The Slants. USPTO. “Disparaging”

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Trademark. Rejection.

USPTO. Trademark.

Imagine that you find that ideal name that suits your business and brand quite perfectly. You rush to quickly file all of the appropriate paperwork with the US Patent and Trademark Office so that you can start to use your trademark. Then your attorney reaches out to you to inform you that you’ve received a rejection letter from the USPTO stating that your trademark was not approved because it was found to be “disparaging.” What would you do?

Well this is exactly what occurred to the Asian-American rock band, The Slants. The band’s trademark was rejected in 2010 on the grounds that it is disparaging to people of Asian descent. The band leader, Mr. Tam, was surprised about the rejection notice and cited that the band had received not one formal complaint by any Asian-American. At that time the band had been touring for over several years.

In an edited excerpt from the conversation that the NY Times conducted with Mr. Tam, he says the following about where the name originally came from:

It came from me asking around friends when I was trying to think of a band name. I said, “What’s something you think all Asians have in common?” and they told me slanted eyes. That’s interesting because, No. 1, it’s not true — not all Asians have slanted eyes and Asians aren’t the only people that have a slant to our eyes. But No. 2, it worked [as a name] because we could talk about our perspective — our slant on life, as people of color navigating the entertainment industry — and at the same time, pay homage to the Asian-American activists who had been using the term in a reappropriated, self-empowering way for about 30 years. We know that irony and wit can neutralize racial slurs, because it shifts the dynamics of power. It makes people check in and think, “Is this actually appropriate to use or not?” Prior to that, people just make assumptions. Read more here.

The Slants.

The Slants, not wanting to give up on their band name, took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. And after 5 years of battle, the Supreme Court recently ruled the USPTO is not able to determine what kind of speech is socially acceptable and what is not.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.” The court went on to say that “the federal government does not dream up these marks,” and that registration should be “viewpoint neutral.”

Attorney Lee Rowland of the American Civil Liberties Union agreed with the decision that the Supreme Court made and said:

“The government’s misguided effort to protect minorities from disparagement instead hurt members of that very community by hindering their right to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Fortunately, today’s opinion prevents the kind of absurd outcome that results when the government plays speech police.”

As this moment, the government has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. So, we will need to continue to follow this case. What do you think of the Supreme Court’s decision? Feel free to comment below.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Facebook Fan Page, on my Twitter page, in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Trademark Scammers. USPTO SCAM.

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Non-USPTO Solicitations

USPTO Scam

USPTO Scam

Here is yet another way scammers are trying to part you from your hard-earned money.

The USPTO recently announced that trademark holders are receiving letters in the mail requesting payment on fees due for the trademarks.

The fraudulent solicitations include offers such as: for legal services; for trademark monitoring services; to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

Furthermore, these scammers are using letterhead that mimics the look of official government documents and are using names that resemble the USPTO, such as “United States,” “U.S.,” “Trademark,” “Patent,” “Registration,” “Office,” or “Agency.”

Trademark Scam.

The Department of Justice reported that these scams resulted in the loss of approximately $1.66 million from copyright holders, and has only resulted in 5 convictions.

So, if you get a letter in the mail stating that it’s from the USPTO office read the letter carefully before making a decision about whether to respond.  According to the USPTO “All official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”

What do you do if you are a victim?

File an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). See here.

The USPTO has offered several examples of just some of the non-USPTO solicitations that have been mailed out, which can be reviewed here.

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. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Difference Between a Trademark & Copyright

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Copyright

Copyright

Many online business owners confuse trademark registration with copyright registration. Trademark registration refers to protecting the brand name, color, design, and/or logo of your business, and provides a means to distinguish your product from others in the marketplace. Copyright registration refers to protecting original creative content, such books, articles, blog posts, photos, website content, videos, music, plays, movies, cartoons, and a number of other items. While both are forms of intellectual property, they are handled differently. Understand the difference.

If you need someone to perform a trademark search or if you need help with filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, CLICK HERE NOW.

Is a Trademark Required? TM?

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trademark sign padlockTrademark? Branding?

While trademark registration is not required for the protection of your valuable logos, designs, words, phrases, and other source identifiers, it is a smart business judgment decision to protect them in that way. Taking that extra step to protect what’s yours will aid in enhancing the value of your company and your brand. When you work hard to create an identifiable, recognizable, and memorable brand, a trademark attorney can help you protect that asset. Or, if you are clear on the actions to take, you can do it yourself. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is a wonderful resource.

But having a competent trademark registration attorney on your team can be a great benefit. They can appropriately advise you on every aspect of the trademark prosecution process. For example, an attorney can counsel you on how to select a mark that can be protected, how to perform a trademark search, the use of the appropriate trademark symbol, which trademark registration form to use if you choose to register (and how to file a trademark application), how to respond to USPTO Office Actions, and how to protect your trademark after it’s registered. Regardless of the benefits of having a competent professional who understands trademark law and how to apply it, you can always do it yourself on the www.uspto.gov website.

Trademark. Branding. Why its important?

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Branding. Trademark.What is Branding?

Trademark protection is an essential part of your brand strategy. If you are focused on brand building, then having registered trademarks as part of your portfolio is important. Branding your business online takes thought, dedication, and most of all — time! You must come up with a color scheme, logo, design, image, and/or an image that unifies your business as a brand.  More importantly, your brand must be recognizable and must communicate to your audience what it stands for.

When you establish your business brand online, a great deal of time is invested in spreading the word across the Internet and getting your credibility established. By using online tools, such as social networking resources, video marketing, pay-per-click advertising, search engine marketing, mobile marketing, and other advertising mediums, people will eventually associate your brand with quality and value.

Without a brand name and/or a distinctive brand image, your business will not stand out in the marketplace from other vendors who provide a similar product or service. If you are going to invest time and money in establishing a presence in the marketplace, your next step should be protecting it. Protection of your brand starts with protecting your trademarks, e.g., your logos, designs, tag lines, slogans, in some cases trade names, or any other device used to market your products and/or services in the marketplace. To ensure it is done correctly — the first time — you should hire a competent trademark attorney to assist you in the process.