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Brian Focarino

is an Associate in the trademark, copyright and advertising group at Cooley in Silicon Valley, a Young Lawyer Fellow for the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law, and a Fellow of the Internet Law & Policy Foundry. Prior to Cooley, he was a legal intern for trademarks and digital media law at Google in Silicon Valley, a legal intern for trademark, copyright and Internet law at Verizon, and a judicial intern for The Honorable Randall R. Rader, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For more information please visit his firm profile page.

Recent Articles by Brian Focarino

C-Suite Executives More Aware of Trademark Portfolio Risk and Reward

Eight in ten C-level executives believe trademark infringement of their marks is on the rise… Despite their feeling that trademark infringement is on the rise, 66% of organizations stated they had plans to launch new marks within the next year, and 80% said they would likely launch even greater numbers if the trademark clearance process were simpler… Clearance has always mattered, but it matters a lot in today’s rapidly evolving trademark ecosystem. Not only are brand owners increasingly focused on clearing brands across multiple channels in multiple regions, but as more and more marks are adopted and registered, the risk of infringement and dilution is also likely to increase. While protectability may be important from a legal standpoint, 45% of polled executives still indicated competitive positioning was most important to them when adopting a new mark. Another 41% indicated they placed value on whether a mark is “unique.” In the United States, protectability was cited by organizations as the third most important factor for a new mark – after competitiveness and uniqueness. Other mark attributes executives signaled as important included global relevance, versatility and timelessness.

Supreme Court to Consider “Disparaging” Trademarks

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to review a Federal Circuit ruling that held unconstitutional a law prohibiting registration of trademarks that “may disparage” people or groups. In a case involving an Asian-American dance band’s bid to register its name THE SLANTS as a trademark, the court will consider whether the bar on registering disparaging marks in Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. In the meantime, the Court is expected to rule soon on the Washington Redskins’ cert petition in Pro-Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse, No. 15-1874, challenging a decision of the Eastern District of Virginia upholding the PTO’s cancellation of the REDSKINS trademarks under that same provision.

Trader Joe’s and Extraterritorial Application of the Lanham Act

Trader Joe’s sued Hallatt (d/b/a Pirate Joe’s) for trademark infringement in the Western District of Washington, invoking the court’s federal question and supplemental jurisdiction. Trader Joe’s alleged that: (1) Hallatt misled consumers into falsely believing Pirate Joe’s was authorized or approved by Trader Joe’s; (2) utilized a confusingly similar “South Pacific” trade dress for his Pirate Joe’s store; (3) displayed Trader Joe’s trademarks in connection with the sale of products at Pirate Joe’s; and (4) resold Trader Joe’s products without authorization and without adherence to Trader Joe’s’ strict quality control practices. Trader Joe’s claimed Hallatt’s behavior diluted its trademarks, confused consumers, and damaged Trader Joe’s reputation by associating it with high price, lower quality products. Trader Joe’s sought damages and to permanently enjoin Hallatt from reselling its goods or using its trademarks in Canada.

Brand Owners Watch as Smoke Clears on Plain Packaging Efforts

The major premise of plain packaging is that when stripped of producers’ logos, brand images and promotional matter, tobacco products simply aren’t as attractive to consumers. Reduced focus on logos and images also increases the effectiveness of health warnings. Chan points to research from Australia, the first country to fully implement plain packaging, to show that by stripping tobacco products of gratuitous trademarks and other producer advertising elements, there were 100,000 fewer smokers over the first 34 months after implementation in 2012. Not all groups agree, however.

Social Media and the Rise of Opportunistic #Trademark Filings

Last June, Walter Palmer, an American dentist and recreational big game hunter, shot and killed Cecil, a southwest African lion who had been the subject of a study by Oxford University and a major attraction for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. At first, Cecil’s killing drew international outrage and media attention, the hashtag #CecilTheLion spreading like wildfire on social media. Then it drew trademark applications. At least four different applicants currently have live trademark applications pending in the United States for CECIL THE LION, covering everything from the noble, including charitable fundraising services and information and news commentary relating to wildlife conservation, to the commercial, including dolls, trading cards, and charms.

Napa Valley Vintners first wine group in US to receive certification mark registration

Earlier this month, Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the nonprofit trade association that works to “promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation,” became the first wine group in the U.S. to be granted a certification mark registration. So-called certification marks are a unique species within the trademark law, functioning to “certify” the nature or origin of goods or services, rather than merely convey the producer of those goods or services.

Unconstitutional – CAFC Rules PTO Cannot Deny Registration for Disparaging Trademarks

Yesterday the Federal Circuit in an en banc decision held that the portion of Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, which bars federal registration for trademarks that are disparaging, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The government advanced three principal arguments for why §2(a) did not violate the First Amendment: (1) because §2(a) does not “prohibit” or suppress speech at all; (2) because trademark registration is government speech; and (3) because §2(a) merely withholds a government subsidy. The Court rejected all three of the government’s arguments, and in doing so issued holdings on three separate issues that have divided other tribunals.

‘Happy Birthday To You’ Now In the Public Domain (Sort of)

For as long as I can remember, whenever we celebrated a birthday, we inevitably would gather around the birthday boy or girl and sing “Happy Birthday To You.” But now that the copyright is in question, new evidence brought to light that the song belonged in the public domain. Happy Birthday may very well be the oldest – and most widely recognizable – orphan work of all time. In 2013, a documentary filmmaker challenged the copyright on the world’s most popular song, calling Warner/Chappell Music’s claim to copyright royalties bogus. The filmmakers’ claim was no small declaration. By 1996, Warner/Chappell, who since 1988 has purported to own the rights to the song, was collecting over $2 million per year in licensing fees. The basis of Warner/Chappell’s claim is a copyright registration from 1935, made by the Summy Company, Warner/Chappell’s predecessor in interest.