Trademark. Registered Trademarks. Apple.



Trademark. Registered Trademarks.

Trademark. Registered Trademarks.

A trademark is a word, name, phrase, logo, design, or a combination of those things, which identifies the source of a product of service. Examples of existing federally registered trademarks are the golden arches for McDonald’s fast food stores, Apple for computer products, Nike for athletic apparel, Microsoft for computers, Dominos for pizza shops, the NBC chimes for NBC network, and so many more.  Now add retail store layout to that list of what can constitute a trademark.


On January 22, 2013, the United States Patent & Trademark (USPTO) issued a registration to Apple for its layout (Reg. #4277913). Originally the USPTO issued an Office Action refusing to register the trademark in the US. The USPTO felt the mark was no distinctive and would be perceived as ornamental in nature. Apple overcame that objection. Subsequently, on July 10, 2014, the European Union’s highest court, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) paved the way for Apple to register its layout as a trademark.  The holding essential provides that Apple’s flagship store layout can be protected as a trademark.

What’s in it for Business Owners.

What does this mean for business owners who have distinctive retail store and/or commercial establishment layouts? They can have the layout registered, only:

  1. If the layout distinguishes the products/services of the trademark applicant from those of other businesses.
  2. If the layout design significantly departs from the customary norms of the industry concerned;.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. If you need help selecting a trademark that can be protected, doing a comprehensive search on a trademark, filing a trademark application, or responding to an Office Action, feel free to give me a call, or contact me through my website, my Law Facebook Fan Page, my Law Twitter page, my Google+ page, or my LinkedIn Pulse page.


Trademark. Trademark Search. Trademark Registration.



Trademark search. Trademark.

Trademark search. Trademark.

When it comes to a trademark, the most important step in the protection of a trademark is selecting a trademark that can, in fact, be protected. Choosing your trademark carefully is the essential first step. If you choose wrong, you will pay dearly. Not only will you pay in money, but in time and energy, especially if you have invested in significant marketing.

You Will Pay on the Front-end or the Back-end.

The cost of cleaning up a mess is always greater than doing something right the first time. If you choose a trademark that cannot be protected, your application will most certainly be denied before you can pass GO. For example, certain trademarks can never be protected by law, e.g., generic trademarks, and scandalous trademarks.

Trademark Search. Trademark.

The second most important step in the trademark protection process is clearance–doing a comprehensive trademark search to determine if the mark can be registered. Yet, as important as this step is, many folks avoid doing it. Why? One reason may be cost. The cost of investing in a trademark search is not cheap. It can range anywhere from $300-750, plus the cost of analysis (having a lawyer tell you what the voluminous search report actually means). But avoiding those costs on the front end can create greater costs on the backend.

If you don’t do a search and someone else is already using the same trademark, your application will likely be denied by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Their reason: your mark is likely to be confused with an existing registration or a pending application trademark.

When should you do a search?

When you are about to do any of the following, among other things:

  1. Start a business
  2. Build a brand
  3. Acquire a business
  4. Purchase Assets
  5. Purchase a Franchise
  6. License a trademark
  7. Collaborate with someone on a project involving content or brand creation.

Protect your valuable assets!

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours! Join my conversation on my Facebook Law Fan Page, Twitter Law Page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups, or in one of my Google+ Circles.

FHA Loan. Mortgage. Mortgage Rates.


FHA Loan. Mortgage Rates.

FHA Loans. Mortgage Rates

FHA Loans. Mortgage Rates

Okay, am I crazy, or what? I have started seeing advertisements for low qualifying mortgages—again!  The FHA loan that just about anybody can qualify for low mortgage rates. Is this a joke? Isn’t this what got folks into trouble before—buying into the quick fix, it’s-too-good-to-be-true scam, the low mortgage rates, without much accountability? I know everyone wants the American dream— the house with a picket fence, the nice car, the kids, and a cat and a dog. What ever happened to waiting until you can actually afford those things?


Last week the Money Section of The Guardian ran a story titled “Pundits are trying to bring the subprime mortgage back. Don’t let them.” The author of the article believes that it is extremely risky to return to the same lending practices that got us into so much trouble just a few short years ago. It states, in part, “The financial industry has plenty of reasons to offer the same high-risk, high-return loans that made so many bankers rich during the housing bubble before everything crashed. But it’s less clear why any sensible commentator wants to cheer the industry on.” Beware of the quick-fix FHA Loan inducing you to succumb to the low or no qualifying mortgage rates.

See article here:

FHA Loans. Mortgage rates.

Others believe that low qualifying (subprime) FHA loans can help the economy and the housing industry in particular. I happen to disagree. I have the view that we should learn from experience and not repeat the same mistakes we made before.
Someone, who was offended by my views asked me today, “So Francine, are you saying only rich folks should buy a house and have kids?” And my answer is a definitive, “No way!” However, I will say that if you cannot afford to have children or you cannot afford to buy that house you want, or you cannot afford the exact car you want today, then wait.

Contrary to popular belief, deferred gratification is not a bad thing. But we live in a materialistic society that seems to demand instant gratification. Instead of patience being a virtue, patience has turned into a dirty word. But patience can save you from a lot of problems, least of which are financial difficulties.

Before you consider signing up for a “No or Low Qualifying Mortgage” check out the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward, and what do you think? Join the conversation on my Facebook Law Fan Page, my Twitter Law Page, my Google+ Page, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Will. Trust. Asset Protection.

Will. Trust.

Will. Trust.

Will. Trust. Asset Protection.

Do you have a Will? A Trust? an Asset Protection plan?

Are you someone with a fair amount of assets, let’s say over $150,000? Suppose you have no immediate family, e.g., spouse, domestic partner, children, whom you want to leave your assets to. And let’s further say, you have a sibling you dislike and have not spoken to in 7 years. But let’s also imagine that you have 2 cats, a best friend, and three favorite charities you currently contribute to. Finally, presuppose you do not have an estate plan, with a will, trust, power of attorney, or health care directive?

Protect Your Assets.

Then you die. What do you think will happen to your $500,000, $1-million, or more worth of assets? Your state laws on descent and distribution will be applied. More than likely, that sibling you hate will get a good portion of your estate after taxes. Your best friend, who you wanted to leave your jewelry, art work, your pets, and your new Mercedes, will get nothing. Those charities that you love and wanted to donate half of your estate to will also get nothing. Is that what you want?

How do you avoid such a horrible and undesirable result? You take control of your estate plan now.

Don’t put this important step off for one more moment. Make the time to prepare your estate documents now, while you are alive and in your right mind. There are 5 documents that generally comprise the estate plan:

  1. Will
  2. Trust
  3. Power of Attorney
  4. Healthcare Directive
  5. Assignment of Assets

Will. Trust.

At the very minimum, you should have an updated Will. Since laws regarding probate are state governed, each state has different rules. If you have not done so yet, consider consulting with a Will and Trust attorney in your state to counsel you as to your next steps. The last thing you want is for your hard earned assets to be given to someone you don’t even like.

I am Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s important– your business, your brand, your IP, and your estate! Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, LinkedIn, Google+ Circle.

Abuse. Domestic Violence. Ray Rice.


Abuse. Domestic Violence. Ray Rice.

How do you turn an abused woman into a healthy woman? By getting HER to say NO!

Abuse. Domestic Violence.

Abuse. Domestic Violence.

As hard as we may try to stop domestic violence and punish the abuser, so long as women choose to stay with those who beat up on them (for whatever the reason), the abuse will never stop. Contrary to popular belief, abuse cannot be stopped without a woman’s help. If women continue to return to men who abuse them, then what are we to do?

I know, I’ve been there. For way too long, I tolerated physical, emotional, and mental abuse.  It took a lot for me to stop the madness. A lot for me to be willing not to take that treatment. I believe we need to stop telling women it’s okay to stay, and support them in walking away.

Oscar Pistorius.

There are countless stories every day in the news (and many that will never hit the news), about women who have been pummeled, often to death, by their abusive boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands. By now you’ve likely heard that Oscar Pistorius was not convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.  And, you’ve probably heard about Ray Rice and others, who simply have not learned how to play well with others–especially their wives and girlfriends.

Ray Rice. Mike Tyson. Chris Brown.

Sadly and surprisingly, in all too many cases, not only do women stay with their abuser, they marry them. Think of Robin Givens who was beat like ground beef and then she married Mike Tyson. And most recently Janay Palmer’s face was pounded into an elevator wall by Ray Rice, and THEN she married him. And let’s not forget Rihanna, who after being beat up several times by Chris Brown, returned to his “loving” arms. And, abuse is not just physical, it is also emotional and mental. Every time a man disrespects his wife by committing adultery, especially with someone she knows, he is emotionally abusing her. How many women have stayed with, or returned to a partner who behaved in such a way, thinking the next time, it will be different.

Why do we stay?

There are lots of reasons, love, money, low self esteem, family, fear, guilt, children.  The list is endless.  Why did I stay?  Because I “loved him,” and because he convinced me that it was always my fault why he/they beat the crap out of me.  But for me, the truth is, I stayed because I didn’t care enough about myself to expect more from a man and because I was financially dependent on them.  Dependence is a horrible thing, regardless of whether you’re dependent on a drug, food, or a man. It compels you to do things you would not do for fear of losing that thing you need to survive.

But regardless of the reason, when we stay we suffer, and so does everyone who love us.  We don’t live in a vacuum. Our behavior, as women, impacts everyone around us, especially our children. Every time a woman allows a man to beat the crap out of her and she has kids, she sends a compelling message—this is how we are to be treated. We teach our daughters to accept such treatment and we teach our sons to administer such treatment. We teach people how to treat us.

Not only do we influence our kids, but if the woman is a celebrity, then her behavior impacts millions of young girls who watch and emulate her every step. What message does that send?

I am a little disappointed at the outcry of support—especially by women—in favor of Ray Rice. Women who openly are mad because he was suspended.  What about the women these men assault? What if it was your sister? your mother? your niece? your daughter?

There are two ways to stop such abuse:

  1. Hit the guy where it hurts. Take away what really matters to him—his money, his property, his prestige. But we don’t. Instead, we celebrate the abuser and make them bigger celebrities, buy their music, see their movies, attend their games.
  2. Women need to STOP the madness and leave. Stop giving abusers permission to continue the abuse. How do you turn an abused woman into a healthy woman? By getting HER to say NO, I’m sick and tired and won’t take it anymore!

By no means is it easy to leave. Particularly if the woman has no visible way of support and has allowed herself to be totally dependent on the abuser. But just because something is not easy does not mean it cannot be done. The price you pay when you allow someone to destroy your soul is a high price indeed. We need to stop encouraging women to stay and instead, support them in walking away.

Where are our role models? Obviously not on Reality TV. I’d love to hear what Queen Latifah, Oprah, Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, Angelina Jolie, and other women I admire have to say about this. Speak up ladies–if not YOU, then who.  I’m not a celebrity, so no one will listen to me, but YOU, they’ll listen to.

I am Attorney Francine Ward initiating a conversation that needs to be had. Join in on my website, on my Law Face Book Fan Page or my Esteemable Acts Fan Page, on my Law Twitter Page or my Esteemable Acts Twitter Page, feeds, in my LinkedIn group, or in one of my Google+ Circles.