Monday, September 15, 2008

Merrill Lynch will still have a valuable trademark and brand

The acquisition of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, as announced yesterday, does seem to present an argument for aggressive use of trademark laws and of the concept in some cases.

Although Bank of America will own the shares and the ML will cease to be traded as a separate entity, the Bank will have the right to operate Merrill Lynch under the Merrill Lynch brand if it chooses. It would have the right to keep a separate corporate reporting structure if it wants, but the main concept is that the “brand” (with the name as a wordmark and the bull as a trade dress) will continue to exist to identify a brokerage service for consumers. No other party would have the right to use the mark for financial services. Purchase of a business does not eliminate its identity as a brand under trademark law and has no direct effect on its trademark registration.

Media reports have continued to stress the separation of accounts within a brokerage business, and the proper use of the brand name should help reinforce the public’s confidence in that concept.

So, trademark law is necessary for many activities that we take for granted, including economic continuity.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

HR 4279 could strengthen trademark dilution provisions

It’s important to note a new bill in the 110th Congress, H.R. 4279, “Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008”, introduced by John Conyers (D-MI), with nineteen cosponsors. The Congressional Research Summary on govtrack for the bill is here.

Section 104 is important, because it would make it a crime to intentionally induce another party to “violate a trademark” and for providing goods and services to enable a trademark violation. It would double the minimum and maximum statutory damages for trademark infringement. In combination with the “prospective dilution” provision passed in 2006, this development could be dangerous for some novice parties.

Friday, September 05, 2008

USPTO, Office of Science and Technology Policy announce National Medal of Technology winners

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a cover story regarding the 2007 National Medal of Technology and Innovation awards at the White House, announced by President Bush and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez.

The winners dealt with technologies in packet switching, hereditary metabolic disorders, real time server based operating systems, online trade software, Total Quality Management (of which I took a course in 1994 at work), bioelectrochemistry, lithographic imaging, and aircraft technologies.

The details are in a web article PDF from the Office of Science and Techology Policy, Executive Office of the President, here.

And here, from the Department of Commerce.

The selection process is described on this page.

The USPTO in Alexandria also reports that it has added a new exhibit in its museum, with the byline “Electronic “Portrait Gallery” Brings History of the U.S. Intellectual Property System to Life.” I will visit the exhibit later.