Smart Holiday Shoppers Know Their Trademarks

by Mike Mintz on December 6, 2010 · 0 comments

in connected

As the holiday season approaches, we want Connected members to be informed of important subjects that will help them make the best buying decisions, so it is with great pleasure that we present  a Trademark Law Theme Week. Trademarks and holiday shopping go together like peas and carrots, judge and jury, EBay and Tiffany’s … you get the point.  Consumers trust trademarks to make buying decisions.  The value of a mark to an owner is that customers will recognize the goods as coming from a certain source, and buy that product based on the strength of the mark.  When confusion leaks in things get messy.

Case in point.  I recently purchased a two-pack, Woody and Buzz Light Year, Toy Story 3 action figure set for my kids at a toy store in Israel.  It looked just like the set of toys I saw in a US Target Store a few weeks earlier, and cost about the same once you converted the shekels to US dollars, which was strange because US licensed toys are usually more expensive overseas.  It wasn’t until I got into the car, my kids bouncing up and down in their car seats excitedly cheering “Woody and Buzz!” that I opened the package and realized I’d been had.  The toys were a cheap knock off of what I had seen in the States, flimsy, plastic replicas, that would not last the week (actually, Woody’s leg snapped in half as soon as we got home; pictured below is what is left of him two weeks later).  I relied on the similar packaging of the official toys I had seen in Target and, of course, on the Toy Story 3 trademarks to make my buying decision.  It turns out that Mattel makes the official figures, and you can get them in Israel for about double what I paid for my knockoffs.

What is left of the Woody Knock Off - Happy Holidays!

So to save you from being a victim of knock offs or anything else Trademark related this holiday season, we are presenting Trademark Law: Trade Dress and Other Issues.  Event highlights will include guest blogs written by lawyers from Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard and Geraldson, and our free, CLE accredited webinar about Trade Dress on Tuesday, Dec. 7, beginning at 12 pm ET.  Click this link to visit our event page on Connected, where you can register for the webinar and learn more about our panelists Janet Marvel, co-author of the treatise Trademarks and Unfair Competition Deskbook (4th Ed. 2009), and Anne Gilson LaLonde, author of Gilson on Trademarks.

Our expert panelists will clarify the Supreme Court’s pronouncements on trade dress issues issues such as:  Can the owner of an incontestable trademark registration for round beach towels prevent others from selling their own circular sun-tanning apparatuses? What about the producers of purple sandpaper, folding chairs, orange-flavored antidepressants, or virtual yellow lines marking first downs in a football game?   Each of these marks was denied registration or protection on the basis of functionality or aesthetic functionality.   Find out why.   Again, the hour-long CLE-accredited webinar will take place on Tuesday, December 7, beginning at 12 pm ET.

Finally, we will be debuting a new weekly series of podcasts called “The Martindale Mike,” where I talk to some of the best lawyers and legal professionals about different stuff going on in the legal world.  Think Larry King Live for lawyers meets The Daily Show.  This week’s episode is called “COICA: McCarthyism 2.0?” and focuses on a controversial bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee called Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).  My guest is Ron Coleman, head of the intellectual property practice at Goetz Fitzpatrick LLP and author of the award winning blog Likelihood of Confusion.    Keep tuned to this blog and Connected to download the first episode.

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