Supreme Court Strikes Down PTO Prohibition Against Derogatory Trademarks

(June 20, 2017) The United States Supreme Court has found that the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) prohibition against registering trademarks that may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute any persons is unconstitutional.

The PTO denied registration for “The Slants” by a rock group comprised of Asians. The trademark was rejected by the PTO examining attorney because “slants” is a derogatory or offensive term to some Asians. The PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed.

The group’s leader said he ...

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Website Posting Alone Cannot Support Finding of Access for Copyright Infringement

(June 8, 2017) Placing copyrighted materials on a website does not justify an inference that an alleged infringer accessed the materials, especially when the materials are not strikingly similar, the Seventh Circuit found.

The case involved whether a homebuilder infringed copyrighted home plans. The appellate court said the home-plan field was “crowded,” making it difficult to find protectable creative expression “because opportunities for originality are tightly constrained by function requirements, consumer demands, and the vast body of similar designs already ...

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Autonomous Vehicle Legal Issues Explored by Richard C. Balough

(May 11, 2017) As autonomous and driverless vehicles take to the roads, drivers, car manufactures, programmers, and insurance companies will face new legal challenges, said Richard C. Balough in a presentation at the 2017 Intellectual Property Litigation Seminar sponsored by DRI.

“Because today’s and tomorrow’s cars are computers that happen to move physically on the roadway, there are subject to performance failures by inadequate design, malware, or hacking,” Mr. Balough told the group of defense and in-house counsel.

The code used in ...

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Google This: Is Google’s Trademark Generic?

(May 18, 2017) Even though the public may use “google” in a generic sense with regards to internet search engines, that fact alone does not suffice to cancel Google’s trademarks.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Google against a party who argued that Google was viewed by the public as generic, thus no longer eligible for trademark protection.

“We agree with the district court that, at best, Elliott has presented admissible evidence to support the inference that a majority of ...

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Text Message Platform May Be Autodialer But Consent Makes Texts OK

(May 4, 2017) A text message platform that sends messages only to a set list of numbers may be an “autodialer” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Seventh Circuit found. However, if the party claiming a violation of the TCPA voluntarily provided their number, then there may be no cause of action.

A customer of Chicago-based Bijora, Inc., which operates Akira boutique women’s clothing and accessory stores, filed a class action seeking $1.8 billion in damages. The woman alleged ...

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Satisfying Food Entrepreneurs Hunger for Information on Protecting IP

(May 4, 2017) The Hatchery, a food business incubator in Chicago, hosted Cheryl Balough on April 20, 2017 for a presentation on “Trademarks & Trade Secrets: Protecting Special Features in Your Food Business.”

Ms. Balough shared guidelines for selecting trademarks, reviewed the trademark clearance and registration process, and discussed the intersection of trademarks and domain names. She also reviewed what constitutes a trade secret, how food businesses can ensure their trade secrets stay secret, and the limits to trade secret protection. ...

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Supreme Court Decision Opens Door to Fashion Design Copyright Protection

(March 25, 2017) Fashion designers might be able to stitch together copyright protection for their clothing thanks to the Supreme Court.

In a divided decision, the Supreme Court granted copyright protection to cheerleading uniforms because the chevrons, curves, stripes, angles, diagonals, and shapes are conceptually separate from the “utilitarian function” of the uniform.

This result comes after numerous failed attempts to include ...

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A Comma or Not a Comma Can Turn a Case

(March 20, 2017) The comma may be a small punctuation mark but its presence, or absence, can have a huge impact, as shown in an overtime dispute involving delivery drivers and a dairy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit devoted 17 pages of a 29-page opinion to discussing the lack of a comma and its effect on the outcome of the case before finally deciding that the discussion “has, to be candid, not gotten us very far.”

The ...

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DHS and FBI Urge Organizations to Boost Cybersecurity to Avoid Russian Hackers

(January 3, 2017) The Joint Analysis Report on the Russian cyber activity in the recent election also serves as a warning to others of the need to implement best cybersecurity practices to protect computer systems.

The report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found activity by Russian civilian and military intelligence services (RIS) “is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens. These cyber ...

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Adult Affairs Website AshleyMadison Settles with FTC on Breach

(December 15, 2016) The website designed to help adults have discrete affairs agreed to settle charges concerning its lack of adequate data security that exposed 36 million of its accounts to hackers in 2015.

AshleyMadison.com and its operating companies settled charges ashley-adthat they deceived consumers by claiming their data was secure and, that if they paid an additional fee, the ...

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