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Adding Initials to a Surname Does Not Necessarily Create a Protected Trademark

March 26, 2020 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Harold Laidlaw

In a recent precedential decision, the TTAB held that the addition of one initial —or possibly even more than one initial—in front of a surname does not necessarily create the impression of a personal name. Rather, the Board held that a surname plus one or more initials may remain “primarily a surname” and, as such, cannot be registered on the Principal Register without proof of acquired distinctiveness.
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Adding another layer of complexity to sensitively marketing in the COVID-19 environment, YouTube announced on March 11 that it will permit certain creators to monetize (i.e., enable ads on) content relating to coronavirus.  Companies and brands should review their approach in this pandemic, including refining YouTube content exclusion parameters and policing their ad environments, if they do not wish to risk association with potentially undesirable videos. 
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2nd Circuit Affirms 5Pointz Whitewashing Violated Visual Artists Rights Act

March 25, 2020 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Harold Laidlaw

The Second Circuit recently affirmed that a developer’s whitewashing of street art painted at the “5Pointz” warehouse complex in Long Island City was a violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA,” codified at 17 U.S.C. § 106A).
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The Masters’ Green Jacket is Now a Registered Trademark

March 10, 2020 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

Since 1949, a green jacket has been awarded to the winner of the Masters Tournament, one of golf’s four major championships.
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On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, the US House of Representative approved, by 410-to-6, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2019, introduced under H.R.2426 by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).  This bill aims to “establish an alternative dispute resolution program for copyright small claims,” and creates the Copyright Claims Board, a body within the U.S. Copyright Office, to decide copyright disputes. 
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Whose Game is On? Carrie Underwood and NBC Sued Over SNF Song

July 9, 2019 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

As any football fan knows, Carrie Underwood has performed the introductory song for Sunday Night Football since 2013. “Waitin’ All Day For Sunday Night” was the introductory song for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and “Oh Sunday Night” was the song performed in 2015, 2016, and 2017. On September 6, 2018, Sunday Night Football opened with Ms. Underwood singing a new introductory song entitled “Game On." Well, this “Game” is now the subject of a copyright infringement suit in Federal District Court in New York.
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This past May, in a highly-anticipated decision, the Supreme Court held in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC that a debtor’s rejection of an executory contract under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code has the same effect as a breach of contract outside of bankruptcy.  The decision resolves an inter-circuit split on the effect of a bankrupt trademark licensor’s rejection of a trademark license, a question regarded by legal experts in the trademark community as the most significant unresolved legal issue in trademark licensing. 
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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court granted the State of Georgia’s petition to review the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Code Revision Comm'n v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., 906 F.3d 1229 (11th Cir. 2018). In that case, the Eleventh Circuit held that the privately-compiled but officially-sanctioned and adopted Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) was not protected by copyright under the “government edicts” doctrine.
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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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Legalizing “hemp” under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) has triggered an important change for the examination of federal trademark applications concerning cannabis and cannabis-derived goods and services.  In response to the Bill’s enactment on December 20, 2018, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a new examination guide to clarify its examination procedures involving hemp goods and services.  For businesses in the cannabis industry, the examination guide (recently issued on May 2, 2019) will impact the viability of federal trademark applications filed on or after December 20, 2018 that were once previously barred.
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The FUCT Mark: Is the Prohibition on Scandalous Marks Unconstitutional?

March 14, 2019 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Adam Samansky, Serge Subach

The constitutionality of yet another portion of Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act will soon be determined. Following in the footsteps of the blockbuster decision in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017) (“Tam”), the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to Iancu v. Brunetti on January 4, 2019. In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court held that the prohibition in Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act against registering disparaging trademarks at the U.S. Trademark Office (“USPTO”) was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. However, Section 2(a) also prohibits the registration of other categories of marks, including marks that are immoral and scandalous. It is the constitutionality of this prohibition which is at issue in Brunetti.
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U.S. Supreme Court Holds That Copyrights Must Be Registered before Plaintiffs Can File Infringement Suits

March 5, 2019 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Andrew D. Skale, Harold Laidlaw

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, Rithika Kulathila

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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Effective August 3, 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will require foreign entity applicants, registrants, or parties to a trademark proceeding whose domicile is not located within the United States or its territories to be represented by qualified U.S. counsel (i.e., an attorney who is an active member of a state bar in the U.S.).
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Monkeys Lack Standing to Sue for Copyright Infringement

May 1, 2018 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

Well, it’s official: Naruto, the crested macaque monkey who took photographs of himself while on a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011, lacks statutory standing under the US Copyright Act to sue for copyright infringement.
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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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When is a Copyright “Registered” for Purposes of Filing Suit?

December 6, 2017 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

On May 18, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a copyright infringement complaint and added further to a circuit split on when copyright “registration” occurs for purpose of filing a copyright infringement complaint.
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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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Building a Health App? Part Two: Protecting Your Intellectual Property

September 26, 2017 | Blog | By Christina Sperry

This post is the second in a series of weekly blog posts covering legal issues for consideration during the early stages of development of a health app and providing best practices to help guide you through a successful launch.
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