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When Can a Trademark Owner Take Action for Unauthorized Use of its Trademark Online?

January 4, 2022 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Allen Loayza

Unauthorized use of a trademark on the Internet occurs often and in many forms, usually involving the profiting, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from the goodwill associated with a trademark belonging to someone else. Such use, however, does not always rise to the level of trademark infringement. Unauthorized use of a trademark is only infringing if the particular use causes likely confusion among consumers. The most common type of confusion is confusion over source, which occurs at the time of purchase, but confusion can also arise as to affiliation, connection, or sponsorship, and confusion does not necessarily need to occur at the time of purchase.
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Is an unused registered trademark preventing you from clearing or registering your mark? Or was the blocking registration filed for goods or services that were not in use when the registrant declared that they were? The Trademark Modernization Act’s (“TMA”) new procedures for cancelling unused registrations, or registrations with goods and services that were not in use at the time of declaration, are now effective. 
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After five years of litigation, the battle between Unicolors, a California-based fabric design company, and H&M is still going strong. Now the United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether an inaccuracy in Unicolors’ copyright registration invalidates its registration and thus a jury’s $1 million damages award in Unicolors’ favor.
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The Trademark Modernization Act Establishes New Trademark Cancellation Procedures

January 12, 2021 | Blog | By Michael Graif, Williams Dixon

On December 27, 2020, the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (“the Act”) became law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. 
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In a landmark decision, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., the Supreme Court of the United States, by an 8-1 vote, affirmed the lower court’s determination that Booking.com could register BOOKING.COM as a trademark. 
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The United States Supreme Court unanimously held this week that Lucky Brand was not precluded from mounting a new defense in its litigation with Marcel Fashions Group — despite having chosen not to bring up the same defense in a prior litigation.  This ruling clarifies the circumstances under which a defense can be precluded from a lawsuit.
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In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court held that a trademark owner need not prove willful infringement in order to seek lost profits from a trademark infringer. The case, Romag Fasteners Inc. v. Fossil Inc. et al., case number 18-1233, involved a long running trademark infringement dispute between the parties.
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The U.S. Supreme Court, in a split decision, held that the federal ban on registering “scandalous” and “immoral” trademarks is an unconstitutional violation of free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The trademark FUCT is what was at issue in Iancu v. Brunetti, case number 18-302 (June 24, 2019).  Although the mark had been in use on clothing for many years, it was never accepted for registration by the US Trademark Office on grounds that it violated the ban on registration of “scandalous” and “immoral” marks under Section 1052(a) of the Lanham Act.
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The U.S. Supreme Court held today that bringing a suit for copyright infringement requires that the infringed work actually be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, and that a mere application for registration will not suffice.
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Significant 2018 Trademark Decisions

January 9, 2019 | Blog | By Michael Graif

This year the Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the Circuit Courts penned a number of opinions impacting trademark law.  Here are some key takeaways from the past year:
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Relatives of the late conservative political activist, Phyllis Schlafly, lost their appeal to prevent the Saint Louis Brewery, LLC (“the Brewery”) from trademarking the Schlafly name in connection with various beer products on November 26, 2018. 
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Two incredible things happened in 1992 for the NFL football team Washington Redskins. It won the Super Bowl and applied to register a trademark Washington Redskins. It has not been so lucky ever since. It has not won another Super Bowl and has not registered that mark since 1992.
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Company “Branding” and Benefits of Federal Trademark Registration

November 16, 2017 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

Selecting and protecting your “brand” should begin from the very moment a business is in the process of being formed, whether that business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, or some other type of entity.
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In a unanimous decision handed down on June 19th, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a long-standing prohibition against federal registration of “disparaging” trademarks, finding that the this provision of the Lanham Act violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
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Although most people will recognize the ubiquitous PIZZA! PIZZA! slogan mark owned by the pizza chain Little Caesar’s, the company’s collection of repeated term marks does not rise to the level of a “family of marks” according to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
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In a non-precedential opinion, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled two US trademark registrations for the mark PORTON,  finding it to be confusingly similar to the mark PATRON.
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On November 14, 2016, the Federal Circuit clarified confusion regarding what is necessary to satisfy the registration requirement that a mark be used “in commerce.”
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Belmora Takes Its FLANAX Headache to the U.S. Supreme Court

October 25, 2016 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

Well, a lot has happened since we last reported on the District Court's decision in the FLANAX trademark dispute. As you may recall, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted Bayer's Petition and cancelled the FLANAX registration although Bayer, a German company, did not use the mark FLANAX in the US.
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U.S. Supreme Court Denies Redskins' Petition to Join SLANTS Case

October 3, 2016 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

Further to our post last Friday on the SLANTS trademark case, the U.S. Supreme Court today, without comment, refused the Redskins' Petition to join the SLANTS case challenging the U.S. Trademark Office's ban on "offensive" trademarks.
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The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will review whether the U.S. Trademark Office can deny registration of offensive trademarks or whether such prohibition violates the First Amendment.
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