Geekview: Cheeky Coverage of Recent(ish) Intellectual Property News

Posted by | August 01, 2012 | General | No Comments

Food in Jars all jammed up over IP!

When you pay someone in jam, you can expect things to get sticky! Lots of bloggers have logo wear, including this one. I can see why people would want to wear a Food in Jars T-shirt, and so could a budding, um, thief. Earlier in July, an article on reported that one of Philly’s “best known food bloggers” — Food in Jars — found out that its logo was ripped off by a t-shirt company. T-shirts bearing the FOOD IN JARS logos were found on Skreened, a website that lets users create and sell “original t-shirt (and other apparel) designs.” A Skreened seller using the screen name of Easy Does It was selling t-shirts bearing Food in Jars logo in various colors. Well at least they chose an accurate screen name — what could be easier than profiting from uploading and selling someone else’s IP? Upload and go . . . straight to the bank (or to federal prison, but usually only when Hollywood or high fashion is involved). When FOOD IN JARS blogger, canner and brand owner, Marisa McClellan, initially found out about the infringement back in March, she was put off by Skreened’s requirement that she provide documentary evidence of her intellectual property rights. She paid her graphic designer in jam and had neither a work for hire agreement, nor a copyright assignment or license. Since exclusive rights under copyright may be transferred only in writing, you might think Ms. McClellan was hung out to dry like fruit before canning. However, just because Marisa cannot claim exclusive copyright rights, does not mean she hasn’t any at all. At a minimum, she has an implied non-exclusive copyright license and common law (use-based) trademark rights. Of course, Marisa will be in a much better position to enforce and even commercialize her IP rights if she acquires a retroactive copyright transfer of her logo and sets aside the time and dough to apply for copyright registration and trademark registration. Speaking of d’oh! . . .

Prez prays court will protect him and it does! claims trademark rights are unpatriotic. Demstore is a one stop shop for left wing friendly paraphernalia, including larger than life yard signs and Obama buttons, some of which included Obama’s logo without consent from Obama for America (OFA). OFA is President Obama’s principal reelection campaign, which happens to be the owner of Obama’s well known and federally registered logo. Sale of merchandise bearing this logo makes up a significant portion of OFA’s revenue. OFA initially sent Demstore a C&D back in April, 2011 and followed up with another in July of last year. Unable to resolve the dispute through negotiation, OFA finally sued Demstore for trademark infringement and unfair competition seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions in early June. Then, this past Thursday, the court entered a stipulated injunction and dismissal of the case to absolutely no fanfare whatsoever. Perhaps because the permanent injunction was so obviously inevitable it’s not newsworthy? I do wonder what led to Demstore’s concession. Do you think the folks there just woke up on Thursday with the sudden realization that causing their Obama’s campaign to spend time and money fighting them in an infringement dispute was not the best way to support his reelection? Demstore’s not the only fan accused of infringing on their idol’s IP . . .

Mac Miller ain’t got no finesse.

Lord Finesse ain’t buying what rapper Mac Miller is selling, especially not Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza. What he does want from Miller is “in no event less than $10 million” for copyright infringement, unfair competition, interference with contractual relations and civil right violations(?!?!). This battle of the bros recently culminated in a lawsuit stemming from Miller’s illegal copying of one of Finesse’s songs along with his use of Finesse’s name without permission to launch his own musical career. Launch where? Straight into the toilet? You might think a career launched by infringement would be doomed from the start, but surprisingly Miller is selling out arenas. Miller’s Facebook Fan Page exceeds 2 million while his official FB page boasts 93,000 fans. Lord Finesse has a mere 13,000 Facebook fans, so it’s no wonder that he’s upset with the young upstart who stole his song. While a rap-off might be more effective in determining who the real Lord is, Finesse seeks substantial damages and with a tour like the one Miller just had, he just might have the cash to pay. And in other entertaining infringement news from the rapperverse. . .

Who would God rock out to?

New Boyz is too cool to care about whether God is dead. Not to mention the fact that the Sex Pistols established that decades ago. In determining which came first the Christian or the egg, the Christian rap group Newsboys says it came first and New Boyz have got to go. Newboys is a “staple in the Christian music industry . . . with 28 Number 1 singles” and multiple nominations and awards from the Grammys, Dove Awards and Billboard Music Awards. They were also voted Best Christian Rock Band by Reader’s Choice Awards this year. Whose readers, however, is a mystery. New Boyz is an All American rap band with explicit lyrics like, “Really reals baby f*ckin while I’m clubbin Beat it so good like a nigga billy clubbed it Loaded in this bitch . . .” Even I exclaimed, Jesus! So, like any good Christian, the Newsboys prayed for a good lawyer and as soon as God sent one of them off to court they went to make New Boyz repent. They filed a lawsuit against New Boyz and their label, Warner Music, for trade name infringement, as well as trademark infringement, and unfair competition. Now it’s in God’s hands, otherwise known as the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. New Boyz aren’t the only ones not mindful of trademark rights . . .

Trademark search slips HuffPost’s mind.

When launching a blog with Mindful in its title you best be mindful of what’s already registered with the USPTO. Somehow, the common practice of trademark searching evaded the good folks at Huffington Post and their parent company, AOL, which launched MINDFUL LIVING and MINDFUL TRAVEL sections without regard for Kathleen Hall’s trademark rights. So Hall, who loves “spirituality, animals, nature and people” (just not the ones at AOL) meditated on it and then hired an attorney to force HuffPost to mind her marks! After AOL promised, but failed, to cease and desist use of MINDFUL LIVING, Hall filed suit for trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising. Hall actually owns 42 trademark registrations — of which 29 are MINDFUL marks — and 1 pending application, including:


Kinda hard (more like impossible) to understand AOL’s oversight on this one (or should I say 29!). I mean, it’s one thing to overlook a minor common law use, but to ignore an entire family of marks (especially federally registered marks) – that’s just senseless. Hall dismissed her case with prejudice later in July. Hopefully she got a good settlement for her trouble, doubled for AOL’s foolishness!

Legal services are expensive, but isn’t peace of mind worth it, especially to help search and clear marks before adoption, use and registration? IP registration evidences ownership which facilitates monetization, transfers and dispute resolution. Since IP itself is intangible, it really helps to have tangible evidence of ownership.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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