Top Patent, Trademark, and IP Stories from Last Week (9/9-9/15/19)
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!
Follow Up: “Ohio State Can’t Trademark the Word ‘The,’ Patent Office Says”
Following up on a story we covered last month, “The” Ohio State University’s trademark application for “THE” has been rejected. In their office action, the USPTO found that clothing company Marc Jacobs had already filed a trademark application for the word before Ohio State did. The office indicates there may be “confusion between the two marks.”
Additionally, the USPTO found the mark, displayed in large font on hats and t-shirts, functioned more as a “decorative or ornamental feature of applicant’s clothing” than as a trademark. “With respect to clothing, consumers may recognize small designs or discrete wording as trademarks, rather than as merely ornamental features, when located, for example, on the pocket or breast area of a shirt,” the USPTO writes, “consumers may not, however, perceive larger designs or slogans as trademarks when such matter is prominently displayed across the front of a t-shirt.” In their original filing, Ohio State indicated the mark was for a brand of clothing, not just the word on it.
In order to fix this, the USPTO recommended submitting proof that the mark can be directly associated with the university by consumers. Additionally, the office suggested submitting specimens that show “non-ornamental use on clothing” such as hang tags or labels inside the clothing. To read more about this story, click here (via CBS News, September 11th, 2019).
Follow Up: “LeBron James Tried to Trademark ‘Taco Tuesday,’ but Got Swatted Away”
Following up on another celebrity trademark filing we covered, LeBron James had his “Taco Tuesday” trademark application rejected last week. In their office action, the USPTO found the phrase did not function as a trademark because it is a “commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources that merely conveys an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment.” Additionally, “terms and expressions that merely convey an informational message are not registrable.” The USPTO also cited numerous websites and newspapers that use the phrase “Taco Tuesday” meaning it is a “widely used message” and therefore ineligible.
To make matters worse for LeBron, the USPTO also refused the mark on the basis of there being a likelihood of confusion with other similar trademarks. For example, the mark “TECHNO TACO TUESDAY” covered many of the same applications LeBron’s mark attempted to cover and is “confusingly similar.” The marks do not have to be identical or even in competition with one another for there to be confusion. “Merely omitting some of the wording from a registered mark may not overcome a likelihood of confusion,” the office states. To read more about this story, click here (via New York Times, September 11th, 2019).
“This Is the First Hemp Strain to Be Awarded a US Patent”
Colorado-based Charlotte’s Web Holdings has been granted the first cultivar of hemp patent in the U.S. The strain, known as “Charlotte’s Web” or “CW2A,” is a high-CBD yielding hemp that yields 4.5-6.24% CBD for medicinal purposes with no psychoactive properties (<0.3% THC) The plant is described as a “hardy plant” with resistance to frost in early and late growth stages and cold in late vegetative and mature stages. In trials, 90% of fourth generation offspring exhibited resistance to pesticides and disease.
The hemp strain is now able to be grown under the 2018 Farm Bill. In May, the USPTO came out with examination guidelines related to the patentability of cannabis and cannabis-related goods and services after the implementation of the bill. To read more about this story, click here (via Leafly, September 13th, 2019).
“A Coloring Book of the Most Maniacal Patent Drawings You’ll Ever See”
An interesting article from Popular Mechanics shows a bunch of bizarre patents filed over the past century or so. I will highlight some of the more interesting ones. Let’s take the “Eye Protector for Chickens” patent aka glasses for chickens for example, filed in 1903. The patent outlines a miniature set of bifocals placed on chickens in order to prevent them from pecking each other’s eyes out.
An even stranger patent is for a “Saluting Device” aka a self-tipping hat, filed in 1896. When the wearer of the hat would bow, it would cause a weight-block to swing forward and provide “polite salutations by the elevation and rotation of the hat on the head of the saluting party.” The hat could also serve as a “unique and attractive advertising medium,” according to the inventor.
Even more bizarre is a patent for “Sandwich Bread,” filed in 1881. No need for multiple stops to the grocery store when you want a sandwich, this “bread” would include everything you need. Essentially, it is a loaf of bread embedded with meat and all the toppings you could hope for. Just cut off a piece and enjoy your delicious slice of sandwich!
Another interesting filing is for an invention called the “Base-Ball Catcher,” filed in 1904. This contraption was basically a clunky, wearable metal grate that would protect the catcher’s chest and face. The large openings on the grate would also catch the ball thrown at it. Needless to say, it did not become an established part of professional baseball. To read more about these bizarre inventions, click here (via Popular Mechanics, September 13th, 2019).