Tag Archives: USPTO

Left Sharks, Sick Beats, Havoc Defense and the Trademarkification of American Pop Culture

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By: Brian J. Meli

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that trademarking was only something you did if you were a business trying to prevent customers from confusing you with your competition; when trademarks were something to differentiate your products from would-be imitators. But that hasn’t been the case for a while. Nowadays, anyone who utters a simple word or phrase, or becomes associated with a reference that gets a modicum of play on the Internet seems hell-bent on securing rights to restrict others from using it. The world, it would seem, has gone trademark crazy. When exactly did this happen? At what point did society become so obsessed with a body of law whose oft-forgotten roots lie in protecting consumers from deception?

Who knows. But thanks to a flurry of high-profile celebrity trademark applications this year, 2015 might just go down as the year that trademarks officially went mainstream. So what happens when pop-culture and trademarks collide? Some pretty amusing Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) applications—that’s what. Here’s a small sampling of some noteworthy trademark activity over the last six months. Some of which, you just can’t make up.

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Did the USPTO Just Right a Social Wrong, Or Abridge Free Speech?


By: Brian J. Meli

The Washington Redskins football team is back in the news, but not for their astute draft day maneuverings or the buzz surrounding the start of training camp. This particular story is not a new one either—not by a long shot. In fact, it’s been the source of public debate since well before the team’s current crop of rookies were even born.

Once again, it’s the team’s name that’s grabbing headlines: Redskins. Racial slur? Or proud nickname? By canceling six different federal REDSKINS trademark registrations on the grounds that they disparage Native Americans, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made it clear today where they stand. Whichever side you come down on, this debate is now squarely on the front page again. And this time around there’s every indication it’s going to be there for a while, with everyone from the President of the United States to Bob Costas weighing in.

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The World Wide What-If: How E.T. And Mickey Mouse Nearly Changed The Internet (And World) As We Know It – Part 1


By: Brian J. Meli

This is Part 1 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June 2012 edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 2 here.

The Universal Studios logo is a computer-generated rendering of a rotating planet Earth, partially circumscribed by the company’s name in giant block letters. It’s an iconic image that instantly invokes the might and magic of Hollywood. It’s also unintentionally allegorical, because had things turned out a little differently for Universal 30 years ago, today’s world—particularly the parts that relate to commerce and technology—might be very different.

The date was January 17, 1984—a year many associate with Apple Computer’s famous “1984” Macintosh commercial, and the George Orwell book that inspired it. But a lesser-known, and even more significant event in the history of the human race’s relationship with technology occurred that same year, and it had nothing to do with Apple. That event was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios, better known in legal circles as the “Sony Betamax” case.

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