Posts in Trademark

Eleventh Circuit Rules for Viacom in FLORA-BAMA Trademark Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit earlier this week ruled in favor of Viacom in a trademark fight over the media conglomerate’s Floribama Shore reality television show. MGFB, the company that filed the appeal, owns the “FLORA-BAMA” trademark and owns and operates the Flora-Bama Lounge on the border of Florida and Alabama. The company filed a cease-and-desist letter in 2017 when Viacom first aired Floribama Shore in 2017. The appeals court judges cited the First Amendment as protecting Viacom’s right to artistic use of “Floribama”. “Creative works of artistic expression are firmly ensconced within the protections of the First Amendment,” wrote the judges.

WIPO Report: China Sees Massive Surge in IP Filings Across the Board

Worldwide IP filings increased by 3.6% in 2021, according to a report published November 21 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The increase came during a turbulent time for the world economy, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a global economic downturn. The biggest increase in patent filings was in Asia, where 67.6% of worldwide patent applications were filed. The United States saw a 1.2% decrease in filings and a 1% increase in trademark filings. Trademark applications grew at a much faster rate than patent applications, with a 5.5% in trademark filing activity. Industrial design filing activity also rose by 9.2% with the largest uptick again in Asia. China saw high rates of growth and is a global leader in sheer numbers across all indicators.

Jack Daniel’s Will Get Its Shot at SCOTUS Review Against Dog Toy Maker

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday granted a petition filed in August this year by Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. seeking clarification on whether the First Amendment protects VIP Products, LLC, a maker of dog toys that made humorous use of Jack Daniel’s trademarks for commercial purposes, against claims of infringement and dilution. The High Court previously denied Jack Daniel’s petition in January of 2021, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “summarily affirmed” the district court’s summary judgment ruling for VIP on remand. In its ruling in 2020, the Ninth Circuit said VIP’s dog toy mimicking a Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle was an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection, reversing the district court’s initial holding that the toy infringed and diluted Jack Daniel’s marks and remanding the case back to the district court for a determination on the merits of the infringement claim.

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal in Museum Trademark Dispute

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday affirmed the dismissal of Metamorfoza’s trademark infringement and unfair competition claims against Big Funny over a trademark that included the disclaimed phrase “Museum of Illusions.” Big Funny also cross-appealed the district court’s denial of its motion for attorneys’ fees, but the Court of Appeals agreed with the district court, finding that it had acted within its discretion in denying fees under 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a) because the case was not “exceptional.” Big Funny and Metamorfoza both operate multiple museums called “Museum of Illusions” in the United States. Big Funny operates museums in California and Florida, while Metamorfoza has museums in New York, Missouri and Texas.

Federal Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction for CPAP Company

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today issued a precedential decision affirming the grant of a narrowly-tailored preliminary injunction to SoClean, Inc., a medical device company that makes CPAP machines, based on trademark infringement claims against Sunset Healthcare Solutions, Inc. SoClean alleged in 2021 that Sunset infringed its U.S. Trademark Registration No. 6,080,195. The registration covers the configuration of replacement filters for its sanitizing devices.

TTAB Rules in Favor of Sony in Trademark Dilution Case

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) ruled in favor of Sony on October 28 in a decision that sustained the corporation’s opposition to an  application to register the mark SONISTREAM for a streaming platform. The TTAB ruled last Friday that the “SoniStream mark is likely to dilute Opposer’s famous SONY mark by blurring.” The Board found that SoniStream is similar enough in name “to trigger consumers” of SoniStream to think of the Sony brand. Of the six factors used to evaluate the case, the TTAB found that four were likely to dilute the Sony brand.

Sign the Prenup: What Brands Can Learn From the Kanye West/Adidas IP Breakup

Trust and estate attorneys regularly advise their clients to enter into prenuptial agreements to protect the valuable assets each spouse brings to the marriage as well as how to distribute community property in the event of a divorce. Brand collaborations with celebrities, influencers or other brands are much like marriages, but brand collaborations are even more unlikely to last. Why not plan for the split, whether it be a conscious uncoupling or a Page 6 kind of divorce, with a prenup? The high profile split between Adidas and Ye (fka Kanye West) reminds us that collaboration agreements should not only plan for the best of times, but it is worth setting up the agreement to account for a sudden and troubling end.   

Supreme Court Grants Two IP Cases, Including Amgen v. Sanofi on Enablement

The U.S. Supreme Court granted petitions for certiorari in two intellectual property cases Friday, one dealing with the limits of extraterritorial application of the Lanham Act and another asking the High Court to weigh in on whether “enablement” means a specification must enable those skilled in the art “to reach the full scope of claimed embodiments” without undue experimentation.

USPTO Efforts to Reduce Fraud are Good for the Trademark System

Security issues have long dogged the U.S. trademark system. Unscrupulous operators – sometimes competitors, sometimes bad actors with nothing better to do – too frequently muck up the application process by modifying those filings or filing improper submissions. This is no small problem given the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the USPTO) remains a mammoth and international hub of trademark filings. In fiscal 2021, trademark application filings topped 943,000, a record high. This marked an increase of about 28% from the prior year, with that increase driven primarily by Chinese filers.

What Scares You? A Few of the Most Frightening Developments in IP Law

Intellectual property (IP) law developments may not be high up on most people’s list of worst nightmares this Halloween, but for IP owners and lawyers, they can cause a fright. From patent eligibility to the economy, here are some thoughts on the scariest IP issues out there; add yours in the comments—if you dare.

What’s in a Pose? When it Comes to Brand Protection, Quite a Lot

Usain Bolt filed a recent U.S. trademark application depicting his widely recognized victory pose. The trademark has been applied for in relation to items such as clothing, jewellery, shoes and restaurant and bar services. As Bolt has retired from athletics, he is clearly hoping to add more strings to his bow.

USIPA Survey Shows Most Americans are in the Dark on IP

Yesterday, the United States Intellectual Property Alliance (USIPA) issued the results of a nationwide survey designed to determine the level of intellectual property awareness among American adults. Perhaps unsurprisingly, USIPA’s survey found that, while most American believed they understood IP, seven out of 10 survey respondents could not identify examples of intellectual property when asked. This new research should add new urgency to the efforts of IP advocates who are trying to increase participation in the U.S. IP system.

How Some Brands are Successfully – and Cost-Effectively – Combating Online Counterfeiters

Protecting brands and going after counterfeiters is like herding cats. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that online counterfeiters illegally monetize brands. Companies have many ways to combat them, but it can traditionally take lots of time, cost, and resources to do it. Now there is a less publicized option in the United States which can deter counterfeiters, takes little time, and often even pays for itself. This ultimately can result in true deterrence of counterfeiters for a brand in online marketplaces. With online sales exploding, there has been a marked increase in sales of counterfeit products, despite various solutions available to combat it. Indeed, the industry as a whole will see over $1.7 trillion of sold counterfeit products on various online platforms each year—and that estimate, by the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, was in 2015. Counterfeit sales result in the loss of millions of U.S. jobs and lost profits, and is by far the world’s largest criminal enterprise, with eCommerce counterfeit sales expected to grow to $6 trillion by 2024 in the United States alone. 

USPTO Suspends Attorney-Sponsored Accounts Connected to Foreign Sponsorship Scam

Earlier this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) suspended the sponsored accounts of two U.S. attorneys who loaned their name and bar credentials to an Indian law firm so they could file trademark submissions in violation of USPTO rules. The Indian firm used the names of the American attorneys to pose as U.S.-based attorneys and represent clients in trademark registration. The accounts were suspended for violating the Trademark Verified Account Agreement. The USPTO removed the attorneys’ authorization to sponsor attorney support staff accounts on the system. The USPTO sent the two attorneys, Julian Haffner of YK Law and Grace Lee Huang of Meritech Law, letters in September notifying them of the violations and resulting suspension.

Unsealed Court Documents Reveal Scale of Counterfeit Gilead HIV Drugs Scam

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York unsealed multiple documents last week that named the kingpins behind an alleged counterfeit HIV medication conspiracy. An unsealed amended complaint filed in late September names the two alleged kingpins as Lazaro Roberto Hernandez and Armando Herrera, both of Florida. The two “kingpin defendants” are accused of being “at the head of the conspiracy” and “career criminals who organized the conspiracy and controlled the flow of the counterfeits, all while operating from the shadows and using extensive measures to conceal their identities.” Hernandez was identified by basic geolocation data associated with burner phones used to communicate details about the conspiracy.