Imagine you’re a fashion designer with a unique clothing design. As with any other business, you wish to protect your intellectual property through the standard combination of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Sounds simple, right?
Wrong! There is no one-stop shop for protecting your intellectual property and, until recently, the law was not completely on your side. Though a single garment may be the result of a single creative process by a designer, multiple mechanisms may be needed to protect the design of that garment. One of those mechanisms—copyright law—historically has presented a significant hurdle to protecting fashion designs. The Supreme Court, however, recently clarified and expanded how copyright law can be leveraged to protect designs, often quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Below is a high-level overview of the various legal forms of protection for the fashion industry and what those legal mechanisms cover.
We have written previously about Scholz v. Goudreau, No. 13-CV-10951 (D. Mass.); the case recently went to trial on the parties’ surviving claims, and they are now immersed in post-trial briefing.
Tom Scholz and Barry Goudreau were once bandmates in BOSTON, and since Goudreau left the group in 1981, the two have occasionally litigated the trademark ramifications of his post-BOSTON career. The present dispute mostly arose from promotions tied to other musical acts and events that Goudreau was associated with.
The public comments have been considered and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rule changes proposed in April 2016 and summarized in this blog post have been confirmed with only minor exceptions. The new rules will be effective on January 14, 2017, and will apply to all opposition and cancellation proceedings active on that date or subsequently filed.
Cue, Inc. sells high-end home audio equipment (e.g., table radios and speakers). In 2007, it applied to register the trademark CUE ACOUSTICS, and in late 2009 the USPTO allowed its application. Cue’s CUE ACOUSTICS mark was registered in August 2012, and later that year, its application for a separate mark—CUE—was allowed. Cue filed a Statement of Use for the CUE mark in November 2015.
In the summer of 2012, Jeremy Southgate applied with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register a design mark for “Sound Spark Studios.” A little over a year-and-a-half later, Southgate formed Sound Spark Studios, LLC, and he registered it in Delaware. He characterized the entity as a “music and entertainment company.” The Sound Spark Studios design mark was registered on September 16, 2014.
On April 4, 2016 the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that details proposed changes to the USPTO’s rules of practice for trademark application opposition and registration cancellation proceedings. Public comments are due by June 3, 2016. While it is possible that the rules will be modified further before being finalized based upon public comment, it is likely that the rules ultimately will take effect substantially in the form published.
In a decision dismissing plaintiffs’ claims of service mark infringement, the District of Massachusetts held that the plaintiffs’ transfer of “goodwill” in an asset purchase agreement also transferred plaintiffs’ rights to their service marks. In Pereyra and City Fitness Group, LLC v. Sedky, et al. (No. 15-cv-12854, 2015 WL 7854061, December 3, 2015) plaintiffs City Fitness and its sole owner, Roberto Pereyra, alleged that defendants unlawfully used City Fitness’s service marks after the parties executed an Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) that did not explicitly transfer the service marks to the defendants. Pereyra and City Fitness negotiated the APA with the defendants for the sale of City Fitness’s three Eastern Massachusetts health clubs, as well as the company’s assets. City Fitness operated its health clubs under the trade name “Leap Fitness” and registered two service marks under that name. The Leap Fitness marks appeared on the company’s signage, letterhead, business cards, t-shirts and its website. Defendants continued to use the marks for identification, marketing and promotional purposes after the deal with City Fitness.
In Scholz v. Goudreau, No. 13-CV-10951, 2015 WL 5554012 (D. Mass. Sept. 21, 2015) rock legends are before the District of Massachusetts grappling, in part, over a familiar band’s legacy.
After guitarist Barry Goudreau left the band BOSTON in 1981, he filed a suit against Thomas Scholz—one of the band’s founders—as well as BOSTON’s other members, in order to ascertain the parties’ rights and obligations going forward.
On September 1, 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a pilot program that allows some trademark owners the opportunity to amend their identifications of goods or services that would otherwise be beyond the scope of the current identification. The program allows owners to “catch-up” their trademark registrations with the “wheels of technology” so to speak. Did your company at one time obtain a trademark registration covering “printed newsletters” that are now offered as “downloadable online subscriptions?” Or perhaps your company had a registration for “phonograph records featuring music” that is now offered as “downloadable music files?”
The doctrine of “initial interest confusion,” scorned by many legal commentators and rejected by numerous courts, is alive and well in the Ninth Circuit, as evidenced by its recent usage by a watch manufacturer to overcome a summary judgment motion by online retailer Amazon. The initial interest confusion doctrine holds that a defendant can be deemed liable where a plaintiff can demonstrate that consumers are likely to be confused by a defendant’s conduct at the time of the consumers’ initial interest in a product or service, even if that initial confusion is corrected prior to an actual purchase. The doctrine is prevalent in so-called “keywords” cases in which one company pays the proprietor of an Internet search engine (e.g., Google) to prominently display the paying company’s website(s) in Internet searches conducted by consumers that include keywords such as a competitor’s company name or products. Alternatively, in the present case, the proprietor of the searchable website uses particular keywords associated with one company or product to drive consumer traffic to a similar product offering.
Maximizing the protection and value of intellectual property assets is often the cornerstone of a business's success and even survival. In this blog, Nutter's Intellectual Property attorneys provide news updates and practical tips in patent portfolio development, IP Litigation, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and licensing.