Intellectual Property

Whenever clients ask about filing a trademark in China via the Madrid System, our answer is simple: filing a national application directly with the Chinese Trademark Office (CTMO) is better.

China’s trademark system is complicated and overseen by oftentimes capricious examiners, especially as compared to the one-size-fits-all Madrid application that makes registering a trademark in China seem so easy. All you have to do with a China trademark filing via the Madrid System is check the box marked “China.” This lulls Madrid applicants into a sense of complacency, but all too often the result is a rejection that could have been avoided with a national application in China.

Madrid applications are supposed to be cheap and quick, but fixing Madrid problems after the fact is neither. This “Madrid problem” is exacerbated by U.S. lawyers comfortable filing in Madrid but with no experience filing in China.

Trademark prosecution in China is highly mechanical. For the vast majority of applications, you file an application and then wait 18 months for your trademark to be registered or rejected. (A slight oversimplification, but not by much.) China has no CTMO equivalent to a USPTO office action, no back-and-forth with trademark examiners, and no chance to amend an already filed application.

For this reason, the meaningful work for Chinese trademark applications occurs before you file the application…

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Picture of Banana Lady taken from Judge Posner’s opinion.

As it turns out, it was in fact a banana, and she was absolutely not happy to see Judge Posner.

The ridiculous isn’t entirely new to Judge Posner. He’s seen lawyers treating his courtroom as a schoolyard and issued benchslaps complete with pictures of men burying their heads in sand.

But he doubtless never expected to be writing an opinion chastising a woman in a banana suit….

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In an Atlantic Monthly article, The View from There: What living in England, Japan, and China has taught one American about the character of his own country, James Fallows discussed how easy it is to misunderstand other countries and how Americans misunderstand China:

When living in Japan, I heard accounts from many Japanese who had gone to the US for business or study in the 1950s, after the Allied occupation ended. They looked at the factories and the farms and the vastness of America and asked themselves: What were we thinking? How could tiny Japan have imagined challenging the United States? After the Soviet Union fell and the hollowness of its system was exposed, many Americans asked: What were we thinking about “two superpower” competition with the USSR? Its missiles were lethal and its ideology was brutal and dangerous. But a rival to America as an overall model? John F. Kennedy was only one of many to suggest as much, in his 1960 campaign references to the prestige gap as well as missile gap that had opened. Eventually, we all learned there was no comparison at all. I think if more Americans came to China right now and saw how hard so many of its people are struggling just to survive, they too might ask: What are we thinking, in considering China an overall threat? Yes, its factories are formidable, and its weight in the world is huge. But this is still a big, poor, developing nation trying to solve the emergency of the moment. Susan Shirk, of the University of California at San Diego, recently published a very insightful book that calls China a “fragile superpower.” “When I discuss it in America,” she told me, “people always ask, ‘What do you mean, fragile?’” When she discusses it here in China, “they always ask, ‘What do you mean, superpower?’”

I thought of Fallows’s article after speaking last week on China law before the county bar association. My talk had been mistakenly “advertised” as being about “doing business in Asia.” Wanting to disabuse anyone of the notion that I would be providing insights into doing business in all of Asia, I began by making clear what I would and would not be discussing…

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One of the things that was always interesting about Biglaw was just how much the skills of senior partners were celebrated, even in the absence of any verification. Or rigorous comparison to their peers, for that matter. Such exaltation of abilities was not limited to individual lawyers, of course, but extended also to practice groups and even other firms. In fact, a fair amount of Biglaw’s “prestige” is pollinated by secondhand anecdotal evidence, many times passed along by people who have either never seen their subjects in action or who are not qualified to distinguish between a great performance and a mediocre one.

Of course, I do not doubt that many, if not the vast majority of, Biglaw reputations are well-earned. For example, even though my knowledge of real estate law is severely limited, I would feel comfortable hiring some of my old colleagues at Greenberg Traurig in New York for real estate help, should I ever be in a position to acquire or dispose of some commercial real estate. I admit that I have no frame of reference, other than reputation and some personal relationships, supporting such a prospective choice. But it is not like I could “shadow” a closing and figure out which set of lawyers is doing a better job anyway. “Wow, those guys really put out a nice refreshment spread in the room with the closing binders” would be the level of my analysis. Probably not a good idea to choose counsel solely on that basis.

Are there other options out there?

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Way back in 2006, we wrote about how the Los Angeles wing of the Boy Scouts of America had started offering an MPAA-supported patch in “respecting copyright,” in which “respecting copyright” was actually respecting the MPAA’s misleading maximalist view of copyright. It took some time, but it appears that the Girl Scouts are finally catching up. The Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation has helped create a special new “IP patch” for the Girl Scouts.

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The patent world can at times seem very small. The same firms, representing the same group of technology companies, pursuing the same strategies, both to maximize profits for their firms and to deliver results for their clients. Sure people move around, but the players in the larger sense are pretty static. Most patent cases are of limited importance to everyone but the parties involved as well. Sometimes a case has a broader scope, and becomes of interest to industry competitors or even investors. Every once in a while a patent case captures the public fancy, as Apple v. Samsung undoubtedly has, usually because of the nature of the parties involved or the ubiquity of the technology at issue. When that happens, the patent world can seem very big — global in scope, even.

Sometimes a little case can actually turn into a huge deal. When the Supreme Court gets involved, for example. Especially when the issue in the case has far-reaching economic implications for society at large, and not just for the litigants involved. I have seen a number of “big” patent cases during my career, but none has the disruptive potential of a case that is set for oral argument next week in the Supreme Court. From humble beginnings as a declaratory judgment action filed in an unusual forum for patent cases (District of D.C.,) the dispute between Alice Corp. and CLS Bank has grown into one of the most closely-watched and debated patent cases — ever. And deservedly so, because the viability of software patents is on the line. With major ramifications possible: for technology companies of all sizes, IP firms and lawyers, the courts, and the good old global economy as well….

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* A Minnesota court ruled that it is not a crime to encourage people to commit suicide. So… keep commenting assholes, just know that you’ll feel really bad if I do it. [Gawker]

* I might be in the market for a used car, and I’m hoping to get a really good deal on one of these “recalled” GMs. I hope the DOJ doesn’t screw up my plans. [Reuters Legal]

* Speaking of cars, Alan Dershowitz calls for vigorous prosecution of reckless drivers. I call for vigorous prosecution of any box-blocking suburbanite who drives around Manhattan on a Saturday like they’re cruising to the country fair. [ABA Journal]

* Alabama thinks that people over 70 should be excused from jury duty. YES, they deserve to be excused and I hope they burn in Hell! [WSJ Law Blog]

* Narc is the new tattletale. [Simple Justice]

* Are you an IP lawyer, especially a patent litigator? Here’s a symposium you should consider attending (featuring ATL columnist Gaston Kroub). [Markman Advisors]

* Speaking of conferences, who wants to hang out with Lat in Las Vegas? Read on for details (plus video)….

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I think you really have to bust your butt.

Eric Bernsen, patent counsel at Knobbe Martens, recalling the hard work that was necessary to get a job at a respected firm after law school. Bernsen graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2012.

Two of my favorites: Jesse Eisenberg and Andy Samberg.

Earlier in the week, I came across an interesting intellectual-property fact pattern in the New York Post. The Post reported on a calendar conflict in which the creator of the Nice Jewish Guys Calendar, an established brand, alleges trademark infringement by a newcomer, the Naughty Jewish Boys Calendar.

I must now confess to a weakness for the Chosen People. I admire them not just for their socioeconomic and educational attainment but for their sex appeal. So I was more than happy to investigate.

Let’s check out the competing calendars, the cease-and-desist letter, and the response thereto — along with some Hebraic hotties, of course….

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We have a whole contest here at Above the Law in which law students sing, dance, and show off the talents they’re murdering to become lawyers. We’ve seen other lawyers who balance practicing law and making music, such as Anthony McNamer, or who leave the law to pursue music full-time, such as Weil Gotshal associate turned rapper Mekka Don (who just released his debut album).

But there are very few lawyers use their musical talents to promote their legal careers, like the attorney we’re about to discuss. He’s also footnoted his lyrics, so you can tie some of his hard, gangsta action to specific Federal Circuit cases. Which is a sentence that would have made Tupac roll over in his grave… if he were really dead. Don’t tell me a dead guy is still releasing a hit every couple of years….

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