Monday, April 11, 2011

Group tries to trademark "urban homestead" and monopolize its use

The use of generic terms as registered trademarks is again creating an issue, according to an April 5 story by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, link here.  

This time, the generic term is a phrase “urban homesteading”, or something similar, registered by the Dervaes Institute (link)   Now there is a book by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, “ titled “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City” (amazon link).  According to the EFF story, the Institute got Facebook to take down pages promoting this book and the activities of some other groups, such as a Denver farmer’s market, over a “bogus” trademark.

I looked up Dervaes at USPTO and found it had used mark 3855377 for "Urban Homestead" and 77326565 for "Urban Homesteading".

Generally, USPTO has said that different industries can use similar wordmarks as long as there is no chance of confusion, and it has also said that it is not  likely to register common phrases or English idioms as trademarks.

A brand is supposed to be distinctive within an industry, not shut others out of the industry.  

Below: a company uses the word "trademark" as part of its corporate name (the blue sign):

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Charlie Sheen moves to trademark many of his "catch phrases", stirring debate on "common words" as trademarks

Bad-boy comedy TV actor Charlie Sheen is going to trademark at least 22 of his “catch phrases” , according to media stories, such AP’s Anthony McCartney (reported by WPTV) link here

There could be real issues if he moves to trademark common idioms and words.   I found a list of the catchprhases at a site called “IPBrief” (website url) here and they include the word “winning”.  Can you really trademark "I am not bi-polar"? 

Others have joined in the fray, with attempts to trademark phrases involving various uses the word “winning”, as in this Hollywood Reporter story

It’s not certain that the USPTO will approve all of these marks (even with the government not shut down!)  Usually approved marks appear at the USPTO website in about 90 days.