The Traklight Blog

Explore the world of intangible assets and IP with guest blogs, business owner interviews, and more.

Shoe's On The Other Foot: Nike Sued For Trademark Infringement

It’s certainly not unusual to see businesses, particularly large businesses involved with a lot of different products, to be on both sides of trademark or copyright issues, but typically there’s something of an interval between their times as the offender and the offended. Credit, then, to Nike for responding to the needs of our fast-paced world and cutting down that intervening period to something like mere hours. 

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Ice Cube Expresses Himself With Trademark Suit Aimed At Robinhood

It’s a generally good rule to be cautious of what images you use for your business on the grounds of copyright infringement — no company wants to be on the receiving end of a C&D or even a lawsuit, if things take that turn. It should be an ironclad one to steer absolutely clear when dealing with images of brands or athletes or celebrities or generally anyone who has the resources to take you on and the willingness - eagerness, even - to do so. 

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Zoom Takes Up Trademark Case Against Long-Time Partner

In business as in life, friends and partners can grow apart over time as one or both parties change. And in both instances, success can play no small part in shifting the nature of those relationships, particularly if one party experiences far more of it than the other. 

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Peleton Challenges Trademarks on Spin and Spinning

Trademarks are meant to protect a business’ particular brand, its unique identity and creativity that it has carved out for itself in the landscape. The best trademarks are the ones immediately evocative of a particular product or pitch, rendered in the space in your brain previously reserved for childhood memories or something else not pervaded by capitalism. Whatever you may think of branding, there is something to be said for it when done correctly and cleverly, and even the most sceptical wouldn’t begrudge it the legal protection it has earned. 

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Lil Nas X's Controversial Shoes Draw Trademark Suit From Nike

If you’re not up on shoe culture, stories about old and new kicks going for occasionally eye-watering prices can boggle the mind. Regardless of how you feel about it, though, there is a lot of money in the buying and selling of collectible shoes, and notably, a lot of that money is made on secondary markets. Given that shoe companies are doing alright as it is, they’re probably ok (for now) getting only a portion of that market as opposed to the whole thing. But someone striking out on their own and using their trademarks? That’s clearly going to be a big no-no.

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Colleges Shutting Down Virtual Tours on Trademark Grounds

For those fortunate enough to go to college (or unfortunate, depending on your reaction to that first student loan bill) picking the institution to attend is a big and thrilling step in your journey into adulthood. For many it’s the first time they’ll be living independently of their parents, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home. And a big part of choosing a school is the campus tour: your opportunity to get a feel for the feel, the environs of your potential home for the next four(ish) years. 

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The NCAA Owns "March Madness". Why Can't The Women's Tournament Use It?

Any remaining pretense the NCAA may have tried to maintain about their supposedly fair and equitable treatment when it comes to men’s and women’s athletics went out the window in the early days of this year’s tournament, when it was revealed that the men’s teams were granted a full array of workout equipment and the women’s teams...well, there are better setups in hotel gyms. The NCAA at least had the decency to not simply lie to everyone’s faces after the inevitable backlash, admitting that the women’s accommodations were lesser and eventually rectifying the situation at the risk of further public embarrassment at the hands of private companies that offered to provide the missing equipment. 

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Monster Energy Goes After Another Small Business Over Trademarks

It’s probably too much to hope that those companies that have adopted trademark bullying as a course of action to change their stripes and take a more measured approach, but it is nevertheless disappointing and disheartening to see every new instance wherein they take aim at an invariably small business over some imaginary offense. For the bullying company that case is but one mark on a ledger or one chapter in an ongoing story, but for those small businesses these lawsuits can be hugely damaging, if not an existential threat.

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NCAA Goes After Urologists In Trademark Case

If this March seems a little different than those in years past, well, that’s mostly the pandemic we’re hopefully nearing the end of. But it’s also different in that this year’s edition of the NCAA’s college basketball tournament is to be experienced largely alone, shorn of the communal experience that has made it the institution that it is. The tournament is both big business for the NCAA and something of a drain on business for others, costing companies billions in lost productivity over the course of the month. And on the former point, the NCAA is vigilant in protecting that business against even the notion that someone else might make a buck without their say-so. 

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Colorado Roofers Run Into Trouble With Vodka Makers

A common refrain in this space is that intellectual property law is meant to protect, both in deterring would-be violators from messing with your IP and in instances where defending means taking an offensive approach against infringers. It’s a measure of power, and for small businesses, it can be the most considerable power afforded in those earliest days before there’s a customer or client to speak of. 

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Rose Bowl Trademark Battle Promises Better Contest Than Actual Game

If you’re any sort of fan of college football, or at least aware of the product, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the proliferation of bowl games and associated sponsorship and branding around it. It’s that association with such august businesses as TaxSlayer, AutoZone and Cheez-It that give lie to the NCAA’s purported notion that the endeavor of college football itself is about shaping young men or the spirit of competition or whatever they put forth, and is not in fact a nakedly capitalistic enterprise meant to bring in millions to each respective university and billions in aggregate. Which is fine, by the way — colleges should just be honest about the pursuit, and pay the players like the income earners they are. 

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Taylor Swift in Trademark Dispute With Evermore Park

The nature of celebrity would seem to make someone a target for intellectual property lawsuits, as noted in this space over the years, but that reading is a bit reductive, and elides the responsibility that the celebrity in question might bear. Sure, there may be cases where individuals or entities are looking for an easy payday, but the intoxicating mix of fame and power that accompany celebrity might make those people more prone to stepping on the rights of those of us living and working in the world they long ago left behind. 

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Trademark Caution Delays Cleveland Name Change

In what speaks to the relative strangeness of our times, speculation on new names for sports teams via trademark filing observations is now something of a pastime for sports fans, adjacent to the pastime itself. It happened with the now-Football Team of Washington, and is still happening as the team has yet to settle on a new long-term name: intrepid reporters dive into the USPTO database to uncover what trademarks the team’s ownership group holds and tries to suss out the most likely candidate for the new moniker. It’s as yet proved unfruitful for Washington fans, who will have to wait longer yet to learn what they will scream at their team as they squander yet another game.  

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SCOTUS Declines Trademark Case Involving Dog Toy

Where exists the line between homage and infringement? It’s perhaps a too subtle a distinction at items, and one likely at the heart of many an intellectual property suit over the years. The winking nod to another work or product can be seen as a joke, or would be, if most corporations had a sense of humor when it comes to their IP. Alas, they do not, and the court system and our IP news is all the busier for it. 

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Family of Jimi Hendrix Battles Over Trademark Rights

There is perhaps nothing sadder and more telling of the innate flaws of human nature than the inevitable fight that often takes place upon the death of a popular and prolific artist. We’ve all seen stories of the genre: family is pit against record label over the rights to the now-deceased artist’s work, or worse still, family is given over to internecine fighting over those same rights. We’d like to think our own families would do better, but then again none of us can imagine either the talent involved in creating such work or the money and privilege now accessible to those in the artist’s orbit. We’re all good until such a point as we’re bad, in short.  

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LeBron James Adds Trademark Blocking to Repertoire

One of the benefits, one might suppose, of being among the most famous people on the planet is that relatively few people are unaware of important facts about you. It's fair to say that LeBron James ranks among those people, as his mega-stardom has made him known and recognizable the world over, even in places not enraptured with the game of basketball, and among those who don't know the sport at all and would struggle to name another player. His brand is ubiquitous, to use marketing parlance, to the point that it's hard to imagine anyone might be unaware of it.

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Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts Locked In Trademark Conflict

Few things sever any lingering connections to your childhood like the disillusionment with those things you once held in great esteem at that age. It's perhaps the root of much cynicism that people and organizations that ostensibly exist to support and nurture young people are eventually discovered to be flawed in ways great and small, and perhaps no organization embodies this more than the Boy Scouts of America. Once though of as a body that could instill positive values in young people, BSA has fallen far from that perch in the light of recent scandals, with the most damning being tens of thousands of claims of sexual abuse that came to light in recent bankruptcy filings.

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French Environmental Groups Seek To Gain Use of Planet Trademark

One of the more salient points undergirding pitches for collective action on things like climate change is that we share this place we call Earth, not only with our contemporaries but with future generations. Both states and individuals can claim ownership of some portion of land or sea or sky, but true ownership ultimately eludes any such as us who are transitory figures on a body that has existed long before we arrive and will continue to exist after we've departed as a species.

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Discarded Brands Might Return, But Should They?

Amidst the ongoing reckoning over America's largely shameful treatment of people of color, branding probably ranks as a secondary or tertiary concern, but it is a concern nonetheless. Changes in that arena aren't going to be as meaningful or substantive as changes to broader social policy, but there is a case to be made that we can't move forward, or even hope to move forward, until we make changes to the signifiers and reminders we see everyday without thought or consideration. Just last month, Cleveland's baseball team announced they'll be dropping the name "Indians" after over a century of use, after Washington's NFL franchise announced their own name change earlier in the year.

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