School is back in session this month. Bullies will no doubt continue to roam the playgrounds and hallways.

What about trademark bullies? Here a some updates on issues related to trademark bullying:

  • Commissioner Debbie Cohn indicated that the although Congress still has not responded to its study on trademark litigation tactics, the USPTO will begin taking steps on their own to engage the private sector to get involved in providing free or low cost advice to small businesses to understand cease and desist letters, litigation tactics, and their trademark rights.  The USPTO is initiating outreach to Bar groups now.
  • The upcoming 2011 National Trademark Expo is scheduled to include a lecture on “What every small business should know about intellectual property” (See flyer below)
  • Neither chamber of Congress has scheduled any hearings regarding the Study nor have they responding to my letters calling for hearings.
  • A recent New York Time article discussed the Metropolitan Opera’s efforts to shutter a website disclosing its calendar of programming beyond the officially announced schedule. “The Met offered inducements, but he accepted only the promise of opera tickets for his next trip to the city.” Noted the website operator: “I was never threatened. I was never bullied. Perhaps I might have been if I had said no.” How did the Met achieve such expeditious and cheap results? “The Met’s general counsel, Sharon Grubin, had called, asking him, politely, to stop, Mr. Wilber said.”
  • Trademark Bullying: Catchy Phrase or Valid Concern was the title of a recent Christpher L. Graff (of PirkeyBarber LLP) presentation for the Austin Intellectual Property Law Association. The presentation materials (here) do a nice job of summarizing the USPTO’s report to Congress and discussing the activities of some companies that have been called bullying by others, including Kellog’s, Monster Energy. Mr. Graff also notes the growing trend in the use of shaming or publicity to fight back (including a screen from my blog post on the subject), and provides some tips that potential plaintiffs should keep in mind. 

2011 National Trademark Expo - flyer© 2011 Erik M. Pelton. All Rights Reserved.


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