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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.
“I’m the Banksy of trademarks” millionaire applicant of NASTY WOMAN regards cease-and-desist from Beyoncé as “great marketing”
Self-proclaimed millionaire Mike Lin, who garnered a significant net worth as an early employee at LinkedIn, has a trove of politically charged trademark applications that have gathered much media attention. In an exclusive discussion, Lin compares himself to street artist Banksy and reveals that he has received oppositions (so far) from parties including Beyoncé Knowles, Kobe Bryant and Disney.
‘Lawyers have got to start filing electronically if not, it’ll cost you’: USPTO explains sharp rise in trademark fees
The US Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark commissioner, Mary Boney Denison, has spoken to World Trademark Review about the recent decision to sharply raise trademark filing fees submitted non-electronically. While acknowledging that some lawyers still prefer to file on paper, she reveals that those filings are made at a loss to the office. Furthermore, she gave an update on the radical proposed changes to clear up the US trademark register.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted its latest National Trademark Expo over the weekend, a major event designed to promote a positive trademark message to the general public. World Trademark Review was on the ground and spoke to many attendees about the challenges and opportunities of trademark outreach programmes including USPTO trademark commissioner Mary Boney Denison, who revealed that early discussions are underway about hosting similar events in or around the USPTO’s four remote offices.
Online communities of so-called ‘alt right’ internet users have developed code words to hide bigoted slurs on social media in a bid to avoid perceived censorship. The code uses high-profile brand names, including Google, Yahoo and Skype, to substitute for offensive words to describe ethnic groups including African Americans, Mexicans and Jews. World Trademark Review has spoken to experts about what the affected brand owners can do but in terms of legal remedies, the options appear to be limited.
Aggressive trademark litigant decries ‘trademark troll’ label; warns major brands not to ignore cease-and-desists
A self-proclaimed ‘aggressive’ enforcer of trademark rights and frequent filer of IP infringement litigation action has told World Trademark Review that he primarily initiates disputes with major brands because cease-and-desist letters sent by small business owners are often "ignored or not taken seriously". Furthermore, he revealed he may consider legal remedies against parties including the media that refer to him as a ‘trademark troll’.
The USPTO has confirmed to World Trademark Review that it is considering suspending trademark applications that would previously be refused as disparaging as it awaits the Supreme Court review of In re Tam. In light of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision in December, which ruled that the prohibition on disparaging marks is unconstitutional, a US resident has also revealed he is interested in re-applying for a trademark that was previously refused on those grounds in 2013.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sent a letter to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that claims the term MORMON is “generic” due to it being the only way to describe people who follow or are part of that religious community. If one trademark of a religious organisation is being accused of genericism, other similar religious marks, such as SCIENTOLOGIST, could also be at risk.
A US law professor has told World Trademark Review that the abolition of state trademark registrations in the United States would “clarify the legal landscape for trademark acquisition and enforcement”. Additional research reveals that demand for US state trademarks is trending downwards. However, imminent change seems unlikely.
A parody artist who has been entangled in a number of high-profile cybersquatting cases has told World Trademark Review that the “scare tactics” utilised by brand owners against alleged domain-squatters should not be the default option, noting that he has responded more positively to ‘polite’ approaches.
As the poll numbers of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump continue to rise, so too do the number of trademark filings using his name. Trump’s lawyer has confirmed to World Trademark Review that there has been a recent uptick in infringement, but reveals they are adopting an “aggressive” stance - whether it is to those infringers with a negative intent or to genuine Trump supporters.
It was no surprise last week when trademark applications were filed in the US related to Cecil, the lion killed by dentist and big-game hunter Walter Palmer in Zimbabwe. However, one of the applicants has told World Trademark Review that he is not cashing in on a tragedy, but that his intentions are good, and that he plans to stop third parties marketing products capitalising on the famous lion.
A growing number of large casino companies are threatening small video game developers with legal action over alleged trademark infringement, a New York lawyer has told World Trademark Review. Ryan Morrison, who runs a firm that specialises in representing independent games companies, claims this has been caused by a trademark classification system that is not keeping pace with the development of new technology.
It was 10 years ago last month that Apple updated its iTunes software to support podcasts natively. Today, up to 75 million people a month listen to podcasts on iTunes, with the advertising revenue generated by the medium also on the rise. However, despite swift growth, the sector appears to be lagging behind in terms of brand protection and registered trademark rights.
When a trademark owner is perceived to act in a heavy-handed way, any resulting backlash is reported with relish by the mainstream media. However, the reverse rarely gets the coverage it deserves. This week, US production company Funimation directly engaged with the fan art community in a bid to explain how and why it has to police its marks. Its message was broadly welcomed by its target audience, many of whom have become allies in spreading the message.
The availability of online tools that make trademark filings accessible to all are, in most respects, a positive development. However, the flipside is that such offerings can result in applicants investing in the process without fully understanding trademark law or first seeking specialist help. This appears to be the case with the self-proclaimed 'Trademark King', who has spent up to $50,000 in trademark filings that one commentator has labelled “void from the outset”.
An analyst report into online marketplace Etsy has issued a stark warning about the large proportion of potentially infringing items being sold on the site, causing the company’s stock to plummet. While sending a clear signal to trademark counsel that they need to ensure the platform is in their policing plans, the positive takeaway is the hesitancy investors exhibit when faced with sites that sell allegedly infringing items.
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