Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Federal circuit's monopoly over patent cases obstructs reform

President Obama did mention the need for patent reform in his State of the Union speech, but one more suggestion that he did not mention is discussed in the Washington Post Switch Blog by Timothy B, Lee, link (website url) here.  That is, take away some of the monopoly (set up in 2006 by Congress) the Federal Circuit (the District of Columbia Court of Appeals) has on patent cases.  The circuit has tended to favor patent holders, and been willing to stretch logic in validating ideas like software patents. It has place the burden on defendants in showing that they didn't infringe on particular patents.
I've sat in the DC Circuit once, in May 1994, when the en banc court heard former Naval Academy midshipman Joseph Steffan's case.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Hells Angels rigorously enforce their trademarks, against Tinseltown

Browsing the New York Times for reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, I found an article, dated Sept. 28, 2013, that sounds significant in the trademark dilution debate.  The story is titled “Despite Outlaw Image, Hells Angels Sue Often”, link here. .That refers to the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.  It has registered trademarks largely for use in clothing and memorabilia, and has sued a number of companies, mostly associated with Hollywood and comic books.  The story also discusses the intellectual property attorney Fritz Clapp, in Phoenix, AZ. 
The article is quite detailed as to the use of the trademarks, especially in charity drives. 
The Arizona connection reminds me of a period in my own life, in the late 1970s, when I sometimes frequented the Understanding community, the old flying saucer community set up by Dan and Florence Fry on a service road off I-10 in Tonotpah, 40 miles west of Phoeniz, in desert irrigated for cotton. 
Why aren’t defendants protected by the idea that they are using the names (especially domain names) in different lines of business?  Maybe it’s because back in the 1960’s, American International marketed a notorious biker movie called “Born Losers”, very well known when I was in the Army myself.

Wikipedia attribution link of Scottsdale.  My last visit to the area was in May 2000.   

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Starbucks cries wolf over a bar owner's "misspelling" of one of its products

Starbucks Coffee, ever popular and seen as a good corporate citizen (particularly on the health insurance issue), sent a cease-and-desist owner to the owner of the “Exit 6 Pub and Brewery” near I-64 and I-70 in Cottlesville, MO, an  exurb of St. Louis, demanding that it stop calling one of its beers “Frappicino” as a deceptive “Anglicized” misspelling of Starbuck’s own Frappuccino, a frozen coffee drink.  Is a beer the same kind of product as a coffee?

The owner, Jeff Britton, sent back a sarcastic reply and a $6 check, which was never cashed.

Elliot Hannon has a typical story on Slate here
It strikes me that Starbucks’s claim is a bit abusive.  It reminds me of a complaint over the name “Lost Dog” and a dispute between an Arlington restaurant and a West Virginia coffee store in 2012. 
Would consumers be confused?  I certainly wouldn’t, but I am reasonably well educated in how branding works, and I can easily recognize and distinguish similar but distinct names of products.  If I got off I-70 near St. Louis for lunch (don’t know when I’ll do that) I would not be “fooled”. 
Okay, the St. Louis cardinals and pitcher Michael Wacha got some more indirect PR from this. 
If you enter “Frappicno” into YouTube you get only the Starbucks product.