in pharmaceutical trademarks. As most of our readers are well aware, the touchstone of whether any two trademarks can coexist […]

The Madrid Protocol: A Passage to Indian Trademark Registration

The Madrid Protocol Concerning the International Registration of Trademarks (the “Protocol”) provides a simple, unified, cost-effective means for citizens of member countries (including the United States) to register their marks in other member countries.  By using the Protocol, trademark owners can obtain a single “International Registration” designating some or all of the member countries, instead […]

Superheroes of Copyright: When Do Fictional Characters Enjoy Copyright Protection?

Several recent cases have highlighted the interesting issue of whether and when fictional characters – as distinct from the works they inhabit – are subject to copyright protection.  Over the years, courts have developed two main tests for determining whether characters are worthy of copyright protection.  First, as Judge Hand pointed out in the 1930 […]

Court Finds No Business In This Show Business Trademark Dispute

It is a basic principle of trademark law that a mark can only be assigned with the goodwill of the business to which the mark relates, for the good reason that the mark is in fact inseparable from the business.  But what kind of “business” is necessary to support ownership of a mark?  A recent […]

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Kardashians Kalled to Kourt?

Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé , the reality-TV triple threat otherwise known as the Kardashians, are going to have to keep up with the federal court in California.  The three sisters (not to be confused with Chekhov’s titular ladies), mostly famous for being famous, have been named in a trademark litigation counter-suit filed by the owner […]

The APP STORE Trademark Wars: New Year’s Installment

Amazon has recorded another success in its battle with Apple over use of the term APP STORE.  The U.S. District Court in California has granted Amazon’s motion for summary judgment on Apple’s claim of false advertising arising from Amazon’s use of the term APP STORE (or APPSTORE in practice) in connection with Amazon’s online store […]

Nike’s Successful Retreat Strategy: Trademark Defendant’s Invalidity Counterclaim Is Moot Following Plaintiff’s Covenant Not to Sue

Nike, having sued competitor Already LLC for infringing its marks, later issued a covenant not to sue to Already and sought to dismiss the case.  Defendant Already, however, had filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that Nike’s mark was invalid, and argued that that counterclaim should proceed.  The District Court dismissed the counterclaim, and the […]

Top 5 Reasons to Audit Your Trademark Portfolio in 2013

The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of where your company’s business has been and where it is headed.  If you have not done a trademark audit within the last few years, here are five good reasons why you should make it a priority in 2013. 1.  You may […]

SORT OF THE RINGS: Will Trademark Fair Use Protect Age of the Hobbits?

In August of this year, Warner Brothers finally announced the release of Age of the Hobbits, Peter Jackson’s long-awaited follow-up to his Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous fantasy novels. Age of the Hobbits tells the tale of a clever group of diminutive Indonesian tribesmen who convince Chinese actress Bai Ling […]

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Did Tim Tebow “Trademark” his Signature Move?

Within the past few days a number of news outlets, television programs, websites, and blogs have been reporting that former Denver Bronco and current New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has received a federal trademark registration for his signature, mid-game prayer gesture in which he drops to one knee while placing a fist against his […]

Product Liability Risk in Licensing Trademarks with Technology

A Connecticut Superior Court judge has upheld a jury verdict that once again demonstrates the product liability risks faced by trademark licensors, particularly those who license technology as well as their marks. In Hannibal Saldibar v. A.O. Smith Corp, the court upheld a $2.4 million judgment against the Tile Council of North America, which had […]

Seeing Red: Second Circuit Modifies Louboutin Trademark Registration

In a long-awaited decision, the Second Circuit, in a surprising twist, ordered that high-end shoe designer Christian Louboutin’s trademark registration for his signature red, lacquered outsoles be limited to designs in which such outsoles contrast in color with an adjoining upper. As reported earlier, Louboutin sued Yves Saint Laurent over its sale of red shoes […]

Colors as Trademarks: The Gloves Are On In This Baseball Brawl

Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. has brought suit (complaint here) against competitor Wilson Sporting Goods Co. for giving a Wilson® baseball glove with “metallic gold-colored webbing, stitching and lettering” to a major league player — Brandon Phillips of the Cincinatti Reds — who has won the “Rawlings Gold Glove” award in the past but is an […]

Foley Hoag Attorneys to Screen Provocative, Academy Award-Winning LOGORAMA Film and Lead Discussion of Copyright and Trademark Fair Use Issues

Honestly, who hasn’t fantasized at some point about Ronald McDonald grabbing an Uzi and slaughtering his way through corporate America?  LOGORAMA, the Academy Award-winning animated short, involves a gritty police chase set in a Los Angeles-inspired cityscape entirely populated by over 2,500 contemporary and historical trademarks and logos.  We couldn’t let this provocative and fascinating […]

Google AdWords Appellate Decision Injects Some Uncertainty Back Into the Keyword Game

Just when you thought it was safe to bid on competitors’ trademarks as keywords — provided you played it smart, and didn’t put trademarks in the actual text of your sponsored ad except under certain limited circumstances — comes the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Rosetta Stone v. Google. In its opinion, the Fourth Circuit reverses, […]

Not So Clever After All: Humorous Commercial on “Luxury” Lands Hyundai in Hot Water

In an ad run initially during the post-game show of the 2010 Super Bowl, Hyundai encouraged viewers to re-think “luxury” and as a result consider buying a Sonata. The ad, which can be viewed on YouTube here, juxtaposed images of “luxury” with everyday settings: policemen eating caviar, middle class houses with giant yachts parked next […]

Trademark Parody Dispute Puts Fashion Law in the Spotlight

Yesterday the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Penn Intellectual Property Group (PIPG) held its annual symposium, which this year focused on fashion law. David Nimmer, of copyright treatise fame, delivered the keynote, entitled “Copyright and the Fall Line.” However, despite the light-hearted topic and big-name headliner, the event was probably most notable for the apparent absence […]

Trademark Offices Warn Applicants of Solicitations by Unscrupulous Companies: How Can a Trademark Owner Protect Itself?

It seems that a trademark owner cannot file a trademark application without subjecting itself to a frenzied barrage of unwanted solicitations by companies seeking the payment of fees in exchange for various trademark-related services, such as publication in the company’s private database or registry, trademark monitoring services, or recordation of the trademark with customs authorities. […]

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Is It Possible to Hip Hop to the Front of the Line?

Every now and then celebrities enjoy perks that you and I can only dream about. For the world’s newest music celebrity, Blue Ivy Carter, this is doubtless true as she has recently gotten some unusual white glove service from a government agency — something we all wish we could get the next time we’re at […]

Court Tells Louboutin To Take A Hike. And He Does. To the Second Circuit.

On Tuesday, high-end shoe designer Christian Louboutin told the Second Circuit that District Court Judge Victor Marrero got it wrong when he ruled that Louboutin failed to make a preliminary showing that his hallmark red-soled shoes were entitled to trademark protection, basing that holding on the broad rule that a single color for fashion items could not be trademarked under the Lanham Act.

Anheuser-Busch Buys “Budweiser” Marks from Czech Brewer

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, owner of the U.S. “Budweiser” mark for beer, has recorded a small success in its longstanding efforts to establish worldwide exclusive rights to the Budweiser mark by purchasing the rights to Budweiser trademarks held by a small Czech brewery, Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar. However, this is a victory in a small skirmish in […]

Charbucks Wins Round 3 of Trademark Dispute with Starbucks

Stating that the antidilution law should be used as “a scalpel, not a battle axe,” Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York once again found that Starbucks failed to prove that the famous STARBUCKS trademark was likely to be diluted by the use of the marks CHARBUCKS BLEND, MR. CHARBUCKS, and […]

A New Twist on eBay: Compulsory Licensing in Copyright Cases?

As most readers know, the Supreme Court held in the 2006 eBay decision that injunctions were no longer to be the norm in patent cases, and irreparable harm was not to be presumed. Instead, injunctions are within the equitable discretion of the district court, and are to be granted only if the plaintiff has shown […]

Twitter and Twittad Settle Dispute over TWEET

The lawsuit between Twitter and Twittad about which we wrote yesterday has ended barely a month after it began. Twitter and Twittad announced on October 10, 2011, that they have settled their dispute over Twittad’s registration of LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS as a trademark. While the full terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, the Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter will drop its lawsuit, and Twittad will assign its rights in the registration to Twitter, although Twittad will continue to use the tagline with its services. [more]

Twitter Stakes Its Claim to TWEET

UPDATE: Twitter and Twittad have settled their dispute. Click here for details. ———————————————————————————————————————- The online “microblogging” service Twitter filed suit last month against Twittad, LLC, a company that enlists Twitter users to participate in advertising campaigns for pay. Twittad has registered the phrase LET YOUR AD MEET TWEETS with the United States Patent and Trademark Office […]

Teachbook Goes All In Against Facebook, But Fails to Obtain Early Dismissal

As mentioned in our prior blog entry, Facebook has sued Teachbook.com LLC in the Northern District of Illinois for infringement of the ubiquitous FACEBOOK mark, after losing a venue battle in the Northern District of California this past May. Facing an astronomically larger opponent, Teachbook went for an aggressive strategy that has tempted many a […]

Lamebook Faces Down Facebook

   As reported recently, Facebook has dropped its suit against Lamebook, the subject of our prior blog entry, pursuant to a settlement agreement. This followed Facebook’s unsuccessful attempt to have the case transferred to its home turf in the Northern District of California. According to the news report, Lamebook got to keep its name as […]

Overhyped “Trademark Bully” Study Delivers Predictable Results

The long-awaited study of so-called trademark bullies was recently released by the Department of Commerce. As you may recall from our prior blog post, the study was the result of legislation filed by Senator Leahy of Vermont and signed into law by President Obama on March 17, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-146, Sec. 4). The legislation gave the Secretary of Commerce one year to “study and report to [Congress] the extent to which small businesses may be harmed by litigation tactics [by corporations] [the purpose of which is] attempting to enforce trademark rights beyond a reasonable interpretation of the scope of the rights granted to the trademark owner.” (Subsequent to enactment, the words “of corporations” were stricken and replaced by “the purpose of which is” by Pub.L. 111-295, Sec. 6(h).)

Apple and the Beatles: The End of a Long and Winding Road?

The decision by Apple Corps, the Beatles’ music company, to allow distribution of Beatles songs on iTunes appears to have been vindicated by the initial sales figures achieved (two million singles sold in the first week, reports Billboard). However, the release of Beatles’ music on iTunes, the final act in the resolution of the long-running […]

Facebook’s Evil Twin: Lamebook

Lamebook, LLC operates a website, www.lamebook.com, at which people can submit amusing (or merely “lame”) messages and photos appearing on facebook.com – its tag line is “the funniest and lamest of facebook.” (Warning: some of the content is funny or lame mainly because it is off-color.) The editors screen the submissions and remove identifying information […]

Inherent Distinctiveness vs. Secondary Meaning: Chippendales Fights On Despite Setbacks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has affirmed the decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that Chippendales’ “Cuffs & Collar” trade dress (pictured below) is not inherently distinctive for “adult entertainment services, namely, exotic dancing for women in the nature of live performances.” In re Chippendales USA, Inc., No. […]

TIFFANY Update: False Advertising Claim Rejected

In what would appear to be the final chapter of the battle between online giant eBay and luxury jeweler Tiffany, a Southern District of New York judge has bounced Tiffany’s false advertising claim, the only claim remaining following a Second Circuit decision earlier this year.    On remand, the district court focused on whether eBay’s […]

Trademark Licensors Beware: You May be on the Hook for Your Licensee’s Defective Products

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has served up a reminder to Massachusetts trademark licensors that they may be subject to liability for injuries caused by defective products bearing their licensed mark, even if they are not the manufacturer or seller of the defective product. Under the "apparent manufacturer" doctrine, a nonseller trademark licensor may be liable […]

Sports Franchise Marks and Logos: One Owner, or Many?

In American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the National Football League was subject to suit under the Sherman Antitrust Act regarding its practices in licensing team trademarks to merchandisers. Between 1963 and 2000, the IP licensing entity set up by the league, NFL Properties, had “granted nonexclusive licenses to […]

The Private Counterfeiting Police: Tiffany (NJ), Inc. v. eBay Inc.

There is something for trademark holders and service providers alike in the Second Circuit’s opinion in Tiffany (NJ), Inc. v. eBay Inc. (PDF). In that case, the court held, among other things, that eBay’s Herculean anti-counterfeiting measures precluded direct and contributory liability for trademark infringement. The court reasoned that under either theory of liability, the […]

Has South Butt Really Had the Last Laugh in Trademark Parody Dispute?

As previously reported, North Face sued South Butt for trademark infringement and dilution for using the name THE SOUTH BUTT and an arc designed to evoke the well-known logo for THE NORTH FACE. On the eve of a preliminary injunction hearing, the parties reported that they had settled their claims. The Court thereafter entered two […]

Likelihood of Confusion: Similar Suffixes Do Not Suffice

Proving that history repeats itself, the TTAB recently decided a case that is strongly reminiscent of a matter we handled several years ago. In 2005 we defeated a challenge by Missiontrek Ltd. Co. to the registration of the software mark ONFOLIO, owned by our client Onfolio, Inc. Missiontrek claimed that ONFOLIO was confusingly similar to its previously-registered […]

Settlement of South Butt Case Unfortunate for Trademark Owners and Parodists Alike

In a lawsuit that has grabbed the attention of the trademark community, The North Face Apparel Corp. sued The South Butt, LLC, its founder (college student Jimmy Winkelmann), and a pharmacy that sold allegedly infringing goods for using the mark THE SOUTH BUTT on clothing that resembled the style of clothing sold under the well-known […]

Welcome!

Welcome to the Foley Hoag Trademark & Copyright Law Blog! In this space, we will aim to keep you apprised of significant developments in the law of trademarks, copyright, false advertising, domain names and the Internet, and related areas. We will also share with you our thoughts on key legal developments, highlight instructive real-world lessons […]