Highway Signs: Public Domain or Product Brands? The M22 Dispute

The attorneys at The Concept Law Group, an intellectual property law firm, are monitoring an interesting trademark dispute case that has recently developed in the state of Michigan. The case involves a standard black-and-white state highway sign, and has pitted the state against brothers Matt and Keegan Myers, founders of a business called M22.

M22 received a federal trademark registration in 2007 for its “M22” logo, which it printed on t-shirts. The M22 logo is designed to resemble a standard black-and-white state highway sign, specifically that of the M-22 highway in Michigan, and has proven to be popular with Michigan residents. M22 claims that it maintains the exclusive right to use the road sign logo as a product brand.

The state, however, sued M22, alleging state and federal trademark violation for registering the logo as a trademark. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit officially challenging the M22 trademark, stating that state highway signs are in the public domain for anyone to use, much like the American flag, and that anybody should be able to market them.

According to M22’s website, the brothers indicated that the M-22 highway is an important symbol of their everyday lives. As a result, they wanted to find a way to show their pride and passion for the region. The M22 website offers an insight into why the brothers feel so strongly about the M22 logo:: “A symbol, just for us, to wear proudly; something that meant so much: M22. Put it on a shirt for friends and family and spread that Michigan love around a bit. That was as far as we thought it would go, honestly, until we started getting requests.” http://www.m22.com/pages/about

 

The outcome of this case seems to depend upon whether or not the court will rule that road signs are official state insignias. Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “designs that do not rise to the level of being ‘emblems of national authority’ are not refused,” meaning that the M22 logo would have to be deemed an “emblem of national authority,” like the American flag, to be refused trademark protection. The burden will be on the state of Michigan to prove that the M22 symbol should be considered an “emblem of national authority” in order to win the lawsuit.

If you have a logo that you wish to protect, then you are encouraged to pursue a trademark application to defend your intellectual property against cheap knockoffs. Don’t know where to begin? Submit your trademark to The Concept Law Group for immediate protection.

Infringement Search: Copyright Lawsuit News

Recent news indicates that some major American department store retail chains, fast food restaurants, and even comedians are being sued for copyright infringement…

  1. Chin vs. Kohl’s – Lili Chin, a Los Angeles illustrator, filed a $1 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Kohl’s. The lawsuit alleges that the department store chain, along with its manufactures, used some of Chin’s drawings on clothing items, including T-shirts and socks, without her permission. A proper infringement search should have indicated that the images Chin created of her Boston Terrier were in fact protected via a copyright symbol on her posters. The retailer continues to market the items, so Chin has demanded a jury trial. Since most retailers simply offer a settlement out of court upon receiving similar complaints from artists, this case could have serious implications regarding US copyright laws.

 

  1. Berreau McDonald’s – It appears that even the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants isn’t immune to copyright infringement lawsuits. McDonald’s is being sued for an unspecified amount of damages by the late artist Dash Snow’s current estate manager Jade Berreau for copying and using his graffiti tag to decorate some of their restaurants. Berreau submitted a formal complaint to McDonald’s in June 2016 requesting that the fast food chain remove the graffiti tag created by Snow titled “SACE.”

 

  1. Kaseberg vs. Conan O’BrienDid you know that US Copyright laws are meant to protect literary works including written jokes? It’s true, and according to the US Copyright Office, “your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” The Kaseberg lawsuit alleges that comedian Conan O’ Brian, along with his team of writers, stole jokes from Robert “Alex” Kaseberg’s blog. The jokes were slightly modified and used in one of Conan’s monologues. Conan and his staff denied committing any copyright infringement citing fair use and independent creation in their defense.

Stay tuned for developments related to these cases and others. If you are concerned with protecting your intellectual property from being stolen, then consider contacting The Concept Law Group regarding infringement search services and copyright protection. Our attorneys have considerable experience in all aspects of the law, both domestic and internationally, relating to the protection of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, jewelry designs, songs, computer software, and architecture.

Find a Patent Attorney: Invention Security and Protection

There are numerous advantages to getting a patent, such as preventing others from copying your invention, higher profit margins, and protection from the competition for a specified length of time. If you are concerned with protecting your invention rights, then it might be time to find a patent attorney. Here are some of the tasks that an experienced patent attorney can help you with:

  • Determine whether or not your invention is patentable – In addition to being novel, an invention must also be useful and not obvious in order to receive a patent.
  • Documentation – There are numerous documents that are required in a successful patent; these range from descriptions and claims, to drawings and various other forms.
  • Patent Research – Hiring a professional to handle the patent research process could potentially save you from spending thousands of dollars on attempting to patent an invention that might already exist.

Cost   Since there are so many different variables involved with obtaining a patent, there is no definitive answer regarding exactly how much it costs to obtain a patent. If you have an invention and are interested in pursuing a patent, then the patent search and filing fees are typically based upon the degree of complexity related to respective inventions. For example, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has established several different categories of complexity, ranging from extremely and relatively simple, up to highly complex and software-related. So, those inventions classified as highly complex will typically cost more to patent. Some firms offer a flat-fee patent search model that provides the funds to hire a professional searcher, as well as pay for an attorney’s time reviewing the results and consulting with you to make the proper decision on whether to move forward with a patent application.   Although it’s possible to file a provisional patent application yourself, it’s strongly recommended to find a patent attorney to identify patent filing strategies with respect to:

  • Patentability
  • Freedom to operate
  • Drafting provisional and non-provisional utility or design patent applications
  • Foreign filing of a patent application
  • Initiating and conducting reexamination/post-grant review proceedings
  • Enforcing the rights of any patent holders through thoughtful, cost-effective, and intelligent litigation strategies.

USPTO: Contact a Registered Patent Attorney   Even the USPTO strongly advises inventors to contact a registered patent attorney or agent because the patent application and examination process is very complex. Even though they can’t recommend specific law firms, they do provide a list of patent attorneys that are registered, such as those at the Concept Law Group. The Concept Law Group can advise you regarding the different types of patents and help you navigate through the application process. But, probably the most important service provided by patent attorneys is enforcing your rights to the fullest extent the law allows.   The Concept Law Group would like to learn more about your invention and explain your options via a free 30-minute consultation. You can start the process here.

Oakland Raiders News: Major Trademark Developments

In Oakland Raiders News: The Oakland Raiders may very well soon become the “Las Vegas Raiders,” per reports indicating that the California-based team applied to register trademarks associated with the new name through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). According to the USPTO, the NFL franchise have been submitting applications seeking to register trademarks related to professional football activity and items under the new title.

The new trademark would serve to protect all future merchandise such as clothing, hats, jerseys, footwear, T-shirts, cellphone covers and a variety of other items depicting a Las Vegas Raiders logo. It would also cover education and entertainment services affiliated with professional football games. Raider team owner Mark Davis has previously expressed interest in relocating the team to Las Vegas because of the potential for building a new stadium.

The new stadium in Las Vegas could potentially serve as the home base for not only his NFL franchise, but also the local college football team. The Raiders bid to move the team Los Angeles recently fell through, leaving the franchise seeking alternative options to relocate from the 50-year-old Oakland Alameda Coliseum where they are based.

 

Trademark Attorneys: Avoid Domain Name Disputes

Since domain names are granted on a first come, first serve basis, domain name disputes are very common. If you are a business owner looking to secure a domain name for your brand, then you may want to consider consulting a lawyer that specializes in the protection of these trademarks, because it’s an area of law that is quite complex. In addition to protecting your intellectual property, retaining an attorney also has a number of other advantages directly related to trademarks including:

  • brainstorming & Trademark creation
  • searching for existing trademarks
  • filing trademark applications
  • trademark portfolio management
  • Monitoring potential infringers
  • Recording Trademark transactions
  • litigation support

Establishing an online presence is paramount in order to remain competitive in the modern business world. Thus, choosing a domain name is one of the most significant decisions that any business owner will have to make. Business owners are encouraged to include either a location or pertinent keywords in their domain names. Including a location will help ensure that local customers are able to efficiently access your products and services upon completing an online search. But, one of the most important elements of any domain name is including industry relevant keywords in the domain name. Further, a business owner should always register the domain name under his or her respective name. This will ensure proper domain name ownership, and help avoid costly disputes if a business partner claims the domain name in the future. It’s also important to remember to renew domain names on a regular basis to prevent them from being bought-out by third parties. Another common mistake made by business owners is using abbreviations or dashes in the domain name. This can result in reduced web traffic because hyphenated and abbreviated names are more difficult to recall. The trademark attorneys at The Concept Law Group, P.A. advise clients to research available domains prior to purchasing them to avoid domain name disputes and legal trouble. It’s also recommended to avoid extensions other than .com, unless you are concerned with a competitor purchasing the other extensions. Consulting a lawyer that specializes in trademark law can also help you restore social media accounts that have been suspended or removed and file complaints with the appropriate authorities. If you have questions about domain name disputes, or are involved in a domain name dispute, contact us today.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property: How to Get a Patent

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a patent is “the grant of a property right to the inventor.” http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents Once you obtain a patent, others are excluded from making, using or selling your invention thought the United States. As patentee, it becomes your responsibility to enforce the patent outside of the USPTO. So, if you have intellectual property, then you are strongly encouraged to consult with a registered patent attorney who can instruct you on the how to get a patent process in an effort to protect your idea.   One of the first steps to complete in the process is to conduct a patent search to confirm whether or not your invention is patentable. Although it’s possible for individuals inventors to conduct their own patent searches, it is advised to use a professional patent searcher because navigating the patent classification system can be difficult. But, what can be patented? Per USPTO regulations, patents encompass “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents   Types of Patents   The three different types of patents are utility, design and plant. Utility patents are typically granted to those who discover or invent processes, machines, composition of matter, or articles of manufacture; any of which must be classified as new and useful. Design patents are reserved for those who invent new and original designs for an article of manufacture. Finally, plant patents may be granted for the discovery or invention of new plant varieties that are distinct from others in existence.   Copyright vs. Patent vs. Trademark   Since understanding the laws surrounding intellectual property can become a bit confusing if you don’t have the proper training, it’s important that you consult with an attorney who has the education and specializes in each of these respective disciplines in order to protect your property. For instance, what distinguishes a patent from a copyright or trademark? Well, a copyright is reserved for authorship of intellectual works such as music, literary and art. A trademark refers to protecting words, names, or other symbols used in a trade.   How to get a patent, the application process…   If you have discovered something that is useful; and also meets the all of the other basic criteria for a patent; and have already conducted a patent search to ensure that it isn’t already registered with the USPTP, then it might be time to draft an application for patent. Again, consulting with a patent attorney can help you develop a successful filing strategy and expedite the process. Here are the steps involved in the application process:

  1. Completing a written document that describes your invention
  2. Rendering drawings to further detail the useful process, matter or machine invented
  3. Issuing an oath or declaration
  4. Filing, search, and examination fees

Upon filing your patent application, it will be examined, and a response shall be issued for either a patent allowance or rejection. If the patent is rejected, an attorney can help you issue a rebuttal and amend the claims to gain approval.   The Concept Law Group is a full-service intellectual property law firm that specializes in filing and prosecution of Patent, Trademark and Copyright applications. Contact the registered patent attorneys for a free, no obligation consultation.

For more information on how to get a patent, contact us today.

Sources:

http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-information-concerning-patents

How to Conduct a Patent Attorney Search

If you have an invention, or useful idea that you wish to protect, then you are encouraged to conduct a patent attorney search as soon as possible. Hiring an experienced patent attorney will help you develop a filing strategy and guide you through the application process. Granted, there are several different patent attorneys to choose from, so what strategies should you rely on when attempting to find a competent patent attorney? One of your first steps should be to confirm their qualifications. For instance, here is some common questions that should be answered prior to hiring any lawyer:

  • Did they graduate from an accredited law school? Although graduation from a prestigious law school can be a wonderful prerequisite, it’s often not the most important indicator of future courtroom performance since law schools are not rated above one another.
  • Are they licensed to practice law? They should have applied and received a license to practice law from heir state board of bar examiners before offering their legal services.
  • Are they experienced regarding patent rules and regulations? Since patent prosecution is often considered one of the most complex areas of law with a vast number of rules, you should verify that your attorney has successfully taken the Patent Bar. In addition, you should be confirming that any attorneys you are considering are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Upon confirming some of these qualifications, you can also go a step further and read some of the ratings and reviews that previous clients have issued regarding the service that they’ve received from a respective law firm. Simply type the name of the attorney or law firm into a search engine to discover whether or not previous clients had a positive experience using their services or not. A 5-star rating is often a reliable indicator that a law firm provides its clients with professional legal services. Those credentialed patent attorneys should also provide a transparent fee scale, or at least an average cost, based on the service being requested. Some attorneys offer their services based on fixed fees that are derived from an hourly rate. Finally, complete your patent attorney search by personally interviewing each of the lawyers that you’ve shortlisted in an effort to ensure that there aren’t any personality conflicts, and you are comfortable around them. If you are lucky enough to find a law office that offers a free initial consultation, you are encouraged to take advantage of this time because investing in legal counsel can become a significant expense. In addition, you’ll want to gauge their accessibility. Do they maintain office hours that are conducive to your schedule? It’s even possible to begin the process by completing an initial trademark or patent application online. The Concept Law Group is a full-service intellectual property law firm that specializes in filing and prosecution of Patent, Trademark and Copyright applications. Contact the registered patent attorneys for a free, no obligation consultation.

Copyright Lawyer: Protecting Your Intellectual Property

If you are looking for information regarding copyright protection law, then The United States Copyright Office is the authority that provides basic copyright information services to the public. The Copyright Office maintains a staff of over 400 employees tasked with examining and registering copyright claims. A qualified copyright lawyer will provide advice on all aspects of copyright law, and can help you protect any of the following intellectual property from being stolen:

  1.  literary works
  2.  musical works, including any accompanying words
  3.  dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  4.  pantomimes and choreographic works
  5.  pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6.  motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7.  sound recordings
  8.  architectural works (Sourced: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf)

How do you know if your work is protected? According to the US Copyright Office, “your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” So, you don’t have to register your work with the office for it to be protected, but you are required to register your work should you ever wish to file a lawsuit for infringement. A notice of copyright typically looks like this: Copyright © 2016 The Concept Law Group, P.A.   Although this notice is not required under the law, it is beneficial because it works to inform the public that the work is indeed copyright protected. This notice can also help a copyright lawyer disprove any defendant’s claims of innocent infringement. In addition to protecting your intellectual property, a copyright attorney will also help guide you through the registration and renewal process. Since the US Copyright Office receives in excess of 600,000 applications on an annual basis, you’ll want to ensure the accuracy of your application to confirm there are no errors that could lead to lengthy delays. In order to receive a copyright, you’ll be required to complete the application, submit a nonrefundable filing fee and a nonreturnable deposit. A lawyer specializing in this area will guarantee no time delays during this process, and also notify you when the time comes to file a renewal application. So, an experienced copyright lawyer definitely holds the key to successfully protecting your intellectual property. It’s also important to note that since there is no international copyright, you should consider consulting an attorney regarding international copyright treaties. The Concept Law Group, P.A. practices in the areas of trademarks, patents and copyrights. Their lawyers hold engineering degrees and have recovered over $60M in IP Litigation damages on behalf of clients.

Kevin Spacey Awarded U.S. Patent

Kevin Spacey, winner of two Academy Awards, now has a new accomplishment to add to his list of lifetime achievements: patent recipient.

 

The star of Netflix’s popular “House of Cards” political drama was awarded U.S. Patent Number 9,306,887, along with his co-inventor and his producing partner Dana Brunetti, for what they titled “Systems and methods for implementing email delivery.” Spacey explained that the idea came to him after multiple instances when someone would CC’d him rather than BCC him in an email chain.  This resulted in all recipients being aware of the star’s email address and would force the actor to constantly have to create and migrate to new email addresses to prevent him from being deluged with project pitches and stalker emails. “With this system, he could put his email address on the side of a building and still get emails only from people he wanted,” Brunetti told Variety, which was the first to report on the patent award. “I also have my own frustration of people I don’t know easily contacting me at any time. Everyone has their phones attached to them now, and I feel it is intrusive for anyone to be able to get a message freely to anyone at any time as long as they have their address.” Calling it akin to a “digital doorman at a velvet rope,” the patented email system sends unapproved email senders a note that they are not on the recipient’s approved list.  Newly approved senders have to input a PIN before correspondence can take place while those who have already been emailed by the recipient are automatically added to the list of approved senders, Brunetti told the trade publication. The patent application was filed in March 2013 and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 5, according to agency records.  Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti are credited as both the inventors and the assignees of the patent. Brunetti also said the invention has business applications, but the pair have yet to take the next step in development. “Now we just need to get it built,” Brunetti said Sunday via Twitter.

U.S. Trademark Office Seeking Another Chance to Ban Disparaging Trademarks

We previously reported on the Washington Redskins’ challenge of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) cancellation of several Redskins trademarks.  See Redskins Seeing Red.  Since that time, the en banc (all judges) Federal Circuit ruled that the Lanham Act (frequently referred to as the Trademark Act), which bans registration of marks that disparage people, ran afoul of the First Amendment by restraining speech.  With that ruling, the Court declared unconstitutional the agency’s revocation of the Washington Redskins’ registrations.

 

 

Yesterday, the USPTO asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s ruling.  According to the USPTO, the Federal Circuit fundamentally misunderstood how trademark law and trademark registrations work — confusing a refusal to confer benefits to the owner of an offensive mark with a refusal to allow them to use the mark at all.  “The court of appeals disregarded this court’s teaching that, when Congress does not restrict private speech or conduct, but simply offers federal benefits on terms that encourage private activity consonant with legislative policy, it has significant latitude to consider the content of speech in defining the terms on which the benefits will be provided,” the USPTO wrote. Although these issues have been in the news since June 2014, when the football team’s registrations were first cancelled, this case does not involve the Washington Redskins’ trademark registrations.  This case pertains to a band called “The Slants,” who were refused their application for registration on the grounds that the name is offensive to those of Asian ancestry.

 

 

After initially siding with USPTO, the Federal Circuit decided to hear the Slants case en banc.  On Dec. 22, the full court ruled that “the government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks.” “Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities,” U.S. Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for a nine-judge majority. “But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech.” The case is Lee v. Tam in the Supreme Court of the United States.