The Traklight Blog

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

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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F1 Driver Lewis Hamilton Loses Trademark Appeal in EU Court

You could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest thing going for the surname Hamilton is the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned musical, a blockbuster of both stage (back when theaters were open) and screen (via a release on Disney+). But that would be a myopic view of both the world and pop culture, one that excludes the larger world of culture and sport. And in the interest in broadening all of our horizons, we're heading across the pond and into the cockpit for today's IP news.

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Oatly Misses Out On Trademark for Obvious Claim

Most people intuit that advertising is some mix of fact and fiction; not lies per se, but perhaps a burnished version of the truth. Rare is the product that actually changes our life (although, fingers crossed) and that knowledge is baked into our reading or viewing of advertisements. We look past the embellishment to try and discern if the product in question will do what we want, at a price we can live with. Everything else is about rising above the noise to grab our attention in the first place.

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Zapier and Zoom In Trademark Scuffle Over Zaps

At the risk of sounding glib, has any company fared better during the pandemic relative to its prospects otherwise than Zoom? Amazon has done well, sure, but Amazon will always do well. Zoom, on the other hand, has gone from useful to vital in a period of months, and probably more accurately in a period of a few weeks in the spring when every meeting became a virtual one. I can't attest to Zoom's outlook pre-COVID, but undoubtedly this period has led to the type of success that spurs thoughts of exponential growth and, inevitably, brings lawsuits.

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Rockstar Games Throws Trademark Opposition at Ax Throwing Business

Trademark opposition seems to be the new "it" thing for major companies; more accurately, opposition that would be termed to be in bad faith is the new hot trend in the IP space. You need not look very far back in the archives of this blog to see a spate of similar stories, and while that may seem like repetition or redundancy more than anything else, it's worth pointing these instances out where possible in the hopes that public opinion, if nothing else, might put a halt to these sorts of cases...eventually.

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Facebook Using Trademark To Shut Down Critics

You've probably heard of the "Streisand effect" or at at least familiar with the general principle of the thing: the idea that, by trying to shut something down to avoid bringing attention to it, you are in fact bringing the very attention that you hoped to avoid. There's sense to the idea, not that most of us will ever find ourselves the subject of much attention or scrutiny. And yet, many that should know better fail to learn the important lesson that it's often better to simply let things go rather than given them oxygen.

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Artist Faces Opposition From Hugo Boss Over Trademark

Despite what we teach our children, and what we would like to believe ourselves, it seems that bullying really does work to the benefit of the bully and to the detriment of those targeted. It's unpleasant to think about, surely, but how else are we to describe a state of affairs in which might alone makes right? Other conceptions of morals or ethics seem outdated when faced with this raw exercise of power unchecked by anything but their own limited constraints.

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Monster Energy Pressures Video Game Creator Into Renaming Title

Finding a great name for your products is hard enough, so when you land upon the right one, you want to do everything you can to hold onto it. After all, good names help to sell products, and bad ones can similarly dissuade consumers, unfairly or not. Branding does matter, and it does work, else it wouldn't continue to exist as it does. So when a trademark case forces a company to rebrand or alter a product name, the cost is in more than the dollars spend in implementing those changes but in the damage possibly done to your public perception.

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McDonald's Takes Aim At Australian Chain's "Big Jack" Burger

What can be said for fast food is that, for all the franchises and chains that exist, there are only but a few options on offer, and that the distinction is in the differentiation. In that way, fast food isn't all that different from any other industry; many make similar products, and where they get the edge is in their own "special sauce" that puts them above the rest, be it process or branding or small but distinct differences. It's that "special sauce" that needs to be defended, and the franchise that gave us "special sauce" itself is looking to maintain its hold on branding built over decades.

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Costco Wins Appeal of Trademark Case Brought By Tiffany & Co.

What happens when a product reaches a level of ubiquity so prevalent that it becomes representative of both itself and its competitors, regardless of origin or manufacturer? Take for example Coca Cola: in certain areas of the country, "a Coke" is a catch-all term for any soft drink, even though that particular beverage is but one of many available to consumers. As trademarks go, however, Coca Cola has no grounds to take any sort of action against any of its competitors, because none are selling their drinks using the Coke name; rather, it's a term that has grown organically and is used colloquially. What happens when such terms enter both the lexicon and marketing materials?

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Fortnite Creators Sued For Trademark Infringement Over Map

I've written previously about the relatively recent problem of video games reproducing real-life products and places and the potential for trademark infringement, at least in the minds of those companies who find their products in games that seek to replicate facsimile of the world as we know it. Not every game seeks to do that, however; in fact, most games use the technology available to create something new entirely, often recognizable as something that can only exist in the digital sphere. That doesn't seem to mean that trademark disputes won't port into this new realm, apparently.

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Instagram Facing Trademark Lawsuit Over New Reels Feature

Innovation is what spurs tech companies to the top of the proverbial pile, but, once there, some seem to lose that innovative spirit, relying instead upon their accrued power to stay atop the marketplace. Instead of coming up with new ideas, it's easier to simply buy up the innovative companies out there, or perhaps just copy the innovation you see. At the risk of generalization, Big Tech can get lazy, and that laziness can result in problems if they're not careful about what they do.

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Prepear's Fortunes Go Pear-Shaped With Apple Trademark Objections

What right does any company have over names that are similar only due to that company's sheer size and ubiquity? It's true that certain brands can be evoked not only by their name and logo, but by an entire subcategory of similar designs and conventions, but should that be the case, from a legal perspective? Maybe it speaks poorly of our regulatory bodies that said companies are allowed to lay claim to names and marks considered too similar, and that such matters are ultimately decided by those companies and their resources — resources that smaller businesses deemed to be infringing cannot possibly match in a legal battle.

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Taylor Swift Alters Logo to Avoid Trademark Infringement

In cases of infringement, intent is irrelevant to the substantive facts of a case. Either something infringes upon a copyright or trademark or patent, or it doesn't; whether the accused meant to do it or not changes nothing. Still, it probably matters to our ideas about justice and recompense as to whether intent existed or not. We're far more likely to be forgiving of a careless mistake made without malice than instances of deliberate theft, and perhaps more likely to be considerate of others' IP if we've had our own misappropriated.

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