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Free speech about trademarks and free speech

Speech about trademarks, trademark registrations and free speech have bubbled so verily to the top of the public imagination that it’s all over the official organ of free speech, the New York Times!

Well, okay, that’s a bit much, but it sounded good for a second, no?

Here’s what I’m talking about.  First, there was this:

That tweet gave birth, first, to a nice little conversation on Twitter involving Christine Haight Farley, who has definite and well-articulated views on the matter and ones which are worth hearing, and Marc Randazza, regarding whose virtually completely opposite opinion virtually the same can and hereby is said as well. But this is just the tip of the Times-y iceberg that’s forming. Read More…

Wrong skillset for trademark registration

John Welch reports, at the TTABlog, about what you’d think would be a no-brainer:

The Board affirmed a refusal to register the configuration shown below, for “electric skillets,” finding that Preston’s proof of acquired distinctiveness under Section 2(f) was inadequate. In re National Presto Industries, Inc., Serial No. 85883551 (April 19, 2016) [not precedential].

The mark comprises the curved handles of the skillet, not the metal base or the glass lid or the knob (which are shown all in dashed lines).

Of course, under Wal-Mart, product configurations cannot be inherently distinctive, so Presto resorted to Section 2(f), relying on its use of the “mark” since 2005, sales of more than $65 million, more that $5 million in advertising expenditures, and distribution of some 80,000 product catalogs.

The Board observed that sales figures showing commercial success of the product are not probative of purchaser recognition of the product’s configuration as a source indicator. The critical question is whether the product design is being used and advertised in such a way that consumers “associate the product design with a particular applicant, and therefore view the product as emanating from a single source.” So-called “look-for” advertising may be particularly probative.

This is not a surprising outcome, even a little tiny bit.

But maybe I take too much for granted! Read More…

Billings Don’t Only Matter to Lawyers

Originally posted 2005-02-28 11:45:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

And trademark law does’t evidently matter all that much to the Billings Gazette. What a mess this story is! Here are some of the trademark law howlers in this one piece about a fairly routine trademark dispute:

  • “Actually, the Burkhartsmeiers have only filed for the trademarks. The federal government hasn’t granted them yet. “ NO! The government doesn’t “grant” trademarks. It protects them via the legal system and may even grant you a trademark application for your trouble. But trademarks are established by use, not by the government.
  • “After registering Coffee Mill and Coffee Mill Espresso & More in Montana, Morgan started filing for national registration last June. However, her computer crashed and she got caught up in running for the state Legislature. Now she’s trying again to protect her business names. ” NO! Business names are not trademarks! They can be trade names, but they may not be entitled to trademark protection.
  • “To truly protect a business name, a company has to register at the federal level and in each state for trademarks, trade names and service marks. ” NO! Truly ridiculous, and in some states, truly irrelevant.

Remember, I’m a media blogger. Someone’s got to speak trademark truth to power!

“Liberals Against the First Amendment”

Originally posted 2009-04-19 11:33:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Marco Randazza again, this time on naked state-backed censorship at the University of Massachusetts:

university-of-massachusetts-amherst-4f736c5dThe UMass conservative organization, the Silent Majority, publishes a newspaper called “The Minuteman.” The most recent issue of The Minuteman exposed some financial irresponsibility in another student organization, Bridges (an organization that is supposed to spend its funds to tutor minority students), and mocked the organization and its director. The Expose appears on the first page of this document. . . .

The Bridges crew wasn’t too pleased about this, so they engaged in a pretty time-honored UMass tradition: They stole all of the copies of the newspaper that they didn’t want others to read. The UMass student government association responded by calling for the conservative group’s funding to be cut unless they purchased an advertisement in the campus’ main newspaper, The Collegian, apologizing for the above statements. (source)

Despite the fact that the measure violated the First Amendment in two different ways, it still passed. The resolution passed, and when a student senator attempted to introduce his own measure repealing the clearly unconstitutional measure, he was escorted from the senate floor by campus police.

No decency, no shame, not even a hint of self-awareness.  Says the very liberal Professor Randazza:  “Any ‘liberal’ who doesn’t stand up for the Minuteman has no right to complain the next time it is liberal-valued free speech under attack.”

Huh?  What’s a “right”?

Comments to EFF: Sod Off

Originally posted 2005-01-18 20:54:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is an update on my earlier item about the EFF’s ACLU-like position in the Apple / PowerPage lawsuit. Apparently everyone (all five of ’em) who was motivated to comment on the EFF’s position in this matter (which I will paraphrase as “other peoples’ information wants to be free once someone violates their duty of confidentiality and blabs it”) agrees with Likelihood of Confusion. As we all know, rectitude is solely a function of who wins the vote, so you have to like this trend.

How would EFF climb down from this one? And assuming they don’t, how would it ever enforce any non-disclosure agreements it may have with its own employees, contractors and others?

Louisiana’s lawyers’ guild

Originally posted 2014-08-07 16:31:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Hudson County Superior CourtLast year we screamed and shouted along with a bunch of other people and prevented New York from passing “ethics” rules that would have essentially shut down New York lawyers’ blogs by regulating them out of existence.  Unfortunately all the noise didn’t make it down to Louisiana, which did go ahead and pass a similar set of restrictions under the guise of “consumer protection” but which should be understood as an attempt by established bar-association types to keep the bogeyman of blog- and Internet-savvy lawyers away from their cozy courtroom concessions.

Now a Louisiana law firm is taking on the regulations and has filed suit in federal court. Look, here’s their press release — we’re allowed to copy that (but links added by LOC):

This morning, Wolfe Law Group, L.L.C. filed a suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s new rules governing lawyer advertising. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the enforcement of Louisiana’s new advertising rules, scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2009. The Louisiana advertising rules are some of the most aggressive in the nation, and Wolfe Law Group’s suit argues that the rules go too far and restrict an attorney’s right to freely speak about its trade.

Wolfe Law Group argues that the new rules effectively prevent a lawyer from advertising its services through online mediums, such as Google’s AdWords, as the rules also restrict an attorney’s ability to engage in discourse with colleagues, clients and the public through online bulletin boards, blogs, twitter, and other online communities and forums. Read More…

Suing bloggers for dollars

Originally posted 2011-12-05 10:40:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Interior of rotunda, New York Supreme Court, New York CountyGlenn Reynolds links to a an article in Wired about a newspaper “chain”‘s — actually, lawyer Steve Gibson’s — “new business model”:  Suing bloggers who post newspaper articles, evidently more or less intact ones, on their sites.  Glenn says suing bloggers “seems like a poor business plan” — mainly, of course, because most bloggers are broke, or pretty close to it.

The article also explains why these one-off claims by outfits such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal are unlikely, in the long run, to pay off.  One reason is that at least the music industry, through the Recording Industry Association of America, is theoretically going for some degree of bulk in its litigation trawling against unlawful file sharing.  And we did say “theoretically”:  Remember, in 2008 the RIAA managed to spend about $16 million on legal fees to reel in a whopping $391,000.  As the article says, “You’d have to go after a lot of people for a relatively small amount of money,” says Jonathan Band, a Washington, D.C. copyright lawyer. “That is a riskier proposition.”

So, yes, it is hard to comprehend the return on investment here.

There are other reasons this doesn’t seem to make sense.  “Defendants might be less willing to settle a lawsuit stemming from their posting of a single news article, despite the Copyright Act’s whopping damages,” says the article.  But no, not quite on the “whopping damages” stuff.  Contrary to myth — and to the threats routinely uttered by copyright plaintiff attorneys — statutory damages are not meant to be a windfall, as I explain at some length here.  Now it is true that some juries think intellectual property infringement damages are a jackpot unrelated to actual harm — usually because judges don’t instruct them properly.  But other judges in high profile cases are refusing to be part of the copyright shakedown.  Thus in the recent Tannenbaum copyright case, the District Judge reduced the jury’s damages award of $675,000 for infringement of 30 songs to $67,500, ruling that the amount awarded was unconstitutional under the Due Process clause.

Still, $67,500 is a lot of money, a lot, and still pretty darned distant from any plausible quantum of loss to the copyright owner.   Read More…

Likelihood of extrusion

iLrg-szyk-haggadah-four-sonsReprinting my annual Passover post, updated for modern microblogging sensibilities and adjusted for days of the week as they come out this year:

I’ve been hit by pre-Passover preparations — the First Seder is tonight — plus the need to front-load the making-a-living part to make up for the fact that I will be “out of pocket” this weekend and essentially on mission-critical-only duty for next week, too.

Here’s a nice thought on the topic, appropos for our 24/6 social media lifestyle:

The 21st century is certainly a marvelous time in which to live. Space exploration, computerization, the taming of vicious diseases are all truly amazing feats. But we also suffer more burnout, mental exhaustion, attention deficit disorders and high blood pressure than ever before. They are no doubt the effects of our own hi-tech servitude. Like it or not, we’re ruthlessly on call to someone for something all the time. And, we call it “normal.”
Read More…

Inducement to contribute to infringe … to roll on

Originally posted 2013-02-12 16:34:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Michael Atkins:

Novel causes of action for contributory cybersquatting and contributory dilution appear to viable here in the Western District [of Washington].

On Jan. 12, Western District Judge Ricardo Martinez refused to dismiss such claims plaintiff brought in Microsoft Corp. v. Shah.

In that case, Microsoft alleges defendants, among other things, induced others to engage in cybersquatting and dilution by instructing them on how to use Microsoft trademarks to increase traffic on their Web sites. Microsoft also alleges defendants sold a product that contained software that enabled buyers to create Web sites incorporating Microsoft marks to help sell emoticon-related software, including a video narrated by defendant Amish Shah.

Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing claims for contributory cybersquatting and contributory dilution are not recognized.

The court denied the motion.

This is an interesting development, and one to watch, in light of what I see as the overall reluctance of courts to extend the law of secondary liability for trademark infringement — including with respect to domain name registrars.

Confusion ascendant

Originally posted 2015-07-25 23:11:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jewish tradition teaches that on Tisha B’Av (the Ninth day of the month of Av) — which begins tonight — five national calamities occurred:

  1. During the time of Moses, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the ten spies, and the decree was issued by God forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE — traditional Jewish dating)
  2. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
  3. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Traditional sourcest teach that two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)

Read More…