San Diego – The University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers, a No. 16 seed, had a win no one saw coming during March Madness in Charlotte, NC. The Retrievers played the Virginia Cavaliers, a Number 1 seed, and took the nation by surprise when they won the game in convincing fashion, 74-54. This marked the first time in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that a Number 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed.
Throughout the game, Jairus Lyles led the team to the win, as the whole team was energized from his confidence, which only seemed to shake Virginia more. The game really took a turn when Lyles made a three-pointer with 14:57 left on the clock which put the Retrievers up by 14 points. Although Virginia had plenty of time to make their come back, they did not appear confident that they could win the game.
UMBC was not ready for such a big triumph in many ways. With all of the attention that the win created for the program, the leadership of the school quickly made a decision to file several trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office including for “UMBC Retrievers” which had never been done. UMBC Athletic director Tim Hall also quickly approved trademark applications for “Retriever Nation” and “16 over 1.”
“UMBC wanted to make sure that it took the necessary steps to be proactive as its athletics brand became the most talked about topic in the world,” according to Heitner. It was widely reported that the school submitted Class 25 filings for each trademark, meaning the trademarks will cover clothing and footwear. As of this writing however, none of the trademark applications could be confirmed. Typically trademark applications show up with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office within 3 business days of filing.
Merchandise is quickly being sold from the UMBC bookstore, which had to open over the winning weekend to keep up with demand. On Sunday, the Cinderella story quickly ended as UMBC was defeated by Kansas State which eliminated the Retrievers from the tournament. Regardless of the loss, the players were still enjoying the upset win. Daniel Akin said, “No one can take away the feeling of beating the No. 1 team in the country” and Arkel Lamar added, “I’m still in disbelief.”
Los Angeles – On Thursday, March 8th 2018, Nike filed a patent application for golfing glasses that show all types of data while playing. The glasses would allow golfers to track their ball and read putting greens with a heads-up display. Needless to say, if the glasses work as claimed, for golfers they could become as ubiquitous as golfing shoes and a visor.
Along with the patent, Nike filed a diagram illustrating a hi-tech golf ball which would communicate with the glasses. When paired together, the golf ball will send information back to the person wearing the glasses. The glasses have a display on a small screen so the golfer will be able to check the data seamlessly while playing. Some of the information the user will be able to quickly access will be the following:
• Your current score
• Golf ball’s speed and location
• Spin rate
• Carry distance
• Distance to the pin
• Velocity of your last swing
• Fairways hit
• Average putts and holes
• The slope of Greens
The patent suggests the glasses will also have a camera to help track where you are in the course, plan the trajectory of your next shot, display an enhanced image of the golf ball, and, of course, capture and record images of the golfer’s swing and then send the images to a processor for suggestions on improvement. The glasses can also warn the golfer of any hazards such as water and sand traps.
It would seem that the glasses would also be able to collect data about each golf course to allow data about how often a putt was missed and in which direction, which the golfer could factor in on the next putt. The ability to track the terrain of the course would obviously be superior to the golfers view and would help with club selection and suggested angles for the next swing. The technology that makes this possible is called augmented reality technology, which overlays the topography of the land around the golfer’s location.
Though some patents never turn into real products, it seems that there is a high likelihood that the ideas covered in this patent will come to fruition. It is easily to see the potential this technology has to improve a player’s golf game, and how it could quickly turn into an arms race if golfers begin to use the technology on the course.
Orange County – Fresh off its first-ever Super Bowl win, on February 15th the Philadelphia Eagles filed a U.S. Trademark Application for “Philly Special” for apparel. The phrase “Philly Special” was made famous by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl in relation to a trick play. The phrase was called out by the team in the second quarter, on a fourth-and-goal when QB Nick Foles caught the ball in the end zone. Days after the Super Bowl win the Eagles were already using the phrase on shirts with the team’s logo.
One problem for the Eagles is that on February 9th, six days earlier than the Eagles, D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. also filed a U.S. Trademark Application for Philly Special. Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery and is also located in Pennsylvania. Since Yuengling filed its Philly Special trademark application first, Yuengling could possibly have maintained prior rights. However, to avoid the conflict, Yuengling decided to expressly abandon its application so that the phrase could instead be owned by the Eagles. Yuengling was going to use the phrase for one of its beers but after learning that the Eagles had plans to use the trademark, instead decided to simply abandon it.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Yuengling was not alone in filing for Philly Special before the team did. During the three days from February 5th to February 8th, a total of six such trademark applications were filed.
The trademark office will examine the Philly Special trademark applications in the order that they were filed, so the original application filed by Joseph Tallarico for sandwiches could possibly be approved even though it is the Eagles that made the phrase famous. The second application for Philly Special filed by Nathaniel Shoshan for apparel could also be approved due to the differing goods. All of the other applications would then be rejected due to the prior filings. It would then be up to the Eagles to oppose one or both of the prior filed applications by claiming that it is the team that made the phrase famous and therefore the team is the true owner of the trademark. It is also possible that the trademark will be aware of the prior fame of the trademark and then reject all applications other than the one filed by the Eagles.
The Minnesota Vikings were also in the news recently for filing a trademark application related to a play in the NFL playoffs. The Vikings filed a trademark application for “Minnesota Miracle” which became famous for a memorable pass that got them to the NFC Championship game, which they lost to the Eagles.
San Diego – On Monday, February 12th, 2018, San Diego based Stone Brewing filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors for allegedly infringing the “Stone” trademark. According to Stone Brewing, during the rebranding of Keystone, MillerCoors has used the “Stone” trademark to potentially steal the customers and reputation of Stone Brewing.
Last April, the new Keystone cans were introduced with the word “Stone” standing out in capital letters. Later, Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch stated that MillerCoors was “deliberately creating confusion in the marketplace.” Koch continued to say MillerCoors was not only jeopardizing Stone Brewing’s reputation in the marketplace and confusing consumers.
MillerCoors has denied all allegations and called them a “clever publicity stunt,” and claims Keystone consumers have used the word “Stone” as a reference to the beer since its debut in 1989. Stone Brewing was not founded until 1996. Although according to Stone Brewing, MillerCoors tried to register “Stone” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in 2007 but was unsuccessful because Stone Brewing had registered in 1998.
Greg Koch released a video stating that large beer companies have been scheming against craft breweries in an attempt to counteract a decline in sales by buying out smaller companies, but knowing Stone Brewing would not sell, instead tried to steal the brand. Koch has also been responding to the mass amounts of Tweets on the matter by reiterating that Stone Brewing will not be backing down from the fight.
Lizzie Younkin, Stone Brewing’s spokeswoman, has declined any interviews about the lawsuit and stated that their lawyers will be doing to talking, while they focus on “brewing great beer.” According to IRI Worldwide, retail data showed both companies were up in sales during a 52-week period that ended January 28, 2018. Stone Brewing increased 20 percent while Keystone Light increased 12.1 percent.
Stone Brewing is calling out MillerCoors’ social media campaign, saying Facebook, Instagram and ESPN ads showed proof that Keystone is being referred to as “Stone” and has purposely placed the can so only the word “Stone” is visible in the graphic images. Stone Brewing is requesting the court to stop MillerCoors use of the “Stone” trademark in sales and distributing Keystone beer, as well as damages and the profits.
San Diego – Amazon has won two patents for wristbands that inform employers what their employees are doing. The patents were originally filed in 2016 and were published on January 30, 2018. The wristband can track employee movement including how active the employee is which would be a measurement of productivity. The wristband could also track how often the employee took breaks, visited a restroom, and can even vibrate when a task is performed incorrectly or if an employee becomes too inactive.
Amazon has been known for testing products internally before putting them on the market. The patent descriptions vigilantly outline that the tracking wristbands are not to collect data about specific employees, but about inventory. An Amazon representative made mention that “this idea if implemented in the future, would improve the process for our fulfillment associates. By moving equipment to associates’ wrists, we could free up their hands from scanners and their eyes from computer screens.”
These high-tech wristbands use ultrasonic pulses to communicate with the modules on inventory bins and tracks the employee’s hands. The wristband will vibrate when an item is placed in the wrong bin. Also, since Amazon encourages employees to work faster and more efficiently, this wristband would assist Amazon in improving employee performance.
Not everyone sees the wristbands as a means of convenience. Even though the wristband’s stated purpose is not to collect data about the wearer, the data is still being collected. Which leads to the question, would the wristbands be used to track and grade employee performance? By using these wristbands in the warehouse, Amazon would obviously be able to identify their most productive workers. Workplace Fairness, an employee rights organization, says too many questions have been left unanswered.
It is still unclear if Amazon plans to manufacture and put the wristband to use. Amazon’s former employees have commented that they would not be surprised if Amazon began using the wristbands. Amazon warehouse employees have stated that a typical day at the Amazon warehouse involves receiving hundreds of items every hour and being expected to process each item in a matter of seconds and if you fall behind you would be fired.
Amazon is not the first company to capitalize on technological advances to increase productivity. Another company in London is developing a system to identify unusual behavior in the workplace. A company in Wisconsin offered to implant microchips under the skin to give employees access to anything from secured doors to vending machines. Nearly two-thirds of the employees agreed to have the chip implanted.
Orange County – Back in 2012, a Snowshoe Siamese cat named Tardar Sauce became an Internet sensation through photos of the cat’s signature grumpy expression. Tardar Sauce is now infamously known as Grumpy Cat. The cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, created Grumpy Cat Limited to create business opportunities for the cat. The following year in 2013, Grenade Beverage paid $150,000 and signed an agreement to use the cat’s image on its ‘Grumpuccino’ iced coffee.
Shortly after, Grenade started using the cat’s image on other products including t-shirts and other beverages. Grumpy Cat Limited claimed that these uses were not authorized, and so in 2015 Grumpy Cat Limited sued Grenade Beverage for exceeding the agreement and committing copyright infringement. Grenade Beverage responded with a countersuit, stating that Grumpy Cat Limited had not held up its side of the agreement. Grenade Beverage explained that part of the agreement was that Grumpy Cat Limited would promote the coffee by making the Grenade Beverage brand present on Grumpy Cat’s social media.
Grenade Beverage’s attorney pointed out that the product was only promoted 17 times and that Grumpy Cat’s appearance on a Fox News show to promote the coffee was a “disaster” because Grumpy Cat’s people did not refer to the agreed talking points they were given. Allegedly, Grumpy Cat Limited had also told Grenade Beverage that Grumpy Cat would co-star with Jack Black and Will Ferrell in an upcoming movie, which never happened. Grumpy Cat did, however, star in her own Christmas movie that earned a 5 out of 10 star rating. Apart from negotiating movie deals, Grumpy Cat Limited also donates to shelters that help save animals.
Grumpy Cat was present during the January trial, but was not there for the final verdict. The California Jury ended up siding with Grumpy Cat Limited. Grumpy Cat Limited had initially asked for $600,000 in damages but were awarded $710,001 for copyright and trademark infringement, along with a $1 nominal damage fee for breach of contract.
Though not painful, Grumpy Cat’s face is said to be caused by an underbite and feline dwarfism. Regardless, the six-year-old Tardar is an incredible feline. She has her own business, a massive fan base, has travelled the world, and now can boast of a $710,001 court victory.
Los Angeles – Popular makeup brand Hard Candy Cosmetics filed a trademark application for #MeToo in October 2017 which created great controversy. Hard Candy was looking to brand a line of fragrances and cosmetics with the hashtag #MeToo. #MeToo has been at the core of a social movement to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.
Social activist Tarana Burke is said to have created the phrase in 2007, and it was then popularized by actress Alyssa Milano in 2017 when she encouraged women to tweet #MeToo to demonstrate the scale of the social issue.
Hard Candy Cosmetics has a history of supporting non-profit organizations, and along those lines Hard Candy claims that it filed for the trademark to give back to women and bring greater awareness to the social movement. Hard Candy had planned to donate 100 percent of profits received from the line of goods. However, many survivors of sexual harassment and abuse have taken offense to this trademark attempt because, “It [is] a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible,” explained Tarana Burke.
Back in October 2017, when the hashtag went viral, many were afraid that businesses would attempt to capitalize on the phenomenon. Without a doubt, a jewelry company by the name of Adornia released a “Me Too” necklace and stated that they would donate ten percent of proceeds to Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN). Adornia received such strong backlash that they quickly changed the donation percentage to 100 percent.
There are two other applicants for the #MeToo trademark. One company is looking to use it for legal consultation services, and the other for rubber bracelets like the LiveStrong Lance Armstrong bracelets.
As of January 18, 2018, Hard Candy withdrew its application for the controversial trademark after receiving a ton of push back on social media that this was an inappropriate use of the hashtag. Despite the decision to not use the hashtag in their branding, Hard Candy Cosmetics says that it is still planning to strongly support the cause to empower and respect the dignity of women.
Orange County – The new year is bringing in with it the first significant reform of music licensing rules in decades. Streaming services like Spotify are continuing to gain in popularity as consumer purchase less Compact Discs. Spotify is now facing three lawsuits alleging that it has failed to pay artists for the music it streams.
Most recently, the Swedish streaming company has to deal with a new larger copyright lawsuit from Wixen Music Publishing. Wixen Music Publishing filed a lawsuit in California federal court that alleges Spotify is using Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” the Doors’ “Light My Fire,” and several thousands of other songs without a license.
The plaintiff is seeking an award for $1.6 billion in damages. The complaint states that, “Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” and also suggests that twenty-one percent of the 30-million songs on Spotify are perhaps unlicensed.
Spotify was contacted for a request to comment, but has yet to respond. Spotify continues to challenge plaintiff’s authority as to whether Wixen Music Publishing has been authorized by its clients to take action. To defend the lawsuit, Spotify may claim that streaming does not include reproduction nor distribution rights under United States Copyright law.
As a result, USA lawmakers have made a point to begin reforming music licensing. In late December, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the Music Modernization Act which would end the “notice of intent” process that’s currently in place.
A database would instead have to publicly identify songs and alleviate the way that digital services struggle to identify and locate co-authors of each of the tens of millions of copyrighted songs. Under the proposal, digital services like Spotify would fund a Mechanical Licensing Collective that would be granted blanket mechanical licenses — the rates would resemble market value giving songwriters and publishers audit rights.
The proposal has earned a buy-in from the Digital Media Association, a trade organization which represents Apple, YouTube, Amazon, and Spotify. However, it may take more than this to get Congress involved since these sorts or issues typically are not high on Congress’ list of todos. The act will only impact copyright holders suing over mechanical reproduction after January 1, 2018.
Los Angeles – Founder Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports is ready to sue the NFL over an alleged trademark infringement. Barstool Sports has sold shirts, flags and other apparel with the phrase “Saturdays Are For The Boys.” The NFL recently began selling shirts that include the phrase “Sundays are for the Boys” which is in reference to the Dallas Cowboys.
Apart from the Cowboys, the NFL is also selling shirts that include the phrase “Sundays Are For The [Team Name]” with each team name. Barstool Sports believes that the shirts are a play on the verbiage used by Barstool Sports.
Barstool Sports and the NFL have a rocky relationship from past incidents. Back in May 2015, Portnoy and three other Barstool Sports employees were arrested for a sit-in protest at the NFL headquarters. The protestors were arrested when they refused to leave the NFL grounds. The protest was over NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s management of Deflategate – a controversy involving the allegation that the New England Patriots deliberately under-inflated footballs. It’s no surprise that Portnoy is capitalizing on the opportunity to get back at the NFL.
“It’s the first time I kind of feel like we have them by the […], so it will be a nice win when they take them down. They’re definitely going to take those shirts down. I just think it makes them look like idiots. I wasn’t mad. I was like, ‘Oh you guys just stepped into a bear trap. That was stupid.’ We’re always looking for an upper hand vs. the NFL, and this was an easy one.”
The morning of December 20th, 2017, it was noted that the Dallas Cowboys’ shirt had been taken off the website and replaced with a shirt that just says, “The Boys” above a Cowboys star logo. However, it’s not just the Cowboys’ shirt that Barstool Sports is suing over, but all of the “Sundays Are For The [Team Name]” shirts. Portnoy told TMZ, “They wouldn’t be doing that shirt without ‘Saturdays Are For The Boys.’ It’s a play on that.”
Apart from stunts and dust ups directed at the NFL, it was a busy year for Barstool Sports. They also debuted talk shows on Sirius XM, the Comedy Channel, and ESPN 2.
San Diego – After a long-running battle, a jury in San Diego decided in favor of Comic-Con International, the nonprofit behind San Diego Comic-Con, which has been an iconic pop culture fan event for a whopping 50 years. The ruling holds that San Diego Comic-Con does hold trademark rights to “Comic-con”.
The lawsuit began when San Diego Comic-Con claimed that the two defendants Daniel Farr and Bryan Brandenburg chose to capitalize on the goodwill and success of San Diego Comic-Con’s brand in using the term “comic con” as a descriptor for their event. Farr advertised his comic convention, Salt Lake Comic Con, by announcing “Comic-Con is coming to Utah,” which San Diego Comic-con claimed implied affiliation to San Diego Comic-Con.
The jury decided that the Comic-Con trademark is valid, and that Salt Lake City used it in a way likely to cause confusion to customers. However, the jury found the infringement of the Comic-Con trademark unintentional, therefore San Diego Comic-Con was only awarded $20,000 for corrective advertising. San Diego Comic-Con had originally asked for $12 million.
For San Diego Comic Con to uphold its branding, the Court ruling allows it to seek licensing agreements with more than 140 events in the United States. These events include some variation of “Comic Con,” in the name. This includes several large independent shows such as New York Comic Con and Emerald City ComiCon. All of them will now need to obtain a license from Comic-Con International to use the term, or else rename the events.
Farr and Brandenburg of Salt Lake Comic Con protested that the term “comic con” was generic, and that Comic-Con International’s trademark applied only to “Comic-Con” (with a hyphen). They pointed to numerous examples of fan events calling themselves comic conventions as evidence that Comic-Con International either did not own the trademark as they claimed or was so inattentive to enforcement and licensing that they could not legally single out Salt Lake Comic Con in this case.
However, a couple of event organizers had pre-emptively taken the steps to enter into license agreements with Comic-Con International such as Informa (Boston Comic Con, FanExpo) and Left Field Media (Rose City Comic Con).
Furthermore, Farr and Brandenburg took the case public and ran a coordinated social media campaign with promoted ads getting fans to agree that the phrase “comic con” belongs to everyone, not one establishment. However, once the case moved toward trial, the Judge did not take too kindly to these efforts and threatened to jail Farr and Brandenburg if they tried to “escalate this into a case involving the world.”