Female Empowerment. Intellectual Property. IP Lawyers.


Female Empowerment.

Empowering and mitigating the next generation of female IP lawyers

On January 21st, women from all parts of the United States participated in the “Women’s March.” The march was a direct response to the inauguration of Donald Trump a day earlier and drew about 500,000 people to Washington D.C. Other marches followed throughout the country in cites including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as well as London, Paris, Barcelona, and Brussels, just to name a few.

The purpose of the Woman’s March was to rally for women’s issues, as well as issues like the environment and immigration – to empower women to have a voice and let their concerns be heard.

Being a female attorney specializing in IP (intellectual property) law, I have a personal goal to inspire and mentor women who want to become attorneys to pursue careers in IP law.

Why does it matter—you may ask?

With technology progressing at a breathtaking pace, the need for IP attorneys is exploding. Furthermore, I believe that women should be leaders and players in this global field. It took women far too long to establish themselves in other areas of the law, such as criminal law. I don’t want to see women playing this type of catch-up when it comes to IP law.

Yes, it’s true that women have made great strides in the law over the past couple of decades. According to the legal blog, Associate’s Mind, women could be the majority of law students in 2017. While that’s great news for women, and for the law profession in general, women are lagging when it comes to IP law. And I, for one, believe that women have much to offer in this vital field.

So, what can women practicing IP law do to help fellow women who are interested in getting into the field?
Mentoring, mentoring, and more mentoring. That’s how I see it. We can tremendously by focusing on the following four points:

1. When asked, take the time to answer their questions;,
2. Encourage them, but at the same time tell them the truth about your experiences, good and bad;,
3. Teach and encourage them to be responsible and explain the hard truth, regarding what will be expected of them, and
4. Of course, let them know they always have choices.

Yes, now more than ever, it’s important that women feel empowered to pursue the life and careers they truly want. We cannot slip backwards after all the hard-fought progress we have made over the last few decades. I can and will do my part when it comes to practicing IP law. What can and will you do to help women be the leaders and innovators of the future?

New Balance. Shoes. IP. Overseas.


Knock Off Products.

Intellectual Property

IP. Footware. Lawsuit.

The United States and China are big trading partners, but underneath it all there is a simmering tension between the two nations, especially when it comes to intellectual property. China has been accused, quite often, of not respecting IP and of manufacturing “knock offs” of American consumer goods.

Recently, a Chinese company sued an American company for trademark infringement. The company on the receiving end of the lawsuit was none other than shoe giant, New Balance. The company, headquartered in Boston, manufactures roughly 70% of their shoes in China.

Footware Manufacturer.

Chinese businessman Zhou Lelun from Guangdong Province filed a trademark infringement suit against the Chinese sales company that distributes New Balance shoes. The lawsuit contended that New Balance was using the same name, in translation, as his company (Xinbailun or 新百伦), for which he received a trademark for in 2008. The company is itself a footware manufacturer.

When Zhou Lelun was awarded his trademark in 2008, New Balance appealed the trademark ruling to the People’s Court in Guangdong. The appeals court ruled in favor of Zhou Lelun even though New Balance was using the trademark long before he applied for it.

New Balance Ruling.

Although the court upheld the ruling against New Balance, they did decrease the original damages given to Zhou Lelun from $98 million RMB (Ren Min Bi) to $5 million RMB, the equivalent of $750,000 U.S. dollars for damages he suffered. The court scolded New Balance for using the trademarked name knowing that it was registered to Zhou Lelun since 2008. In the end, New Balance could do little but accept the People’s Court verdict.

Amy Dow, a spokeswoman for New Balance issued a statement which read as follows: “This ruling is particularly concerning as it is contrary to the rest of the developed world’s understanding of Intellectual Property.”

There’s no doubt that doing business in China can be a confusing and challenging task for foreign companies, but access to the Chinese market makes these challenges simply the cost of doing business.

What are your thoughts?

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


Contracts. Agreements.


UNDERSTAND Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.

Agreements. Contracts.

Agreements. Contracts.

I can’t tell you how many times I have warned people about signing a contract without complete understanding of the terms. Unfortunately, people still make the same mistakes over and over by signing contracts that are not in their best interest. Often these mistakes can cost a person everything they worked for.

Here is just another unfortunate case that proves my point.

The Camellia Grill, a landmark New Orleans restaurant, popular with both locals and tourists for nearly 70 years was severely damaged by hurricane Katrina and remained closed for over a year, when owner Michael Shwartz decided to sell it in 2006. The sale was finalized with 3 separate contracts, one of which was the “bill of sale.”

READ Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.

The new owner, Hicham Khodr, also signed a contract for a licensing agreement regarding the use of the iconic Camellia Grill trademarks and logos. The contract agreed on a payment of $1 million, as well as ongoing royalties. This contract was contested, and eventually declared null and void by a Louisiana court. This ruling then led to a slew of other lawsuits between the two parties.

With the licensing and royalties contract terminated, the seller filed a lawsuit against the new owner claiming trademark infringement, since the restaurant continued using the original name, signage and logos. The new ownership contended that the use of the logos and trademarks was covered in the “bill of sale” contract.

When the smoke from the lawsuits finally cleared in July of 2015, the court ruled that the new ownership had complete rights to the name, trademarked logos and all materials specified in the bill of sale. The contract specified transfer of all “tangible personal property located within or upon” the Camellia Grill.

Michael Schwartz argued that intellectual property was not part of the “tangible personal property.” However, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that the language in the bill of sale was “clear and unambiguous.”

Obviously, Michael Schwartz and his attorneys did not cover all the bases in regards to the specific language of the bill of sale contract. They assumed that the licensing contract covered the trademarks, but when that contract was voided by the court, the bill of sale became the primary documentation of the terms.

When you sign a contract on the dotted line, you had better be absolutely sure that the terms are exactly as you want them, with all avenues and possibilities considered, especially when dealing with multiple contracts for the same deal.

Please don’t enter into a contract that can affect your livelihood and future without seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney who specializes in the field. Not all lawyers are created equal. Your real estate lawyer is ill-equipped to counsel you on intellectual property law issues, and truly not your criminal lawyer. One oversight on the contract can lead to devastating consequences.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.



USPTO Search. Patent Office. Trademarks. ABA.


USPTO Search. Patent Office. Trademarks. ABA.

Patent Office. Trademarks.

Patent Office. Trademarks.

The ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law and the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that they are teaming up to offer the 3rd Annual Trademark Day: Behind the Scenes at the USPTO. The day is filled with information on trademarks for the seasoned attorney, as well as the new trademark practitioner.

The program will take place on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 from 8:30 to 4:00pm, and will be held at the USPTO Campus on 600 Dulany Street in Alexandria, VA.

Trademark Tips and Strategies.

Examiners will share what it is like to be an examining attorney under the discussion titled “A Day in the Life of a Trademark Examining Attorney”. The course will also discuss filing tips, the various forms available and what may work best for you.

Some of the other highlights of the course are:

  • Overview of the Trademark Office including filings, examining process, and review of forms
  • Get tips for filing proper identifications of goods and services
  • Discover how to stay up to date on rule changes, TMEP revisions, and exam guides
  • Learn how to update owner information in the Trademark database

For the last three years, the USPTO has allowed practitioners and law students to actually witness a live Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) hearing.  This year the Intellectual Property Law Section of the ABA and the USPTO are once again, happy to announce there will be another live TTAB hearing, along with tips and advice from judges on prosecution strategies when dealing with the TTAB.

Participants are eligible to receive CLE credit and lunch will be provided. Plus, get to network with USPTO officials and examining attorneys during the lunch break.

To learn more about the 3rd Annual ABA-IPL Trademark Day: Behind the Scenes at the USPTO, visit here.

Data Breach. Privacy.


Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Anyone who closely follows the news has heard the term “data breach” all too often in recent months. A violation of ones privacy rights.  There is little doubt that these “breaches” of consumer’s personally identifiable information (PII) via the nation’s retailers are becoming a serious threat to consumers.

This problem has hit California particularly hard over the past year, so much so that some have begun referring to 2014 as “the year of the data breach.” California legislators have taken notice. In the wake of this epidemic, the State has proposed two bills designed to educate consumers and keep retailers accountable for safeguarding personal information.

One bill proposed by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, of California’s 19th district, is SB-570. The bill seeks to simplify and standardize the manner in which consumers are informed of any data breach. The bill requires notification of a data breach to be detailed, in a simple to read one-page document headlined “Notice of Data Breach,” with a predefined format containing the following information:

  • What Happened
  • What Information Was Involved
  • What Are We (retailer) Doing
  • What You Can Do
  • For More Information

A second bill dealing with this issue is AB 964, sponsored by Assembly Member Ed Chau, of California’s 49th Assembly District. Among other things, this bill seeks to define the term “encryption” when used by businesses. The bill defines encryption as “rendered unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable through a security technology or methodology generally accepted in the field of information security.”

At the present time data breach statutes in the state of California fall under the umbrella of the Customer Records Act, which specifies that companies “must implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices,” in regards to customer’s Personally Identifiable Information, and notify the customer of breaches without “unreasonable delay.”

Will these pending Senate and Assembly bills do anything to stem the tide of personal data breaches? While these proposed bills may tighten up procedures and language concerning how businesses handle notification of data breaches, they don’t specifically create a solution to the crime itself. Sadly, with hackers becoming more sophisticated, companies becoming less careful in how they handle our PII and our privacy, and consumers becoming more careless with their own private information, eradicating these crimes altogether may be a long and tedious battle.

So what can consumers do?

Right or wrong, the brunt of the responsibility falls on you, as usual. Shopping with credit and debit cards, while very convenient, opens you up to some risk. You must take proactive steps to protect yourself and you must be vigilant when it comes to your finances. Read here for some simple common sense tips to avoid data breaches: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/21/5-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-data-breaches/15953321/

Remember, the first line of protection is always you. Stay involved, stay alert and stay informed. ‘

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