San Diego Trademark Attorney® Blog

June 2012 Archives

ZO Skin Health Files Trademark Infringement Lawsuits

June 26, 2012,

labtesting-molecule.jpgSan Diego - This entry has been moved. To read the entry see: Orange County Trademark Attorney

San Diego Based KONY 2012 Campaign Creators Threaten Lawsuit For Infringing on Trademarks

June 25, 2012,

target_aim.jpgSan Diego - The creators of the now infamous KONY 2012 YouTube video seen around the world more than 90 million times has recently threatened the owners of Kickstriker.com with a lawsuit for infringing on multiple of its trademarks.

The KONY 2012 phenomenon as seen on Facebook, YouTube, and posters throughout the United States tugged at the heart strings of people everywhere as the creators of the video aimed to capture Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. It has been estimated that Joseph Kony and the LRA are responsible for abducting more than 30,000 children and forcing them to murder other innocent people. The movement is also referred to as the 'Invisible Children' and supporters are able to make donations towards the cause on its website to capture Kony.

Kickstriker.com, a new website, has recently posted a video parodying KONY 2012. The website is run by three graduate students Josh Begley, Mehan Jayasuriya and James Borda who are currently enrolled in New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. On the website, visitors are able to donate money to the KONY 2012 campaign to "hire mercenaries to hunt down Kony". The students use dark humor as a satire on military issues around the world even promising that if a donation of over $5,000 is made the person donating will receive one of Kony's teeth to commemorate their role in ending his reign of terror." The website does disclaim however that "Kickstriker is a hoax."

The Invisible Children campaign creators did not find Kickstriker's humor amusing, whatsoever. In fact, a cease and desist letter was sent to the creators of Kickstriker demanding that the use of the trademarks 'KONY 2012' and 'Invisible Children' be removed and stated "this impermissible use is a blatant and egregious infringement of Invisible Children's valuable copyright and trademark rights."

The makers of Kickstriker are enforcing their right to freedom of speech and say that they are not infringing on the trademarks. A statement from the company was made saying, "The purpose of our website, Kickstriker.com (henceforth 'Kickstriker'), is to critique a number of institutions, including Invisible Children, through the use of political satire," and "as such, while Kickstriker makes use of the trademarked terms 'Invisible Children' and 'KONY 2012,' these uses are protected under the doctrine of fair use, which allows for such uses for the purposes of criticism and commentary."

This is not the first time that San Diego based Invisible Children has been surrounded by controversy. Recently the director of the KONY 2012 video and co-creator of the campaign Jason Russell was video-taped standing naked in the streets of San Diego cussing and shouting to nearby street traffic. Russell was detained and treated for dehydration.

Hopefully, the original message of the campaign will prevail, Joseph Kony will be captured, and there will be invisible children no more.

Urban Outfitters Sued For Trademark Infringement By Navajo Nation

June 15, 2012,

indian_pow_wow.jpgSan Diego - In an interesting twist on traditional trademark infringement cases, the Navajo Nation has recently initiated a lawsuit against popular clothing purveyor Urban Outfitters. Filed in district court in New Mexico, the case alleges trademark infringement, as well as violations of the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The federal Indian Arts and Crafts act is rarely seen in court, but makes it illegal for companies or individuals to sell arts and crafts in a way that would falsely suggest the products were made by Native Americans. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and an injunction to prevent Urban Outfitters from using the Navajo name or other variations on its products.

A representative for the Navajo Nation emphatically states that the Native American tribe has no connection with Urban Outfitters, and considers the infringement violations "derogatory and scandalous." Urban Outfitters stirred up tremendous controversy when it introduced its Native American inspired line of products, which included Navajo underwear and liquor flasks. In light of the fact that the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned on the Navajo Reservation, the production and sale of the liquor flasks was particularly offensive.

Initially, the Navajo Nation sent a cease and desist letter, which compelled the retailer to remove the offending product names from its website. However, the Navajo Nation claims that the products are still being distributed through other brands owned by Urban Outfitters, as well as catalogs and retail outlets. The Philadelphia based company has stated that it has no plans to further alter its products and claims that its designs are inspired by current trends used industry wide. Urban Outfitters and other retailers have since replaced the Navajo name with the word "printed" or alternate spellings of Navajo. The Navajo Nation also disputes such items as traditionally styled beaded earrings and hacienda bags. Such products do not carry the Navajo trademarked names, but nonetheless remain demonstrative of patterns that have long been used in traditional Native American artwork and designs.

The Navajo Nation considers it's branding and trademarks some of its most valuable assets and vows to protect them to the fullest extent of the law. There are approximately 10 trademarks currently registered by the Navajo Nation including those for clothing, footwear, online retail sales, household products and textiles. Recently, the tribe forced a French company to stop using the name, "Navaho" because it was confusingly similar to the correct spelling of its tribal name.

Gucci Wins Trademark Battle Against Guess

June 11, 2012,

purse.jpgSan Diego - The fashion industry has long been rife with unauthorized copying of designs, logos and fabrics. Quite simply, it's much cheaper and easier to copy successful designs than to create new ones from scratch. Moreover, new designs come out so frequently that designers ignore most knock-off copies of their products. Lawsuits are often time-consuming and expensive. While it can be difficult for a company to copyright a design, a company can register elements of a design as a trademark. For example, the shape of a bag's flap, patterns on fabric, fabric closures or the look and feel of a strap can be registered for trademark protection with the USPTO.

Despite the prevalence of copies and the difficulty prosecuting knock-off designs, there have been a number of high profile fashion houses that have bucked the trend and taken competitors to court to protect distinctive designs. Luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin took its rival Yves Saint Laurent to court to protect its famous red-soled shoe, Hermes sued a retailer that sold a transparent rubber version of its Birkin Bag, and most recently, Gucci took Guess to court over unauthorized use of its four distinctive logo designs.

Though the lawsuit was initiated over three years ago, a federal judge recently handed down a decision that awarded monetary damages for the unauthorized copy of design elements by Guess and its footwear licensee, Marc Fisher. Gucci was also granted an injunction to prevent the use of three of four well-known "Square G" trademarks named in the original lawsuit. The trademarks listed in the lawsuit were the green and red stripe, the interlocking "G" pattern, the square "G" and the brand name's delicate script font . In its original pleadings the Italian company asked for $120 million dollars in damages, claiming Guess's appropriation of its logos diluted its brand, confused customers and caused it to lose profits.

The case, decided in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, primarily hinged on the use of the interlocking "G" logo on Guess handbags. The luxury design label argued that some of the Guess designs were too similar to its own to be anything less than "studied imitations". Gucci also objected to the use of its recognizable brown and beige material and design elements such as the distinctive green-red-green stripe. The $4.66 million dollar award against the Los Angeles based company, represented the profit made by all products utilizing the unauthorized logo. Despite its win, Gucci claimed that the damages awarded represent only a tiny slice of the money obtained from the wallets, belts, shoes and other items designed to mimimic it's designs. However, Judge Shira Scheindlin held that Gucci was not entitled to further damages reflecting lost sales or harm to its brand, calling its analysis for computing damages "highly speculative."

USPTO Grants Trademark Ownership of "Linsanity" to Jeremy Lin

June 5, 2012,

basketball.jpgSan Diego - The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued office actions recently showing that it will register the term "Linsanity" to NBA player Jeremy Lin. The catchphrase had become the source of much talk and argument in the last year. With the meteoric rise of the young player from undrafted nobody, to starter with the New York Knicks, Lin gave the fans the chance to cheer for something different and unique. However, clearly there were other people who had aspirations of capitalizing on the newest NBA catchphrase. Lin's filing came six days after a filing by a California man in early February, as well as additional filings by unrelated individuals on February 9th and 14th.

The USPTO typically grants trademark rights to users who file first. However, due to the fact that the LINSANITY trademark contains Lin's name and is a clear reference to him, the USPTO has rejected the applications filed by persons other than Jeremy Lin.

Jeremy Lin is a California native who went to Harvard University and managed to garner a contract with the Golden State Warriors after graduating in 2010. Despite not having had a scholarship or any draft prospects after graduation, Lin achieved success against all odds.

One of just a few Asian Americans in the NBA, Lin seldom saw any court time and was assigned to the NBA Development League three times in his rookie season. He was later waived by the Warriors, and then the Houston Rockets, before being picked up by a third team, the New York Knicks. Lin joined the Knicks for the 2011-2012 season, and despite playing in the Development League for a good portion of the season, ended up leading the Knicks to a surprising winning streak at the end of the season. The subsequent global following has been labeled "Linsanity" by fans and has generated much talk in the last year.

The use of trademarked terms and catchphrases in professional sports has long been a huge moneymaker for owners, players and purveyors of sporting goods. Lin's status on the court may be questionable next year, but he is still a huge draw with fans. And with the global success of Lin's shoes, jerseys, fan gear and ticket sales, "Linsanity" will undoubtedly continue, at least for a little while longer.