- Posts by Patrick J. ConcannonPartner
Patrick J. Concannon is a partner in Nutter's Intellectual Property and Corporate and Transactions Departments. Pat co-chairs the Trademarks and Brands practice, with over 25 years of experience devoted to helping businesses ...
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.
Last month the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("the Office") announced its cooperation in a Department of Justice investigation into a trademark scam perpetrated by two California men that defrauded about 4,446 people of $1.66 million. Trademark scams have been steadily on the rise over the past few years, which we have previously written about here. The current investigation resulted in the arrest of Artashes Darbinyan and Orbel Hakobyan, both of Glendale, CA, and their guilty pleas to charges of mail fraud and money laundering.
Introducing a new how-to series about how to build a brand. Please check back periodically for the next article in our on-going series.
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.
To read more, click here.
What to Do Once Your Trademark Registers—The Brand & New Media
Eleventh in The Series
Nutter’s series on building a brand began with the selection of a mark and the process of formally protecting it via trademark registration. At this point in the series, the mark is registered and ready for use and investment to elevate it into a brand. One area that can impact your brand is the use of your mark in “new media,” such as the Web and social media services. New media works differently than anything that has come before and there is a great deal to consider, from reserving domains and usernames to monitoring use—both your own and others’—across these mediums.
To read more about building a brand through new media, please click here.
What to Do Once Your Trademark Registers – Avoiding Genericism and Dilution
Tenth in The Series
As discussed in the previous article in Nutter’s IP Branding Series, monitoring competitors’ use of your marks and marks possibly akin to your marks, and enforcing your rights in your marks against those competitors, is an important aspect of protecting and building your brand. Equally important is policing your own use of the mark, the use of your mark by licensed third parties, and the use of the mark by third parties that are neither competitors nor licensees. The graveyard of brands that were arguably too successful because the brand name became genericised is fraught with lessons to be learned in protecting the use of your mark. Dilution is also a concern, although it is becoming increasingly more difficult to successfully show that your mark is being diluted or tarnished.
Click here to read more about guarding against your mark joining the generic graveyard.
Our prior article in the series addressed the basics of what to do once your trademark registers, focusing mainly on your own use of the mark and supplemental submissions required to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in connection with your registration. Of course, your mark does not exist in a vacuum, and another category of activities you should undertake once your trademark registers involves monitoring the USPTO and other trademark offices for other potentially confusing or otherwise problematic marks and, where necessary, taking action to defend your mark. We also begin to address enforcing your mark through litigation, a vast topic that will be explored further in future articles.
To read more about monitoring, defending, and enforcing your mark, click here.
What to Do Once Your Trademark Registers – The Basics
Eighth in The Series
Following the conclusion of trademark prosecution, your certificate of registration has arrived in the mail. Now what? Over the course of the last three articles in our series, we will tackle this one, not so simple question. While a brand is nothing more than a mark (trademark or service mark) that has done well in life, like life, success comes with a little luck, and plenty of planning. Thus, obtaining the registration is truly just the beginning of your path to building a successful national or global brand. The present article will start with the basics—what you need to do to keep and maintain the trademark(s) you obtain.
To read more about keeping and maintaining your registered trademark(s) to help build and sustain your brand, click here.
Considering Your Brand during Trademark Prosecution
Seventh in The Series
The articles in our May and July editions of the IP Bulletin addressed eight of the most commonly asked questions that arise when completing a U.S. trademark application filing. Once the application has been filed with the USPTO, substantive examination by an examining attorney from the USPTO will commence in due course. In stark contrast to the long waits experienced by patent applicants, the average time between application filing and the issuance of a first Office Action is only 2.8 months at the time of this publication. There are many reasons why an examining attorney may initially reject a trademark application. When building a brand, an applicant should give special consideration to the response strategy before replying to any Office Action.
To read more about branding considerations when prosecuting trademarks, click here.
The article in our May edition of the IP Bulletin addressed four of the eight most commonly asked questions that arise when completing a U.S. trademark application filing. More particularly, we considered the trademark application form that should be used, the classes of goods or services to include in the application, the items included in the description of goods and services, and appropriate and acceptable specimen of use to be included as part of the application. The other four most commonly asked questions are tackled in this article, including: (5) should I include color or design features as part of my trademark application; (6) what is my filing basis; (7) what is my date of first use; and (8) what other considerations should I be making when preparing my U.S. trademark application?
To read more about the essentials of a filing U.S. trademark application, click here.
This fifth installment of Nutter’s continuing series on building a brand focuses on the essentials of filing a U.S. Trademark Application. The four commonly asked questions addressed in this article are: (1) what trademark application form should I use; (2) what classes of goods or services should I include in my application; (3) how do I decide what items I should include in my description of goods and services; and (4) what is an appropriate and acceptable specimen of use? Questions pertaining to color and design features, filing basis, dates for first use, and other considerations that should be made when preparing a U.S. trademark application will be included in our July edition.
To read more about the essentials of filing a U.S. Trademark Application, click here.
Where to File a Trademark Application: A Territorial Question
Fourth in The Series
Once you’ve checked off the five “Cs” and decided on the trademark you want to protect as part of building your brand, you next must decide where you want to file for protection. You see, even though Thomas Friedman has been driving the globalization “Lexus” since before the 21st century, and the reaches of the geography-obliterating, all-encompassing Internet and Mother Web connects Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, trademark rights themselves remain territorial. A single trademark application will not provide global property rights. This fourth article of Nutter’s branding series explores a trademark applicant’s various options regarding where to file a trademark application.
To read about three important territorial questions to consider when preparing a trademark application, click here.
Five “Cs” to Check-Off Your List Before You Decide on Trademarks
Third in The Series
This third installment of Nutter’s continuing series on building a brand focuses on considerations you should undertake before finalizing your selection of trademarks to build your brand. Before filing, consider taking the following five preliminary steps: (1) coordinate your efforts; (2) construct your trademark strategy; (3) conceive the overall design; (4) conduct a preliminary search; and (5) consider contacting an intellectual property professional. If you follow the five “Cs,” you can reduce the chances of finding yourself back at the drawing board coming up with a new idea for a trademark.
To read about how the five “Cs” can help make sure your branding strategy is on the up-and-up, click here.
Nutter's IP Bulletin How-To Series on Branding: Trademark Strong (or Weak?)
Second in The Series
This second installment of Nutter’s continuing series on building a brand begins to address issues faced by businesses in selecting a trademark. In particular, the issue of trademark strength is examined, as it can be an important factor in a branding campaign’s success.
To read more about the impact of trademark strength on mark selection, click here.
What is a Brand?
First in The Series
Branding is often an important part of commercial success for a company, product, or line of products. However, there is often confusion surrounding how to go about identifying potential brand names, selecting the best one, protecting that name, and enforcing protective rights to avoid losing the brand’s unique association with the product. In a series of articles in the next several IP Bulletins, Nutter will address these various legal aspects of branding. Today, we start at the beginning with a discussion of what a brand is, and how it relates to the legal world of trade and service marks.
To read more about branding, click here.
The U.S. Commerce Department recently released a comprehensive report, entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update” (the “Report”). The Report, which was co-authored by the Economics & Statistics Administration and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, builds upon an earlier 2012 report, finding that “IP-intensive industries continue to be a major, integral and growing part of the U.S. economy.” The Report provides a wealth of quantitative information and analysis on the value of trademarks, copyrights, and patents to the U.S. economy. Key findings include:
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.
There is a September 23, 2016 deadline for clarifying product or service specification wording within European trademark registrations in certain situations where that is necessary.
Trademark registration products and services are categorized by almost all commercially relevant national trademark registries around the world, including the U.S. and the E.U., into 45 International Classes (Classes). These Classes are used for administrative (particularly fee-charging) purposes. Also, to varying degrees depending upon the jurisdiction, Classes play a role in defining the parameters of trademark rights. For years there had been an understanding under E.U. trademark law that where an E.U. trademark registration covers so-called “Class heading” language, i.e., brief language that roughly summarizes the subject matter of a given Class, the registration is deemed to cover all of the more specific subject matter of the Class.
Professional service firms at times seem to focus on protecting the names of their service offerings or platforms at the expense of their house marks. Pat Concannon, a partner in Nutter’s Intellectual Property and Business Departments, with over 20 years of experience devoted to helping businesses establish and protect their brands, analyzes why professional service firms need to safeguard their house marks in Nutter Insights.
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.
The European Union’s (EU) trademark regulations are undergoing a significant overhaul as of March 23, 2016. For starters, the terminology is changing: the title “Community Trade Mark” or “CTM,” will be replaced by “European Union Trade Mark,” or “EUTM.”
There are more changes than can be fully summarized within the scope of this blog post. Here are three changes in particular that brand owners should be mindful of:
On December 22nd the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued its sua sponte en banc In re Tam decision regarding the constitutionality of the “disparaging” marks bar under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. A Federal Circuit panel previously upheld a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the TTAB) decision affirming the refusal under the disparaging marks provision of Section 2(a) of a trademark application for the mark "THE SLANTS." Would a “substantial composite” of Asians find the phrase THE SLANTS disparaging? The answer was “yes”, as detailed in our earlier blog posting on this case. Judge Moore, writing for the Federal Circuit panel in initially affirming the appeal decision, however, raised the question as to whether the court should consider the constitutionality issues about the registration standard raised by Mr. Tam on an en banc basis. Her peers agreed to do so.
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.