What does Consideration mean in a Contract?

WhaQuestion for Trademark lawyert does it mean for a contract to be not enforceable because of a lack of consideration?

Answer: In order for a contract to be enforceable, the mutual promises of the parties must be supported by “consideration”. Considerations means each party gives something of value to the other.  The reason that the courts and legislatures generally require some form of consideration is to insure that the promises being made are not merely a casual statement, and accident, or gratuitous – in short – to make sure the people making the agreement really mean it. Consideration looks at whether the parties have assumed an obligation on the condition of an act or forbearance of another. Except in cases of employment matters, Minnesota courts generally do not look at the adequacy of the consideration being offered – only whether some consideration has been exchanged. For written agreements, the court presumes valid consideration. While adequacy of consideration is not usually analyzed, vague or indefinite terms of consideration (including other conditions of the agreement) may invalidate an agreement, unless it is clear from the subsequent actions.

In contracts related to copyrights and trademarks, this mean that things like royalties might be subject to discontinuance if the only thing that it does is to grant a right to use the IP and it turns out the licensor in fact does not have the rights in the first place (assuming the licensor did not know that the rights were invalid). However, if the contract also goes on to provide that the licensor will discontinue use of the rights for their own use, this forbearance may be enough to be deemed adequate consideration to enforce the contract.

Consideration is important as a part of any contract.   When setting up a licensing arrangement it’s important that you evaluate what the parties are exchanging.

Trump’s Trademark Issues

How long has Trump been planning this?

MAGAApparently 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 , 86724213were 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 of paper or cardboard; printed publications, namely, pamphlets providing information regarding Donald J. Trump as a political candidate; posters; pens
  • Clothing, namely,sweatshirts, T-shirts, tank tops, long sleeve shirts; headwear, namely, caps and hats; baby clothing, namely, one piece garments; children’s clothing, namely, t-shirts
  • Campaign buttons, and
  • interestingly a series of items referencing “Political campaign services”.

This last items underscores an interesting question. Why include this if he already had the rights for “Political action committee services” –  while I won’t pretend to know, the answer may lie in the fact that a Political Action Committee recently popped up using the same name which begs the question that if the trademark is Trump’s – he is either coordinating with the PAC, or  he needs to police it and demand they change the name in order to preserve his rights.

Trademark Issue #2

On August 5, 2015, a another party filed an application for “Make America Great Again” for 

  • All purpose sport bags; Backpacks; Duffel bags; Knapsacks; Tote bags; Umbrellas and
  • Footwear; Hats; Jackets; Pants; Shirts; Short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirts; Shorts; Socks; Sweat shirts; Swim wear

This application was filed as an intent to use application, while Trump’s August 13 application alleged prior usage as of 4/12/2015.   Trump’s second August 13 application however, listed the identical items “All purpose sport bags; Backpacks; Duffel bags; Knapsacks; Tote bags; Umbrellas” as being as intent to use.  So what? – you might ask. Strictly speaking, this would normally mean that the other filer would have priority over any claim has on exclusive rights to the phrase for the purposes of items like these., but the fact that he has now filed an application for identical goods hints that he will oppose the issuance of other applicant.

I also think it is safe to say that Mr. Trump plans to use this application to try and stop anyone from using the phrase on any merchandise from now on.  Ebay is Awash in items already . The real question will be if he can be successful in enforcing the mark for these items (See trademarking a phrase for tee-shirts).

 

 

Ten Cute Cat Trademarks

Ten Cute Cat Trademarks

Because cats make everything more entertaining.  (search using (03.01.04)[DD]  and  (2)[MD]).  A sample of 10 recent applications for cat related trademarks for your viewing pleasure.

1.  Content Kitty (such a peaceful face)

Mark Image
Serial Number: 86468722 Description of Mark The mark consists of the face of a cat.

 

2.  Lethal Kitty (HiYA!!)

Mark Image
Serial: 86330685 Description: The mark consists of a stylized standing white cat with yellow eyes and wearing gray pants, gray shoes, and a blue jacket that has white trim, two visible white buttons and a white Chinese language symbol. The cat is standing upon a black oval.

 

3.  Hello Kitty (one of many recently filed applications)

Mark Image
Serial: 86582292 Description: The mark consists of the face of a kitty.

 

4. Butt Kitty (Ok –  this one creeps me out a little)

Mark Image
Serial: 86468165 Description: The mark consists of a feminine cat facing {walking} away, with tail up exposing a heart shape on the butt.

 

5. Knitted Kitty (this one is for “knitted underwear” -’nuff said -cool design)

Mark Image
Serial: 86426751 Goods: Knitted underwear.

 

6. Hipster Kitty (jeez – everyone knows cats prefer the chevron)

Mark Image
Serial: 86543982 Description: The mark consists of the stylized image of a cat’s head with a mustache.

 

7. Creepy Kitty (with dog overlord)

Mark Image
Serial: 86484950 Description: The mark consists of Cat having a primarily orange-brown fur coat and white chest laying in front of a seated dog having a primarily grayish-tan and brown fur coat and black nose, where both the cat and dog are depicted with large human-like smiling mouths with red lips and bright upper and lower white teeth showing, and a radiating sparkle emanating from the upper right-hand corner of each mouth.

 

8. Masked Kitty (what possible advantage would a cat have trying to pretend he’s a dog?)

Mark Image
Serial: 86420033 Description: The mark consists of a stylized cat wearing a dog mask.

 

9. Anthropomorphic Kitty (why no shoes on the hands??)

Mark Image
Serial: 86057456 Description: The mark consists of stylized image of a kitten wearing a dress and tennis shoes.

 

10.  Plain old Cute Kitty (just because)

Mark Image
Serial: 86056395 Description: he mark consists of a pictorial representation of a kitten in a woman’s hands. There is a purple arc to the left of the kitten. The kitten’s fur is white, black and gray. The kitten’s nose is pink and its eyes are blue and black. The woman’s hands are shades of tan. Both the kitten and hands have white highlights. The area between the kitten and the purple arc is white.

 

content kitty

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

Color TrademarksThe 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 if the color serves a “function” then it by definition is not protected by trademark law.  Function is broken out into “utilitarian” and “aesthetic” functionality – this is largely a nod to the availability of other areas of intellectual property such as patents (dealing in realm of utility), and copyright (entwined with issues of aesthetics) which are designed for these  uses.  What is left is color used as a source identifier – clearly within the scope of trademarks.

Courts, however, recognize that such use is limited and has potential to be damaging to many industries if overused, and as a result have taken the position that color by itself is not inherently distinctive, and as a result most color-only marks will have had to acquire distinctiveness through actual use.   This means that new users of a color, wishing to register color-only marks are limited to filing applications on the supplemental register until such time that they can show the mark has acquired distinctiveness.

Call 612-414-3113 to discuss how I can help you with your trademark and copyright related matters.

Additional Resources

 

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, or a hang-tag.

So “Peanuts for Everyone” emblazoned on the front of a shirt – likely not a trademark.  PEANUTS FOR EVERYONE brand tee shirts, with slogans like “Peanuts for Everyone” on the front – trademark.

With that said, if “Peanuts for Everyone” is included in a design on the shirt; that particular design may have copyright protection, but the phrase by itself is unlikely to retain the protection.