ALS Association Backs Away from Ice Bucket Challenge Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on September 5, 2014

bucketSan Diego – The ALS Association (ALSA) has expressly abandoned a trademark application for the term “ice bucket challenge,” the name that was used for the viral video sensation, which has raised more than $94 million for the group in less than a month. ALSA backed away from seeking to trademark the term after it got a negative feedback on reports of its efforts to claim ownership to the phrase.  

The group recently filed applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure rights for “ice bucket challenge” and “ALS ice bucket challenge.” At the time the organization said it was moving to get the trademarks with the blessings of the families that initiated the challenge. However, after some negative reactions to the news, ALSA backtracked and issued a statement that it is dropping the effort to stake a claim to the trademarks.  ALSA officials said that they filed for these trademarks in good faith to protect them from misuse.

The Ice Bucket Challenge caught on like wild fire this summer across various social media platforms with millions, including celebrities, athletes and politicians dumping icy water on their heads and donating money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord. But some are of the opinion that ALSA, which did not really play a part in creating this challenge, went too far in trying to trademark the terms.

The campaign has brought in a massive influx of donations for ALSA.  The organization is still looking into how the money will be spent.  The group has handed out 21 new grants to ALS researchers and has said it is likely to spend more on research projects as well as for care and advocacy of those fighting the disease.

The main issue with some on ALSA’s attempt to trademark these terms is that it tried to trademark a phrase that it did not create. The Ice Bucket Challenge was started by a few families and caught on thanks to social media.  Some have compared ALSA’s trademark attempt to the Boston Beer Company’s efforts to claim rights to the phrase “Boston Strong” after the 2... Read the rest

Tesla Trademark Dispute in China Resolved

By Joseph Mandour on August 28, 2014

teslaLos Angeles – U.S. electric automaker Tesla Motors Inc. says it has reached an amicable resolution to a trademark disagreement in China clearing the way for CEO Elon Musk’s plans to expand as the world’s largest auto market. This is the second time that Tesla has declared that the disagreement with Chinese businessman Zhan Baosheng has concluded. Baosheng had already registered the Tesla trademark prior to the California-based automaker coming to China. In January, Tesla had announced that the matter had been resolved. But then last month, Zhan filed to bring Tesla to court.  In its latest announcement, Tesla states that the issue has now been “completely resolved.”

Tesla has an ambitious plan for growth in China, which has recently unveiled a number of incentives, such as tax cuts and purchase subsidies to help boost the sale of electric cars.  As part of the deal, Zhan has agreed to have Chinese officials finalize the process of canceling the Tesla trademarks that he had registered or applied for, at no cost to Tesla.  In addition, Tesla and Zhan also reached commercial terms to transfer certain Internet domain names, including tesla.cn and teslamotors.cn, to Tesla.

This dispute between Zhan and Tesla is not the first time that an American company was forced to purchase its own trademark in China. Other corporations, such as Apple and Unilever, have had similar issues in the past.  China’s trademark laws follow a first-to-file principle that rewards “squatters” or “trademark trolls” who have targeted valuable foreign brands and registered them as their own.  This puts corporations entering China in a position where they have to rebrand their products, get involved in a legal battle in China, or pay big money to buy back the trademark.

Zhan, who is based in Guangdong, registered the trademarks to the Tesla name both in English and Chinese in 2006.  He has also tried to sell the label to the U.S. company in the past, but negotiations were not successful. Now, with the resolution, Tesla will have undisputed rights to its trademarks in China.

Tesla began deliveries of its Model S luxury electric cars in China... Read the rest

University of Arkansas Gets Sound Trademark on Its Famous Hog Call

By Joseph Mandour on August 7, 2014

pigOrange County – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently granted the trademark for the sounds contained in the University of Arkansas’s “Hog Call.” The chant — “Woooooooo, Pig! Sooie! Woooooooo, Pig! Sooie! Woooooooo, Pig! Sooie! Razorbacks!” – now constitute a registered trademark. The school filed for this trademark about a year ago and as part of its application, the university also turned in a video of Razorbacks legend Frank Broyles leading fans in what has become known as the Hog Call. The Hog Call falls under the sensory trademark category, which means that it is a sound rather than a word, image, or symbol. The Application was filed in Class 041 for “Providing collegiate athletic and sporting events”.

The University of Arkansas already owns a federal trademark registration for “Woo Pig Sooie!”. This new sound trademark registration cannot be used for commercial purposes without the University of Arkansas’s permission or license. However, it does not pertain to non-commercial usage such as fans yelling the chant at games or anywhere else. Such use would be considered to be fair use so long as the use was not made to designate the source of goods and the use was not commercial in nature. The sound trademark can be heard here: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/documentviewer?caseId=sn86021236&docId=MRK20130726170010#docIndex=15&page=1

This is the first collegiate cheer to be registered as a trademark. The university said in a statement that it sought to trademark this cheer in order to stop those seeking to exploit it commercially. University officials say their only concern is to stop those seeking to exploit the trademark commercially. The Hog Call has been synonymous with the University of Arkansas since the 1920s.

Other examples of registered sound trademarks include NBC’s chimes, the Tivo popping noises when using the remote control, the Intel chimes, the ESPN nah nah nah, nah nah nah, the Yahoo! yodel, and the duck quaking “Aflac”, all of which can be heard here: http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/soundmarks/

... Read the rest

San Diego State Seeks “I Believe That We Will Win” Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on July 21, 2014

basketballSan Diego – The chant adopted by the U.S. soccer team at the World Cup could soon start paying dividends for San Diego State University, which actually began using the trademark several years ago. The phrase, “I believe that we will win!” has been chanted during the school’s basketball games and has been sold on apparel. Recently, the school made the move to acquire the trademark to help prevent other similar uses.

San Diego State University’s attempt to trademark the phrase could become a reality soon as the trademark publishes for opposition on July 22nd. The final chapter of this saga is unfolding as the chant caught fire during the FIFA World Cup that just concluded in Brazil. Although the U.S. soccer team did not get far, the chant became extremely popular. The recent popularity of the phrase could make it a moneymaker for the school if can register the federal trademark.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s online database shows that in October 2011, Aztec Shops Ltd., a clothing store in San Diego State University’s Student Union, filed a trademark for the phrase for use on apparel such as caps, hats, jackets, T-shirts, and sweatshirts.

If SDSU gets its trademark, others who wish to use it may reach out to San Diego State for licensing. That said, it is not certain that San Diego State University will get the trademark. It appears that the chant may have started at Navy in the late 1990s and since then has also been used by Utah State since 2009. It is believed to have originated at the Naval Academy’s Prep School.

If any other institution has already used it commercially before San Diego State, they could still oppose the trademark based on prior use. Starting July 22, anyone who is opposed to the trademark will have 30 days to challenge it. SDSU officials say their goal with seeking to trademark the phrase is not to stop high school or little league teams from using the chant. They say it is about protecting the school’s ability to continue using the phrase on its merchandise.

... Read the rest

Washington Redskins Trademark Cancelled, Held to be Disparaging

By Joseph Mandour on July 1, 2014

Closeup of American Football on FieldLos Angeles – A recent ruling by the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that the NFL’s Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging” will provide a shot in the arm for those who have been vocal advocates of changing the team’s name.  The ruling no doubt increases the financial and political pressure for a movement that has been gaining momentum over the last two years.  The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board voted 2-1 in support of the name change and even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the topic encouraging the team to consider changing the name.

As for the Redskins, they wasted no time in announcing that they will appeal the ruling and that the team’s name will continue to have common law trademark protection, even as the legal wrangling continues.  Redskins’ trademark attorneys say the ruling will have no effect on the team’s ownership of and the right to use the Redskins name and logo. The team’s owner also maintains that the name is not used to ridicule Native Americans, but has been used with respect and honor, and is a source of pride among many American Indians.

The ruling essentially involves use of the Redskins name, which has been trademarked by the team between the years 1967 and 1990. However, it does not include the team’s Native American head logo.  If the ruling stands, the team can continue to use the name but it will become more of a challenge for the Redskins to go after those who print the team’s trademark on clothing or gear without proper permission.  The ruling could prove costly for the franchise and could lead to the loss of millions of dollars each year including lost sponsorships.

Those who are in support of changing the name are trying to appeal to the team owner’s sense of morality to make him stop using what many consider a racial slur.  This ruling gives credence to that position and many are hoping that the trademark ruling will nudge the team or the NFL in the direction of changing the name.  Perhaps a change to the Washington Indians is in order.

... Read the rest

Trademark Issued for Pi Symbol for Clothing Line Causes Uproar

By Joseph Mandour on June 23, 2014

pi symbolLos Angeles – A Brooklyn artist and entrepreneur has trademarked the pi symbol to brand his line of t-shirts, tank tops and hats, angering many math geeks and clothing designers who use the symbol on a variety of objects and apparel. The artist, Paul Igrisano, claims that he sought a trademark for the symbol pi, with the period added, because he was trying to protect his trademark rights and business.

Ingrisano has also begun sending cease-and-desist letters to sites trafficking in pi-themed clothing. The website Zazzle.com, temporarily pulled down listings for hundreds of products at Ingrisano’s request, but restored them less than two days after the move roused small designers who use the site. Among them was a math teacher who marketed t-shirts with the pi symbol for a Pi Day celebration in his school.

Ingrisano, whose initials are P.I., says Pi was a childhood nickname for him and thereby has special personal significance to him. But to others, trademarking pi seems as absurd as claiming ownership of the alphabet. Ingrisano is now getting a steady stream of hate mail on a daily basis. Some websites have even started their own clothing lines that berate Ingrisano as a “pi-hole” and “pi-rate.” But Ingrisano says he has the support of local artists and isn’t going to back down. He is determined to continue marketing his line of clothing and making sure that his business is protected.

The key inquiry of course is whether Ingrisano was actually the first to use the Pi symbol on apparel. For any use that pre-dated Ingrisano, he would be hard pressed to have them stop use. Beyond that question, it is also import to consider whether consumers consider the use of the Pi symbol on clothing as merely ornamental and thus not even a trademark use. In the end, it may be that Ingrisano has a long uphill legal battle against each so-called infrin... Read the rest

California Chrome’s Owners File to Trademark Horse’s Name

By Joseph Mandour on June 3, 2014

HorseracingSan Diego – The owners of California Chrome, the horse that could potentially win the first Triple Crown in 36 years, have filed a trademark application for the horse’s name. California Chrome’s owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin along with their wives, who make up the horse’s ownership entity filed the trademark just two days before California Chrome won the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The owners are hoping to trademark the phrase on athletic apparel including shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, and hats. The filing states that gear with California Chrome’s name was first sold in April 2013.

In addition to filing for the trademark, California Chrome’s owners have also signed their first major sponsorship deal with Skechers, which will be featured on everything from the apparel of the horse’s handlers to the horse’s blanket to the barn leading up to the Belmont Stakes on June 7th. Under the sponsorship agreement, team members will wear Skechers apparel in the winner’s circle should the horse win. The deal also allows Skechers to use California Chrome in marketing materials for a month after the race. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to reports, it is the largest deal in horseracing since UPS paid IAEH Stables to advertise on Triple Crown Hopeful Big Brown in 2008.

On June 7th, California Chrome will take to the track at the Belmont Stakes. The horse will be the 13th to go for the Triple Crown. The last time a racehorse won all three legs was in 1978 when Affirmed accomplished the feat. In 2008, Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but didn’t even finish the race at Belmont. Most recently, another horse, After I’ll Have Another, was pulled the day before the Belmont after winning Kentucky and Preakness.

The owners of those horses had produced merchandise in anticipation of their racehorses winning the Triple Crown. It now remains to be seen if California Chrome will break the jinx and win Belmont. If he doesn’t, merchandise with his name and most likely the California Chrome trademark may not mean a whole lot after June 7th.

... Read the rest

Swatch May Fight Apple’s ‘iWatch’ to Prevent Trademark Confusion

By Joseph Mandour on May 22, 2014

swatchSan Diego – Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch is considering taking steps to stop Apple from registering the name “iWatch” for trademark protection, saying the name is too similar to Swatch’s already trademarked “iSwatch.” In recent years, despite Apple’s reluctance to even confirm the existence of an “iWatch” product, the technology giant has busily conducted a global trademark registration campaign, filing for protection of the name “iWatch” in numerous countries, including Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, and Russia.

This is not the first time that Swatch has openly opposed the registration of the name “iWatch” and it has no plans of relenting against a major competitor, such as Apple. As a trademark owner, Swatch is actively taking part in its duty to enforce its trademark rights. A Swatch representative stated, “We consider the likelihood of confusion as given, the trademarks are confusingly similar.” However, Iceland has been the only country so far to deny Apple’s “iWatch” trademark application based on its confusing similarity to Swatch’s existing trademark also used for watches.

When determining whether to deny or accept Apple’s “iWatch” trademark applications, foreign trademark offices will weigh several factors, such as the similarity of trademarks and the products, the channels of trade, the degree of care that consumers will have in deciding to purchase the products, and other similar factors. The process of filing foreign trademarks can be time consuming as many offices can take 18 months to several years to respond to an Application. If granted, Swatch would then have an opportunity to oppose the application or any resulting registration.

Apple’s recent trademark filings in other countries have expanded to include jewelry, precious stones, and chronometric instruments, and use the name “iWatch” has fueled rumors of the company’s intended launch of wearable tech products. The Silicon Valley based company remains silent on the matter. Whether the rumored Apple “iWatch” is deemed too similar to Swatch’s existing “iSwatch” remains to be seen.

... Read the rest

Tesla Ends Fight for “Model E” Trademark

By Joseph Mandour on May 15, 2014

teslaLos Angeles – After a lengthy legal bout with Ford Motors, Tesla has finally decided to pull the plug on its plan to obtain trademark protection for “Model E” in connection to its next generation sedan. The U.S. based electric auto maker filed its trademark application for the “Model E” name in August of last year, ruffling Ford’s feathers over the use of the name. Ford then filed its own trademark application in December 2013 asserting its own rights in the trademark.

Ford predicated its claims against Tesla on the notion that Tesla was improperly using the “Model [insert letter of the alphabet]” formula, from which its iconic Model T started the automobile revolution. Indeed, over the years, Ford rolled out several cars according to this naming scheme, including the Model A, Model B, Model F, Model K and Model R. Interestingly, though Ford doesn’t offer a Model E, its threats against Tesla seem to have paid off.

Just last month, Tesla filed express abandonments with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO’), effectively terminating its efforts to trademark the name. A Tesla spokesperson said of the decision, “The matter has been resolved amicably,” though he declined to elaborate as to whether or not Ford had demanded that Tesla abandon its application.

Since its inception in 2003, Tesla has introduced the Model S, Roadster and Model X. Given its filing of trademark applications covering three classes in 2013 for “Model E”, it was widely assumed that this would be the name of its next model, which is rumored to go into production later this year. Tesla founder Elon Musk has fueled anticipation for the next car, claiming that it will be accessible to a much wider consumer-base than other Tesla models, with a sticker price of under $35,000.

With no clues for a replacement name offered by the Palo Alto based manufacturer, there is much left in the air for Tesla at this time. Apart from the trademark dispute with Ford, the company is busy gearing up for the building of what is being termed its “gigantafactory”, where it will mass produce its lithium... Read the rest

New Trademark Filing Gives Glimpse into Apple’s Plans for Watches

By Joseph Mandour on May 13, 2014

Isolated male hands with smartwatch with phone call on the screeLos Angeles – A string of recent trademark filings by Silicon Valley’s biggest name in technology may shed light on the future direction of the company. Records on file with various Intellectual Property Offices around the globe show that Apple has been steadily adding to its trademark filings by broadening its registrations and applications to include jewelry, clocks and watches.

Several sources have reported that Apple has filed such amendments in countries like the United Kingdom, Ecuador, Mexico and Norway. In each instance, the company has expanded the protection of its “Apple” trademark to reach items contained in International Class 014, which generally is reserved for “Precious metals and their alloys and goods in precious metals or coated therewith” including jewelry, precious stones and chronometric instruments according to the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks, which is set forth by the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”).

The move to expand trademark protection to cover such items is being classified by many as an affirmation of the company’s plan to introduce the much speculated upon iWatch, Apple’s plans are further corroborated by its filing of several trademark applications for the name iWatch in foreign countries such as Russia and Jamaica, which records show were filed as early as last June.

As for the specs of the rumored iWatch itself, multiple Apple bloggers predict that the device will be launched sometime in late 2014. The new product is said to feature a range of technologies that are aimed to more fully integrate more traditional mobile device usage with physiological indications such as a person’s sleep, exercise and activity data. The iWatch is also expected to be fully compatible with other Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad.

Despite Apple’s blatant attempts to keep any definitive answer about the existence of the iWatch under wraps, competition has already ensued. Just this week, rival tech maker LG posted a promotional video o... Read the rest

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