Nutter’s series on building a brand began with the selection of a trademark and the process of formally protecting a mark via trademark registration. More recent articles in the series have addressed policing a brand, proper trademark usage, and brand considerations in the social media environment. This article, the last in the series, focuses on additional post-registration considerations, namely: (1) exploiting your mark through licensing, including important quality control considerations; (2) applying to register branding elements in addition to the core plain text mark to enable more effective policing of your brand’s entire commercial impression; and (3) assessing the unauthorized use of your brand by third parties (or using another’s mark without authorization) for purposes of determining whether such uses are “fair” or, on the other hand, harmful and actionable.
Last week, a sharply divided Federal Circuit, acting en banc (6-5), decided SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC to the delight of accused infringers. Laches remains a defense to damage claims in patent infringement cases, even for damages sustained within six years before filing suit, despite the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., which eliminated that defense for damage claims in copyright cases. The Federal Circuit also overruled prior precedent and held that laches may bar prospective injunctive relief. As a result, patent owners should put alleged infringers on notice and not wait to pursue their claims.
Recently the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, upheld the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) interpretation of 19 U.S.C. § 1337 to allow the ITC to prevent goods from being imported into the United States when the infringement does not occur until after importation. Although the panel was split 6-4, the primary practical justification for the majority’s decision stemmed from the determination that if the decision came out the other way, it would effectively make § 1337, and thus ITC cases, inapplicable to any induced infringement claims, as well as potentially all method claims. The case involved the importation of fingerprint scanning devices by the Korean company Suprema, Inc., which were then combined with software by Suprema’s American business partner Mentalix, Inc., before the scanners were actually sold in the U.S. The sole claim of the plaintiff Cross Match Technologies, Inc. that was at issue in the en banc appeal (claim 19) was directed to a method for capturing and processing a fingerprint image.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week issued a decision with implications for owners of music and audiovisual works. The court ruled that copyright owners first must assess whether a use of their content is in fact lawful “fair use” before sending a takedown notification under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Considering fair use involves a balancing of subjective factors, this newly-clarified requirement may make it logistically more difficult and time consuming for content owners to evaluate whether a use of their content discovered online qualify for takedown notices.
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?”
Summary: The nature of public trademark data lends itself to information mining and a significant amount of confusion, deception, and fraud. Accordingly, many private businesses have monopolized public data for their own commercial gain. These private businesses send scam e-mails and letters to clients and counsel including “invoices” that are often paid due to their perceived authenticity. To prevent deception by these fraudulent scams, clients should be advised of the nature of these scams and what to look for when receiving trademark related correspondence.
The Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (SJC) will decide an important legal malpractice case arising from an alleged conflict of interest that occurred during the prosecution of two patent applications. This decision will affect patent applicants and practitioners in Massachusetts, and courts in other states may look to this decision when analyzing alleged conflicts of interest in the patent prosecution context. Nutter attorney Heather B. Repicky recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Boston Patent Law Association (BPLA) on this issue. The BPLA argues that the adoption of a new conflict of interest rule that would prevent a patent practitioner from representing applications filed by competitors on “similar inventions” would create a great deal of uncertainty for both applicants and patent practitioners. Further, if this blanket rule were adopted, applicants might attempt to monopolize the marketplace for lawyers with specific expertise in order to gain a competitive advantage.
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.