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The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has released the latest edition of its annual Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, in which it highlights marketplaces that it claims facilitate substantial intellectual property infringement. Alibaba Group's Taobao remains on the list, and in response, Alibaba has labelled itself “a scapegoat for the USTR to win points in a highly-politicised environment” and claims that it "not only met but dramatically exceeded" last year's recommendations.
New figures show that the US Trademark and Patent Office (USPTO) received over 440,000 new trademark applications in 2017, a rise of more than 13% year on year. Writing for World Trademark Review, USPTO Trademark Commissioner Mary Boney Denison has promised that a “substantial number” of examiners would be hired in 2018 to ensure that the office can handle the increase in application volume effectively.
While consumers enjoy the low prices offered on Black Friday, the sales period is a significant challenge for trademark practitioners especially for protecting shoppers from online scams. Exclusive research looks at how well-known fashion and retail brands have utilised (or not) key new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), including ‘.blackfriday’ and ‘.shop’. We find that few brands are taking advantage of new gTLDs for marketing purposes and, unsurprisingly, numerous examples of cybersquatting and unusual examples of brand hijackings.
Boycotts, backlashes and Russian bots: Keurig crisis highlights challenge for brands in politically partisan times
It has been a particularly tumultuous week for coffee maker Keurig, with the hashtag BoycottKeurig trending on social media following the company’s public declaration that it was pulling advertising linked to a right-wing news pundit. As one expert tells us, the week’s events highlight the challenge that brands face at a time when partisan tensions are at an all-time high.
US trademark filings from China soar, but law firms struggle to capitalise amid warnings of suspicious activity
New data obtained by World Trademark Review has revealed a startling increase in trademark applications at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that originate in China. Despite this influx of new filings, our investigation highlights how new Chinese applicants are bypassing traditional law firms, with smaller organisations responsible for thousands of applications. The USPTO’s trademark commissioner also notes a “dramatic increase” in illegitimate Chinese filings this year with urgent calls for the office to take action against this “pervasive” problem.
Digital language databases more effective than dictionaries or media usage to defend against genericide: study
A recent study has analysed the three most common forms of evidence used in genericism cases and found that corpus linguistics (ie, the use of a digital language databases) could prove to be “more beneficial” for rights holders looking to protect their brand from the threat of genericide. However, the author urges cautions over its use, saying that courts should reconsider the use of linguistic data altogether and reclaim the primary significance test in genericism cases.
Houston IP Law Association president calls on trademark community for support following Hurricane Harvey
The president of the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association has spoken to World Trademark Review about the ongoing recovery efforts in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Noting that countless members of the IP community have been severely affected by the storm, she has urged law firms and organisations to offer space or resources if they can.
USPTO pledges additional support following Hurricane Harvey; questions raised over speed of response
The US Patent and Trademark Office has vowed to offer extra guidance and support for users affected by the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated areas of Texas and Louisiana over the past 10 days. The move follows criticism by some in the trademark community, with one practitioner suggesting the response was slow in comparison to the office's swift reaction following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Lawyer suggests trademark law be used “as a weapon against neo-Nazis” following misuse of Detroit Red Wings brand in Charlottesville
A leading litigator at Florida firm Johnson Pope has spoken out about how trademark law can be used “as a weapon” against the misuse of brands by hate groups. This follows global media coverage of white supremacists using the branding of the Detroit Red Wings during recent protests in Charlottesville, with the hockey club forced to issue a statement to clarify that it was not associated with the protesters.
New anti-counterfeiting coalition aims "to lead” in lobbying Trump administration to step up fight against fakes
The Precious Metals Association of North America has announced the formation of a national coalition to “protect IP rights against foreign counterfeiting operations”. A representative tells World Trademark Review that the organisation has already begun discussions with influential members of Congress and the Trump administration to strengthen federal efforts to tackle foreign counterfeit operations.
Groundbreaking study suggests extraterritorial application of US trademark law “burdens” rights holders
A first-of-its-kind empirical study into the territorial scope of US trademark law has concluded that much of the conventional wisdom regarding extraterritorial rights “is questionable, if not incorrect”, with its author declaring that “the current over-extension of the Lanham Act must be curbed”. Crucially, the research provides insights that could aid US brand owners in future enforcement endeavours.
Groundbreaking study suggests trademark count, rather than patent count, is a better predictor of innovation
A new study has benchmarked the most common innovation proxies and concluded that the size of a company’s trademark portfolio is a more consistent indicator of innovation than patent count or R&D expenditure. The result adds to the evidence that trademarks hold value beyond simple exclusivity and recognition, with one academic telling World Trademark Review that it may indicate that these rights “are actually undervalued”.
New data has revealed that technology giant LG was the most prolific filer of trademark applications at the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2016, with entertainment conglomerates CBS, Time Warner and Disney just behind. Meanwhile, Apple which had the most trademarks of any major tech company a few years ago filed less than 70 marks last year, leading one industry commentator to ask: “Hey Apple, why aren’t you filing trademark applications?”
Numerous ‘offensive’ trademark applications filed following Tam ruling; applicants reveal commercial hopes and exploitation fears
It is a week ago today that the Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited ruling in Matal v Tam, holding that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violates the US Constitution. On the day of the ruling, there were at least 11 trademark applications filed that could be deemed disparaging or offensive. We reached out to the applicants of these filings to find out why they have chosen now to make their applications, and how they expect last Monday’s decision to affect them.
USPTO steps up efforts to remove deadwood from the register; proposes “streamlined” cancellation proceedings
As part of its efforts to declutter the US trademark register, the United States Patent & Trademark Office is looking to establish a “streamlined version” of the current cancellation proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Reaction to the proposal on social media has been broadly positive, with one IP expert further telling World Trademark Review that the move is a “logical” one.
Trump Administration's first Special 301 Report slams Canada and Mexico for inadequate border enforcement against counterfeits
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has published the 2017 Special 301 Report, the first released under the Trump administration. While Pakistan and Spain are complimented for “positive momentum” behind their IP regimes, the report knocks a number of jurisdictions including neighbours Canada and Mexico for what it deems to be ineffective border enforcement against fakes.
It has been a busy first few days for US President Donald Trump, with a number of executive orders issued, cabinet appointments unveiled and January 20 (the date of his inauguration) proclaimed as ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion’. In the midst of all this activity are some key policy changes that could have a significant effect on the trademark community both in the United States and internationally.
Exercise tracking technology company Fitbit has filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey business which sells discontinued and refurbished products to consumers. In the suit, Fitbit claims the defendant sold ‘counterfeit’ and ‘non-genuine’ versions of Fitbit products a claim staunchly denied, with a representative telling World Trademark Review that Fitbit is engaging in “litigious scare tactics” in response to a lawsuit it had filed a month previously.
There have been growing calls in recent weeks for Facebook and Google to tackle content published by fake news websites. This follows accusations that both provided a platform for the sharing and promotion of misinformation during the recent US election. What is being less discussed is the responsibility that major media companies have to stop such sites specifically those that use the branding of popular news outlets as a way to add legitimacy to their hoax articles.
The US electorate is about to head to the polls to vote in the next president. The race has tightened in recent days and both the Republican and Democratic candidates appear to have a realistic path to victory. As election fever peaks, World Trademark Review asks IP experts how a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald Trump could shape the trademark landscape in the years to come.
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