99 Problems But Trademarking Your Name Ain’t One

Popular Culture, Trademark, USPTO
As fans of musicians Beyonce and Jay-Z learned earlier this Summer, the entertainment power couple gave birth to twins named Rumi Carter and Sir Carter. However, not making nearly as many tabloid headlines was Beyonce's (or, rather, her trademark holding company) subsequent application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to register both children’s names as actual trademarks. The applications claim use of both marks in commerce for 15 different classes of goods or services such as cosmetics, baby apparel, playing cards, and entertainment services. As of the time of this writing, both applications with the USPTO are currently pending examination. Every so often I’m asked by someone if they can trademark their own name. The smart alecky answer I usually give is that one can always make an…
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And I Said, What About Costco Infringing Tiffany’s?

Trademark, Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition
Last month, a federal district court judge ordered bulk-retail giant Costco to pay iconic luxury brand Tiffany more than $11 million in lost profits from Costco's trademark infringement, in addition to $8.25 million in punitive damages which were awarded by a jury back in October 2016. Tiffany sued Costco after discovering that the megaretailer's employees were responding to customer inquiries by calling certain solitaire diamond rings “Tiffany” rings. The Costco rings at the center of the dispute had a pronged setting that Costco argued were commonly known as a “Tiffany setting” however, some of the display cases at Costco stores just happened to drop the “setting” or “style” part and simply described the rings to customer as “Tiffany”. Besides being a juicy legal fight between two well-known public companies, the…
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“Alphabet” Soup: What Your Business Can Learn from Google’s Re-brand

Common Law Trademark, Trademark, Trademark Infringement, USPTO
Last year, search giant Google announced it was reorganizing and creating a holding company with the name “Alphabet”. Google co-founder and chief executive Larry Page wrote, “We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search”. Although a nice sentiment, Google's name change could create legal headaches for the search titan, with hundreds of companies already using the innocuous-sounding 'Alphabet.' If you think about trademarks on a spectrum of strongest to weakest, there are five main types. At the strong end are coined or fanciful names; marks which, on their own, do not mean anything. The “Google” mark is actually an example of such a mark. Be honest,…
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Ill-Fated: Trademark Tips for Businesses Owners from the Fate Brewing Co. Dispute

Lanham Act, Restaurants, Trademark, Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition
With craft brew festival season getting into full swing across the country, I thought it'd be fun to revisit the legal trademark saga between a Valley craft brewery, formerly known as Fate Brewing Company, now known as "McFate Brewing Company" (which we'll just call "McFate" for clarity's sake) and the Fate Brewing Company based in Boulder, Colorado (which we'll call "Fate Colorado"). For those unfamiliar, it might be helpful to recap the timeline of events: Summer 2012 - Fate Colorado initially applies for a Federal trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the mark "FATE BREWING COMPANY" August 2012 - McFate sends cease and desist letter to Fate Colorado. November 2012 - Fate Colorado's USPTO application is published for opposition. Winter 2012 - McFate opens its first brewpub…
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Refusing to Take It Easy, Eagles Sue over Hotel California Trademark

Common Law Trademark, Lanham Act, Trademark, Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition
As first reported in The Hollywood Reporter, earlier this week The Eagles filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for Central California seeking both an injunction and damages against a couple who (through their California-based LLC) operate the "Hotel California" in the Mexican state of Baja California. The suit alleges, among other things, that since 2001 the couple have gone out of their way to lead potential patrons into thinking that their establishment is connected with the iconic American band, even having served as the inspiration for the 1978 Grammy Record of The Year winner, not to mention having profited off of assorted merchandise bearing the name of perhaps the band's most popular song. On its (lovely) face, The Eagles' complaint claims "trademark infringement" against the defendants, however a closer look…
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