Top Patent, Trademark, and IP Stories from Last Week (7/22-7/28/19)
Every week, we will be highlighting the top patent, copyright, trademark, intellectual property, etc. stories of the previous week in our “In Case You Missed It” segment. The list itself is in no particular order and includes a wide range of stories from the patent world that are informative, noteworthy, or just plain bizarre. The stories included encompass everything from Supreme Court cases to insights into growing industries. Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the stories or share an important one we missed!
“Utility Model Examination in China Is Quietly Changing”
Mounting pressure by the international community on China’s patent system amidst widespread IP theft accusations and infringement practices may actually be working. Between 2016 and 2017, filings in China by U.S.-based applicants grew some 14%, demonstrating a greater willingness from American inventors to file in China. The growth has been attributed in part to China’s recent attempts to increase the thoroughness of patent examinations as well as shorten filing times.
In 2017, CNIPA, the Chinese equivalent of the USPTO, increased scrutiny of patent applications and even began routinely rejecting bad ones, something unheard of before then. The initiatives are part of an effort by the Chinese government to build up the reputation of their IP system. At the center is a desire to improve IP rights protection, boost competition, and “encourage normal technological exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and foreign enterprises.” China has been accused of stealing foreign technology via spying and coerced technology transfers.
On July 24th, CNIPA released a statement announcing new IP rights initiatives. New proposals include “intensified” infringement investigations and enforcement, faster filing times, and more rigorous examinations. Additionally, CNIPA hopes to revise the copyright law and patent law including regulations on the protection of new plant varieties. Hopefully we can see China establish itself as a pro-innovation world leader soon by restoring faith to its IP system. The recent initiatives are a great first step forward, hopefully they continue. To read more about this story, click here (via IPWatchdog, July 28th, 2019).
“Zion Williamson Has Filed Multiple Trademark Requests”
Highly touted NBA rookie and first overall pick Zion Williamson has recently filed 13 trademark requests for the phrase “Let’s Dance.” The trademarks were filed by Zion a day after uttering the phrase in his post-draft interview. In addition to using the phrase in the interview, Zion also used it to announce his $75 million dollar megadeal with Jordan brand, posting on Instagram “Let’s Dance #JUMPMAN.” Ironically enough, his new team, the Pelicans, filed for the trademark a few hours before Zion did but have since withdrawn the claim.
The “Let’s Dance” trademark applications range from computer/mobile games, clothing, cellphone accessories, and non-alcoholic beverages. Given Zion is arguably the most hyped rookie since LeBron James, it is no wonder why he wants to file as many trademarks as possible. LeBron’s endorsements and player deals have netted him $1 billion in career earnings. That said, do not be surprised if Zion starts to tweet the phrase incessantly in an attempt to secure the trademark. To read more about this story, click here (via 24/7 Sports, July 25th, 2019).
“Trademark Parody: Sour Patch Kids Sues Cannabis Brand to Protect IP”
Mondelëz Canada Inc., maker of the popular Sour Patch Kids candy, has filed a trademark suit against the makers of cannabis-infused gummies sold under the name “Stoney Patch” aka “Stoney Patch Kids.” The packaging for the “Stoney Patch” gummies is a clear rip-off of Sour Patch’s, sharing many of the same colors and iconic elements including a knockoff logo and mascots. The packaging is so popular there is black market demand for it on the internet and there are even rip-offs of the rip-off.
Although the identity of the cannabis gummy manufacturer(s) is unknown, the company hopes the suit will curb the growing trend of cannabis-infused candy makers parodying well-established brands. Mondelëz argues the Stoney Patch candy causes confusion and “irreparable harm” to its brand given how identical the packaging between the two look. Given Mondelëz has spent $70 million since 1985 marketing their candy according to the lawsuit, it is no wonder they want to protect their brand.
In 2014, Hershey filed a similar suit against Colorado and Washington marijuana companies selling cannabis-infused chocolate using copycat packaging and names. For example, “Reefer’s Peanut Butter Cups,” “Dabby Patty” (York), and “Mr. Dankbar” (Mr. Goodbar) were all rip-offs of iconic Hershey’s products. The defendants agreed to stop selling the products. Hershey stated most companies have since “acknowledged their unauthorized use of our iconic trademarks.” To read more about this story, click here (via JDSupra, July 25th, 2019).
“Apple Files Patent for Mixed Reality Headset That Can Track Your Facial Expressions”
Apple has recently filed a new patent for an augmented reality headset capable of providing “3D virtual views of a user’s environment augmented with virtual content.” In order to best mix realities, sensors on the headset would detect important elements of the user’s environment including lighting information and room/place depth. This would allow for the implementation of virtual objects and tags “into” the user’s environment as seen through the headset. Sensors would also be able to detect the orientation and motion of the user as well as track the movement of their eyes, hands, eyebrows, and jaw.
The patent is another glimpse into Apple’s secret augmented reality headset due sometime next year. To read more about this story, click here (via The Next Web, July 23rd, 2019).