Intellectual Property

What are Common Law Trademark Rights?

Trademarks can be an extremely valuable asset for your business. Think about the value tied to Nike’s Swoosh or the McDonald’s “golden arches.” Protecting the value behind these trademarks is one important step towards building a wall around your company’s intellectual property. Many people don’t realize that certain trademark rights arise automatically once you begin using a trademark. Today’s post highlights these automatic rights, also known as common law trademark rights.

Common law trademark rights versus registered federal and state trademark rights

“Common law” is a term for the rights that have developed through case law versus statutes or codes. Common law trademark rights arise automatically and give the owner of a particular trademark certain rights (see below) without the need to...

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Intellectual Property

Von Trapp’s Trademark Dispute

What do beer, bocce and Bavarian singers have in common? Apparently a trademark dispute as of last month.

The famous Capitol Hill bar and restaurant Von Trapp’s was recently persuaded to change its name at the request of a member of the Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame. The new name for the 10,000-square-foot space in Capitol Hill is Rhein Haus, as homage to the longest river running through Bavaria. Everything else about the vast beer and bocce hall will stay the same.

The owners, Deming Maclise and James Weimann, said in a press release they had “vetted the original name and got the federal trademark before opening in early 2013.” There appeared to be no issues with the name at first....

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Intellectual Property

USPTO Cancels Washington Redskins’ Trademark Registrations

Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins name, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot receive trademark protection under federal law, which prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language. “We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the Trademark Trial and Appeal board wrote in its opinion.

For years now, pressure from various Native American groups has been placed on Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the name of the team due to its connotation as a racial slur. After last week’s ruling by...

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Intellectual Property

Trademarks: Should You Register at the State or Federal Level?

Businesses often are faced with the choice of whether to register a trademark or service mark with a state or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It is well known that state registrations tend to be less expensive and often take less time to apply for and receive confirmation that the mark has been registered. However, there are key benefits to registering your trademark with the USPTO. Today’s post highlights those key benefits of federally registered trademarks and service marks, and provides helpful resources for registering your trademark at the state and federal level.

The Lanham Act First, let’s start with the basics. Under the Lanham Act, a person who obtains a federal registration that predates another person’s use of...

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