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Greetings!

Welcome to smar(tm)ark,the new monthly newsletter from Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC.

smar(tm)ark is a free resource for current and former clients, as well as others who have requested information about trademarks.  If you wish to unsubscribe, see the instructions at the bottom of this email.  Your email address and information will never be sold to a third party.

Your brands and intellectual property are among the most valuable assets of your business, and many steps to grow, protect, and enhance your brand are simple, inexpensive, and do not require an attorney. smar(tm)mark will provide tips and information about trademark, copyright and brand protection, and provide readers with tools to increase the value of their brands.

Trademark Tip: Customs Registration

Owners of federal trademark registrations for goods can file their trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Customs agents will then be on the lookout for infringers and knock-offs – policing your trademark for you.  Customs recordation is simple and government fee is just $190 per International Class of goods. More information is available at the Customs and Border Protection official website.

As a further benefit, trademarks recorded with Customs show up in their database which could deter would-be importers of counterfeit goods.  While there is no guarantee that Customs will catch an infringing shipment, the potential value of such a catch far outweighs the $190 filing fee.

If your company manufactures or sells branded goods, the cost of having a trademark registration and recording it with U.S. Customs will pay for itself many times over if just one infringing shipment is blocked or avoided.  This inexpensive tool to protect your products and brands is worth considering, especially if you do business in China or other countries that are often sources of knock-off products.

Trademarks in the News:MARCH MADNESS

The NCAA has created a veritable branding slam dunk with MARCH MADNESS® and THE ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR®. In offices and schools across the country this month, people filled out their basketball brackets hoping to guess this year’s big upsets.  According to legend, the MARCH MADNESS® name was actually used for decades in Illinois high school basketball before NCAA television commentators began using it. The catchy phrase stuck and the NCAA struck a deal to share use and ownership of the trademark.

MARCH MADNESS® is an terrific brand.  The idea of “madness” is fun, the phrase is fun to say and has two words starting with the same MA- sounds, and it is unique. The slogan does not automatically tell the consumer anything about basketball or a tournament of teams, only that it happens in March and that it is madness. [A phrase that is too descriptive is weaker and unlikely to be unique.] Yet because  is such a good name and so well marketed, everyone knows what it is. Of course, a successful product is necessary for a great brand, and both casual and devoted fans love the excitement of the tournament and the fun of filling out brackets. Add a great brand name to a great product, and you have a slam dunk. MARCH MADNESS® is such a combination.

Of course, now that the MARCH MADNESS® trademark is so strong, the owners actively protect it with strict usage guidelines for advertising partners and enforcement activities against infringers. The stronger the brand and the more control the owners can exert over it, the more they can charge their licensing and advertising partners to be ‘official’ users of the brand. This is true whether a brand is already worth millions of dollars, like MARCH MADNESS®, or if a brand is just getting started. The more unique the brand and the better it is protected, the more valuable it can become as an asset.

Lesson : Is your brand a slam dunk? If you have a great product or service but are not a “Final Four” team in your industry, perhaps your trademarks need revisiting.  A powerful product plus a powerful trademark is winning formula, just like MARCH MADNESS® and the FINAL FOUR®.

Firm News

donahey EMP&A is proud to welcome associate  Mark L. Donahey, J.D., M.S., to the firm. A 2009 graduate of George Mason University School of Law and a member of the Virginia State Bar, Mark first joined Erik M. Pelton & Associates as an intern in the summer of 2008. In law school, Mark’s studies focused on Intellectual Property Law, Privacy Law, and Negotiation.  Prior to beginning law school, Mark received a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters of Science in Systems Engineering from George Mason University. In his first months as an attorney at EMP&A, Mark has diligently handled numerous client matters including presenting oral arguments before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and conducting the deposition of an opposing witness.

Did You Know?

Since 1999, Erik M. Pelton & Associates has helped hundreds of clients register more than 1,200 trademarks and resolve dozens of trademark disputes.

This publication has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of the firm. It is not intended to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter. Under rules applicable to the professional conduct of attorneys in various jurisdictions, it may be considered advertising material.

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