Benefits of a Federal Trademark Registration – FAQ

What are the benefits of a federal trademark registration? Answer: There are many benefits of a federal trademark registration, both direct and indirect.  Direct benefits are numerous and include: National protection of the mark; Ability to obtain injunctions stopping infringers; Ability to use the registration to apply for foreign trademark registrations; Greater access to the  federal court system; Assistance from the United States Custom in stopping counterfeit and infringing goods from importation; and Attorneys fees when proper notice has been attached to the goods or services. I In addition to these considerations, trademark registration provides indirect benefits in the form of being able to point to it when protecting marks used for social media accounts, protect against improper use in search engines, ability to obtain new domains in sunrise periods, and providing great leverage in UDRP and URS disputes against cyber-squatters. Why Provide these Benefits Providing these benefits serve two primary functions.  By granting these rights to trademark owners the government helps to incentivise business owners by...
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Trademark Registration Scam – FAQ

I filed a trademark application recently and suddenly I have been receiving papers from all these companies saying that I owe more money to finalize my trademark. Is this some kind of trademark registration scam? Answer: In December (2016) the Department of Justice announced that two men had pled guilty of a scamming owners of US trademark applicants. Through there company called the Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and Trademark Compliance Office (TCO), the men, Artashes Darbinyan and Orbel Hakobyan, stole approximately $1.66 million from registrants and applicants of U.S. trademarks through a trademark registration scam by sending fraudulent solicitation for additional filing fees. The USPTO worked with California law enforcement in this case and takes a number of steps to fight solicitations from companies fraudulently promising to protect trademarks. These questionable solicitations have been growing problem, both nationally and globally over the years. To help combat this, the USPTO has taken a number of steps. 1) Each Office Action regarding an application includes...
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Common Law Trademarks – FAQ

Am I protected with a common law trademark - without federal registration? Q: I recently started professionally my photographs in the US.  I registered the copyright for photos and have decided on new name for my company.   I think the name is pretty distinctive and I am not aware of anyone else selling a similar product by the same name.   Do I have to register my company name as a trademark to prevent others from using it or can I rely on the laws concerning common law trademarks? A: Kenneth’s answer:  Since your mark is not registered you are limited to the common law trademark rights. Common Law Trademarks are generally limited in scope to the geographic area where the mark is known (think of a restaurant where everyone has heard of it in one town, but is unknown in another). Common law trademarks can be enforced (but not as well and as easily as registered marks) in both state and federal courts. In...
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10 Trademarks Just in Time for Halloween

10 Trademarks Just in Time for Halloween

While some folks might think trademarks can be a little scary, I know that they can also be a little fun. G&S: Processed cereal-based food to be used as a breakfast food, snack food or ingredient for making other foods.Serial (no pun intended) 85120586 and 85120583  G & S: Beer.Serial: 86110135Yes - a stumbling disheveled guy is your image for beer - why didn't this get rejected as merely descriptive? G & S: Books in the field of children's literature.Serial: 86271191Whenever I put my child to bed, I always like to talk about monsters too - keeps her quiet when I tell her how she will get eaten-up if she asks for a glass of water. G & S: Parlour games.Serial: 86222077What the heck is a Haint you ask?  Well I had to look it up too - God bless American entrepreneurship.http://www.haintinabox.com/ G&S: Magazines featuring women modeling in horror-themed pictorials for entertainment purposes.Serial: 86506372And Playboy decided to get out of the nudie business - perhaps...
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Trump’s Trademark Issues

How long has Trump been planning this? Apparently Mr. Trump decided he liked the sound of "Make America Great Again" as  far back as 2012, when he first filed an application for the phrase with the Trademark Office (Serial 85783371).   However, in the application he seems to be  anticipating using it for a Political Action Committee, rather than for his own candidacy. The required list of services he listed were as follows: Political action committee services, namely, promoting public awareness of political issues. (IC 035) Fundraising in the field of politics. (CIC 036) However he was apparently not ready to use it back then, as he did not finalize the registration until earlier this year - about a month before he formally announced. Trademark Issue #1 Subsequently, on August 13th two new filings  (86724115 , 86724213) were made by him for the phrase and include an exhaustive list of such items as   Bumper stickers; decorative decals for vehicle windows; stickers; advertising signs of papers; advertising signs of cardboard; placards and banners...
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Color-only Trademarks

What do UPS, Tiffany and Co., and Owens Corning have in common?  The mere sight of the color of their product (Pullman Brown, Robin's Egg Blue, and Pink) brings to mind who they are without ever having to place a logo or word on their products.   These marks demonstrate how real people shop for goods and services and how trademarks are about providing a potential consumer resources to identify the source of the goods and services they are purchasing - while preventing others from using those identifiers to create consumer confusion. Color Trademarks The leading case involving color as a trademark is  Qualitex Co. V. Jacobson Prods. Co. (514 U.S. 159, 161, 163, 115 S. Ct. 1300, 131 L.Ed. 2d 248 (1995)), which noted that a color can sometimes serve as a trademark by itself  “when that color has attained ‘secondary meaning’ and therefore identifies and distinguishes a particular brand (and thus indicates its ‘source’).”   The Court went on to provide that...
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I have a great idea for a tee-shirt!!!

Tee-Shirt Trademarks I have a great idea for a tee-shirt - can I register it as a trademark??? Short answer - probably not.  The main issue with whether a slogan or word  operates as trademark is how it is used.   This is especially true of tee-shirts. If the mark / slogan is just printed on a shirt – no protection – the Trademark Office deems that as being “merely ornamental” (there is an exception when the mark is also used for other products or business name).  However if the mark / slogan is also used to identify the tee-shirt company, it may serve as a trademark and be registered (i.e. it is a “source identifier”) – the only caveat is that you would need to show it being used in that manner rather than just emblazoned on the front.  Showing the mark this way can be done be showing the phrase on things like the name of an online store, packaging, an inside-tag,...
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Pied Piper’s Trademark Problems

On a recent episode of HBO's new show Silicon Valley, the hapless coders find themselves in a bind when they realize that the "placeholder" company name "Pied Piper, Inc." was already in use by Pied Piper Irrigation, another California company. The problem is that they received a check from a venture capitalist in the name of the Pied Piper Inc. - humorous situations then ensue as the protagonist tries solve the problem - and then, I began ranting at the television to the chagrin of my wife. Why, you might ask, does this drive me crazy? Not because it is a common and overused plot point, but more notable because it gets both state registration laws and trademark laws completely wrong by muddling the laws of business registrations and trademarks. Someone already registered my business' trade name - what do I? A trade name is the name used to identify the business. States have varying restrictions on...
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Top 10 Lists

I was recently asked by an attorney friend about using the phrase “The Top Ten Reasons…” in relation to a top ten list (á la David Letterman) that she was planning on using in a marketing piece.  This wasn't a comic work meant to mimic the David Letterman version, but rather a serious piece meant to provide useful information regarding estate planning strategies.  So the question to me was whether she could use the “Top Ten List” format without running afoul of Letterman’s intellectual property. My response was that there was a very low probability of risk – the term “Top Ten List” is descriptive and therefore not generally protected by trademark unless it has acquired such distinctiveness that the term is pretty much only associated by one source.  While, in certain contexts it is undoubtedly a very famous list, it is hardly the only place in which you can find people putting together lists of things in quantities of 10. Further,...
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Linsane Trademarks

Linsane Trademarks

Since February 7th the Trademark office has received eight trademark applications for the term LINSANITY.   The products identified in applications range from clothing, jewelry, and sport drinks, to eyeglasses and cell phone covers.  The only problem is only one of these applications is on behalf of the Knick's Jeremy Lin (Serial 85541426); and it is a basic premise of trademark law that you can not register the name of a living person without that person's written consent.  Perhaps more concerning, however, is the attempt of people who know him to cash in on his name - one of the applications is by Roger Montgomery for the purpose of "Business management of sports people" (Serial 85542514) and who the Washington Post identifies  as Lin's own agent. While some of the applicants may try to argue that it is purely coincidental that they want to register the name in the middle of Mr. Lin's hot streak ("by Linsanity, I mean LENS...
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