Posts in Trademark

Branded by AI: How AI Tools Can Help Brand Owners—Now and in the Future

Resources such as marketing and branding agencies can help new businesses struggling to find a unique brand name, and lawyers specializing in trademark law can help evaluate infringement and refusal risks and assist in registering a trademark. That said, the costs associated with each of these options are not insignificant, leading some smaller brands and startups to choose a name, do a quick internet search for prior use, and just hope they don’t face repercussions. One of the many issues with this is that as a new business grows and becomes more recognizable, the increased exposure makes it easier for someone with pre-existing rights to find and enforce those rights against the new business. This could include financial penalties and a complete rebrand of the business causing confusion to established customers, which is why choosing and trademarking one’s brand name early is vital. Insert Artificial Intelligence (AI). I

A Dog’s Day in Court: Implications of the ‘Bad Spaniels’ Arguments on Parody Determinations and Noncommercial Use

Following the Supreme Court oral arguments in Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC last week, I was reminded of an article I penned years ago for Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal exploring the boundaries of parodies when up against allegations of trademark infringement and dilution. That article observed: “Many of the trademark parody cases do not spend time analyzing what a parody is. Rather, the sheer majority of cases assume that any attempt at humor while using another’s trademark is presumptively a parody.” It noted that in the face of the essentially blanket parody exception contained in the TDRA, “courts may more heavily weigh the threshold parody question.”

SCOTUS Skeptical that Bad Spaniels is Parody, But Questions Need to Overturn Rogers

At today’s hearing in Jack Daniel’s v. VIP Products, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices suggested to both sides that there might be an easier way out on the facts of this particular case than either party is proposing, but weighed the need to overturn the Second Circuit’s test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), which some of the Justices characterized as injecting unnecessary confusion. Though the Court seemed equally concerned about retaining a way for defendants making clearly parodic use of a mark to get out of litigation quickly, which Rogers is intended to do, they questioned both sides about why in this case they couldn’t either find for Jack Daniel’s by just saying that VIP is clearly using a source identifier on a commercial product, or remand to the district court to say they failed to properly weigh the parody or proximity factors of the product, for instance. Overall, the Justices seemed skeptical that the product in question represents a non-commercial use.

Justices Seek Abitron Parties’ Help in Articulating Bounds of Extraterritorial Application of Lanham Act

The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc., which asks the Court to consider whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit erred in applying the Lanham Act extraterritorially to Abitron’s foreign sales, “including purely foreign sales that never reached the United States or confused U.S. consumers.” The Justices struggled with the appropriate reach of the Lanham Act and whether reversing the Tenth Circuit would require overruling Steele v. Bulova Watch Co., 344 U.S. 280, 282-285 (1952), but overall seemed to be considering the need for a new or narrowed test to account for the realities of modern commerce.

Jack Daniel’s Tells SCOTUS Rogers Test is Unworkable, U.S. Brands’ Identities Are at Risk

Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. filed its reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, March 10, in a major trademark case set to be argued on March 22. The brief contends that the country’s most popular brands are at risk of losing their brand identity if the Court affirms the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s view that a poop-themed dog toy mimicking Jack Daniel’s Whiskey bottle is an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection. In November 2022, the Supreme Court granted Jack Daniel’s petition for a writ of certiorari, which seeks to clarify whether the First Amendment protects VIP Products, LLC’s humorous use of Jack Daniel’s trademarks for commercial purposes against claims of infringement and dilution.

CAFC Says OXIPURITY and OXYPURE are Likely Confusing, Even to Sophisticated Consumers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) on Thursday upheld a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) affirming an examiner’s refusal to register the mark OXIPURITY for chemical products. The court agreed with the TTAB that OXIUPURITY is likely to be confused with the previously registered mark, OXYPURE, for ““hydrogen peroxide intended for use in the treatment of public and private potable water systems and supplies.”

Solicitor General to Participate in Oral Arguments in Abitron v. Hetronic on Extraterritorial Applications of the Lanham Act

On February 27, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a motion for leave filed by the U.S. Solicitor General to participate in oral argument, as well as for divided argument and for enlargement of oral argument time, in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc. While the Court’s decision to grant the motion shows its interest in the Solicitor General’s arguments in favor of limiting the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act, a reply brief filed the same day by petitioner Abitron argues that the federal government’s proposed legal tests still go too far in allowing Lanham Act claims to reach foreign infringing sales. Last September, the U.S. Solicitor General filed a brief representing the views of the federal government on the issues in Abitron Austria, a case which asks whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit erred in awarding civil remedies under the Lanham Act for infringement of U.S. trademarks through purely foreign sales that neither reached the United States nor confused U.S. consumers. In its brief, the Solicitor General urged the Supreme Court to grant Abitron’s petition for writ of certiorari and rein in the Tenth Circuit’s approach toward awarding Lanham Act damages for foreign infringing sales.

Examining the ‘MetaBirkins’ Case: Exclusion of Rothschild’s Art Expert May Have Affected Jury Verdict

Luxury design house Hermès International and Hermès of Paris, Inc. (Hermès) is known for designing, producing and marketing the iconic Birkin handbag. Since 1986, Hermès has sold over $1 billion worth of these handbags in the United States, with over $100 million dollars of sales in the past 10 years alone. With its distinctive appearance and high price tag, the Birkin bag is considered a symbol of wealth and exclusivity…. After hearing the evidence and arguments of both parties over the course of three days, the nine-person jury returned a verdict for Hermès on all its claims, awarding Hermès US$133,000 in total damages…. Moments before jury selection, the court granted Hermès’ motion to exclude the testimony of Rothschild’s “art expert,” Dr. Blake Gopnik. Rothschild had proffered Dr. Blake Gopnik as an expert to explain to the jury that Rothschild’s promotion and sale of the MetaBirkins NFTs was protected by the First Amendment as “business art” similar to that of Andy Warhol and his well-known soup can art.

U.S. Chamber Warns Global Wave of Anti-IP Policy Proposals May Be Slowing IP Progress

The Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued its 11th annual International IP Index today, striking what seems like a more dismal tone than usual compared with past reports. While 18 economies saw modest progress on IP protection improvements, 28 economies, including many of the high-scorers, like the United States and the United Kingdom, had a 0% change in score. Only two countries had a 0% change in the 10th edition of the Index. The Index covers 55 economies that represent “most of the global economic output, together contributing over 90% of global GDP.”

Looking to the IP Register to Predict Foreign Companies’ Confidence in Ukraine’s Future

A company’s trademark activity is a very telling indicator of whether it is interested in a particular country’s or region’s market. Often, a national intellectual property (IP) office or the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) IP registry can speak loudest about a company’s true intentions. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. It is instructive to examine how foreign companies behaved with respect to IP registration and renewal in Ukraine to predict how they view business prospects in Ukraine going forward.

Report Finds 68% of Respondents Have Seen Products Counterfeited Online

A report released  Wednesday by MarqVision found that 68% of direct-to-customer (DTC) brands have had their products counterfeited. The report surveyed 295 representatives from DTC brands across the world. The report also provides information about how worried DTC brands are about IP infringement and counterfeiting. The DTC market has tripled over the last five years, accounting now for $1 of every $7 spent, according to the report.

What Brand Owners and Platforms Need to Know for Compliance with the INFORM Consumers Act

Any brand owner with an anticounterfeiting program will tell you that one of their biggest frustrations with online enforcement is that the information online marketplaces keep on third-party sellers is not always accurate or complete. Counterfeit sellers will do anything they can to fly under the radar online, often providing false names, addresses, and other contact information in their online marketplace profiles. Accordingly, it is quite common for brand owners to reach a literal dead end in their investigations of third-party sellers. The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act (the “INFORM Consumers Act”), recently signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, aims to make it more difficult for counterfeit sellers to fly under the radar by requiring online marketplaces to collect, verify, and disclose certain information from high-volume third-party sellers to consumers.

Hermès Wins Landmark MetaBirkins NFT Trademark Trial

Luxury fashion brand Hermès won their trademark lawsuit against Mason Rothschild, the creator of the non-fungible tokens (NFT) MetaBirkins, on Wednesday. The trial was the first legal case that tested the bounds of artistic expression in NFTs against the country’s intellectual property laws. A nine-member New York jury ordered Rothschild to pay Hermès $110,000 for infringing on the luxury brand’s trademark, and $23,000 for cybersquatting. The jury ruled that Rothschild had to pay the cybersquatting damages because he used a domain name confusingly similar to that of Hermès.

As Supreme Court Case on Extraterritorial Trademark Disputes Heats Up, ABA Asks Justices to Consider Three-Part Test

The American Bar Association (ABA) filed an amicus brief on February 3 with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to clarify issues related to the application of the Lanham Act to trademark disputes that cross international borders. The ABA filed the brief in the Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc. trademark case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a $90 million damages award for trademark infringement based on infringement that occurred almost entirely outside of the United States.

Brooks Convinces Indiana Court to Transfer Dispute with Puma to Washington

Brooks Sports, a sports apparel company that was sued by Puma SE and Puma North America, Inc. (for patent and trademark infringement in Indiana, won its motion to transfer the case to a new district court on January 20. Judge Richard L. Young of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled Friday that the case will be transferred to the Western District of Washington. Brooks Sports’ headquarters is based in Seattle, Washington. Brooks argued that moving the case closer to its base would be convenient for both parties as well as witnesses. Judge Young agreed and cited Puma’s lack of presence in Indiana as another supporting reason to move the case to Washington.