Trademark Law

Past Disparagement Results in Present Cancellation: REDSKINS Marks Cancelled by TTAB

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) cancelled six registrations for marks consisting in whole or in part of the term REDSKINS for use in connection with a professional football team, because the marks were found to be disparaging to Native Americans at the time they were registered (between 1967 and 1990).

The Board found that when used in connection with football services, REDSKINS retains the meaning of “Native American.” Videos of football games, newspapers, and press guides created between 1967 and 1990 established that the respondent “made continuous efforts to associate its football services with Native American imagery.”

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Ed. note: This is the first installment of “On Remand,” a legal-history column by new writer Samantha Beckett. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

The statute of limitations never expires on an interesting legal story, so each week “On Remand” will report on legal aspects of a story from the past using a “this day in history” theme. First up, Beatlemania!

Five years before John, Paul, George, and Ringo crossed Abbey Road, they crossed the pond and invaded U.S. living rooms. Fifty years ago last night, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. The floppy-haired Fab Four were warmly welcomed by shrieking fans and America’s version of royalty – the King himself, Elvis Presley. As Ed Sullivan explained before the Beatles took the stage: “You know something very nice happened and the Beatles got a great kick out of it. We just received a wire – they did – from Elvis Presley . . . wishing them a tremendous success in our country.”

It’s safe to say that Elvis’ wish came true. The Beatles won an Oscar, racked up enough Grammys to collapse a shelf, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

By 1978, both the Beatles and the British Invasion were ancient history. Beatles fans consoled themselves with the music of Wings and the solo careers of John, Ringo, and George. And one Beatles fan in particular, Steve Jobs, was busy with his two-year-old computer company, Apple Computer. But that year, Apple Computer would experience a British invasion of its own when the Beatles’ company, Apple Corps (thank Paul McCartney for that pun), sued Apple Computer in Britain’s High Court. The dispute concerned the companies’ similar apple logos: a Granny Smith for Apple Corps, and an icon of an apple with a byte bite removed for Apple Computer….

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The past year or so has been an epic period for snarky responses to cease and desist letters. We’ve seen hilariously irreverent responses to C&D letters telling off the likes of Starbucks, the American Bankers Association, and the Township of West Orange.

And now Hollywood celebrities are throwing themselves into the mix. Which “seriously out of control” young actor just got saucy over Twitter in response to a lawyer’s letter?

Here’s a hint: Is this kid Lawless?

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Lateral partner movement continues in the world of intellectual property law. As we noted in Morning Docket, four partners and one of counsel are departing from Finnegan Henderson, one of the leading IP-only firms in the country.

Where are they going? What else is going on over at Finnegan? And what does the future hold for large, IP-focused law firms like Finnegan?

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The Notorious P.O.P.E.

* Like any lawyers worth their salt, attorneys for the Obama administration are wasting precious time and procrastinating on whether they’ll weigh in on the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 case. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The nation’s largest companies, on the other hand, filed a brief with the Supreme Court concerning the DOMA case. Of course, they care more about money than people, but that’s beside the point. [New York Times]

* Lanny Breuer took his sweet time turning in his resignation from the top post of the DOJ Criminal Division, but his acting successor was named quite quickly. Welcome aboard, Mythili Raman. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Francine Griesing, the ex-Greenberg Traurig partner who alleged the firm was a “boys club,” agreed to mediate her claims. Too bad, we hoped something would actually happen with this case. [Legal Intelligencer]

* Hoping to get all your law school applications out before that looming March 1 deadline? Not gonna happen. LSAC’s site has been borked since Tuesday. Take this for the obvious sign that it is! [National Law Journal]

* Surprisingly not from The Onion: the Vatican wants to call the retiring pontiff “Pope Emeritus,” but a California rapper that no one’s ever heard of is threatening trademark litigation to stop it. [Borowitz Report / New Yorker]

A future law student?

* Save for an unintelligible joke made last month, it’s been seven years since Clarence Thomas has spoken during oral arguments, much less asked a question, but with no offense to his colleagues, he’d rather “allow the advocates to advocate.” [Washington Post]

* Sorry, members of the American public, but something like 95 percent of you are too stupid to understand what’s going on during Supreme Court hearings, so there’s no point in having cameras in the courtroom to film them. (Sotomayor, J.) [New York Times]

* “Having an empty bench means people don’t get their cases heard,” but it seems like Senate Republicans could not care less. Obama’s facelift for the federal judiciary is going to have to wait a little while longer. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* A lawgasm for prestige nerds: the Harvard Law Review received federal trademark protection, and with that, the number three law school in the country gained some bragging rights over Yale. [Daily Report (reg. req.)]

* Oh my God, you guys, law school applications are down, no one can find jobs, and recent graduates are in debt up to their eyeballs. This is totally new information that no one’s heard before. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

* Turning to your parents for law school advice is perhaps the worst idea in the world — after all, they’re the cause of your “special little snowflake” syndrome in the first place. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

If you think you can buy this at Costco, your brain probably fits in this box.

If you walk into a Costco, buy a diamond ring, and think you are getting a “Tiffany” ring, you are an idiot and I have no sympathy for you. You deserve what you get and should probably practice breathing through your nose before going out in polite company.

But, luckily, Tiffany wants to stop you from being so easily fooled. Not because they care about you, per se. But because the thought that even one person thinks that Tiffany is selling rings through Costco is horrifying to them. It’s like asking a Penn student if they make it to football games in Happy Valley.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Tiffany filed a lawsuit against Costco to protect their brand….

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* What to do when your federal agency’s website has been hacked by Anonymous and you’re unable to post a major report online for public dissemination? Well, just ask a law professor to do it for you on his blog; that’s not embarrassing, not at all. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The many victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster can now rejoice, because yesterday, Transocean pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, and will pay the second-largest environmental fine in United States history to the tune of $400 million. [CNN]

* Money takes flight: eleventy billion Biglaw firms are behind the beast that is this awful airline merger, but taking the lead are lawyers from Weil Gotshal for AMR and Latham & Watkins for US Airways. [Am Law Daily]

* After questioning the validity of one of the NBA players union’s contracts, Paul Weiss is withholding details about it thanks to the government’s intrusion. Way to block nepotism’s alleged slam dunk. [New York Times]

* “When is the last time you took the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street to trial?” Elizabeth Warren took the Socratic method to the Senate Banking Committee and she was applauded for it. [National Law Journal]

* If you liked it, then perhaps you should’ve put a ring on it, but not a Tiffany’s diamond engagement ring that you’ve purchased from Costco, because according to this trademark lawsuit, it may be a knockoff. [Bloomberg]

* “We feel very badly for Megan Thode.” A Pennsylvania judge ruled against the Lehigh student who sued over her grade of C+ because let’s be serious, did ANYONE AT ALL really think he wouldn’t do that?! [Morning Call]

Ed. note: This post appears courtesy of our friends at Techdirt. We’ll be sharing law-related posts from Techdirt from time to time in these pages.

It’s almost that time of year again, when many of us lesser beings will gather together to watch super-human men on all manner of PEDs and deer antler urine sprays smack each other around while an oblong leather ball sits somewhere in the background. We’ll leap for the pizza and chili like salmon during mating season while, between whistles, obligatory commercials with Avatar-like production budgets glow at us. That’s right sports fans, it’s [editor redacted] time!

Wait, hey! What the hell? I said it’s [editor redacted] time! Oh, come on. I can’t say [editor redacted]? Fine, what about a euphamism, like [editor redacted]? No, can’t say that either? Maybe [editor redacted]? Damn it, this is stupid. I’m talking about something that rhymes with “Pooper Hole” (heh, got you, editor!)….

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* So, this happened over the weekend: Anonymous hacked the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website and is threatening to release government secrets about the DOJ (and possibly all nine of our Supreme Court justices) unless the legal system is reformed. [CNET]

* A spoonful of sugar makes the lawyering go down? Apparently the best way to remind lawyers that they need to act civilly is through song. Or through Above the Law posts, but we aren’t in the habit of hosting sing-a-longs like the New York Inn of Court did. [Wall Street Journal]

* “[U]nless there are major changes in the legal industry,” law school administrators shouldn’t expect people to apply in droves, especially when they’re now fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. [National Law Journal]

* Arizona’s Supreme Court will allow people to take the bar exam after two years of study, but come on, the justices don’t want to jump the shark by allowing online law grads take the test, too. [East Valley Tribune]

* Tim Tebow got to trademark Tebowing, so why shouldn’t Colin Kaepernick get to trademark Kaepernicking? All the San Francisco 49ers quarterback wants to do is sell some inevitably overpriced t-shirts. [NBC Bay Area]

* An appeals court threw out two of Casey Anthony’s convictions, but her legal drama is far from over. The ex-MILF filed for bankruptcy to escape nearly $1 million in liabilities, including Jose Baez’s legal fees. [CNN]

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