When Trademark Registration Hits a Sour Note

When Trademark Registration Hits a Sour NoteBlack Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am wasn’t singing “Happy” when he sought legal action against Oscar-nominated music producer Pharrell Williams. Will.i.am accused his fellow musician of not respecting the intellectual property rights of others while alluding to an ongoing dispute Pharrell and Robin Thicke are having with Marvin Gaye over the hit song “Blurred Lines.”

Will.i.am’s gripe stemmed from a trademark application Pharrell filed to secure his interest in his brand I AM OTHER. In their own words: “The I Am Other mark means ‘I am something else,’ leaving what that ‘else’ is to the imagination of the consumer… It certainly does not mean ‘I am Will’ or in any way suggest defendants’ or the will.i.am mark.” All that can be translated to mean: consumers looking at goods bearing Pharrell’s I AM OTHER would likely confuse them as originating from will.i.am.

In his his defense, Williams asserted will.i.am would have a hard time proving he controlled the “I Am” trademark pointing out the existence of the famed Dr. Seuss character Sam I Am as well as the 146 other artists who use the “I Am” construction in their monikers. The parties ultimately settled outside of court though Pharrell commented he found the whole thing “ridiculous” telling Rolling Stone Magazine, “I am disappointed that Will, a fellow artist, would file a case against me,” he said. “I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions.”

Share your opinion on this trademark law issue with us! And, as always, if you have any patent, trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property related questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by calling: (310) 276-6664. 

The Omni Legal Group was founded in Los Angeles, California by Omid Khalifeh. Mr. Khalifeh is a published attorney who has experience dealing with a wide variety of intellectual property issues. He has worked on matters for Fortune 500 companies and represents clients in disputes involving copyrightstrademarkspatents, trade secrets, and cyberlaw disputes. Mr. Khalifeh received his Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles and his Juris Doctorate from the Chapman University School of Law where he was awarded a full tuition scholarship to attend. He is the author of The Gene Wars: Science, the Law and the Human Genome (Loyola Law Review) and has been invited to speak at conferences across the country about changes in intellectual property law.

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Business Basics: Trade Dress

This week we thought it’d be a good idea to look at one of the most important parts of a product’s branding, its trade dress. You are affected by trade dress every single day, whether you realize it or not. If we describe a white coffee cup with a green circle on it, you’ll know it’s from Starbucks. Or if we show you a bag with a red square and yellow arches, you’ll think McDonalds. Essentially, trade dress is the various characteristics that make up a product’s or package’s appearance. But how do you protect your own trade dress? And does building a brand mean marrying that packaging?

Trade Dress

We bet you still know what company this is.

Why should you build trade dress recognition?
Because your company needs a way to immediately distinguish itself. Your brand embodies all of the goodwill and trust you’ve built into your company, and something as simple as a color, font, or even the shape of your product’s box can evoke all of those feelings within whatever customer is looking at your product. That’s why you want your trade dress to be consistent over all of your properties. Your logo, signage, site, and product packaging should all be built around some common element that inextricably ties your business with your product or service.

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R is for Registered Trademark and Copyright

This week’s letter-based-topic might seem like a stretch since, really, the subjects are trademarks and copyrights – neither of which begin with an r. But putting registered in front of those terms is not just a cop-out that a lazy writer has used to fit with a weekly theme. There are actually very important distinctions between registered and unregistered intellectual properties.

Technically, you do not have to register trademarked or copyrighted property. An unregistered trademark simply needs the little  symbol next to it and, voilà, the property is unofficially trademarked. You can even establish a proprietary right to the mark by using it in the market.

The same general principle is also applicable to copyrights. When the United States signed onto the Berne Convention in the late 80′s, it effectively agreed to see an author copyrighting his or her work as an automatic right. That means that, thanks to the Berne Convention, no registration is required to copyright something in the United States.
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Knowing How to Use Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are all registered under the federal government which makes it easy for people to think the three are just about the same and get easily confused on how to use each one properly. The biggest difference between the three lies in the rights that they equip owners with and makes knowing the operational difference between these all the more important for owners. No two situations are alike which is why you have patents, trademarks and copyrights available as three different options to protecting intellectual property.

Knowing the applications, strengths, and weaknesses of these three will best help to protect your business for a wide variety of situations and benefit the business in the process. But before you start working with patents, trademarks, and copyrights, it’s important to know how each one varies from the other. Continue reading

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Sharing is Caring!

Odd little bits of financial news have a funny way of creeping through the cracks in between dreary market forecasts and predictions of economic apocalypse. If you haven’t heard, Warren Buffett bought $5 Billion worth of shares for Bank of America, and countered claims of being pressured to help out the ailing institution by giving his inspiration for the transaction; his bathwater. The Huffington Post explained his reasoning in their article about the story.

You do not need a heavy chain and padlock to keep your ideas safe.

As this shows, a quick idea in the oddest of places can have dramatic implications for the market. At least when $5 Billion is involved. But Warren Buffett’s willingness to share his inspiration is not something that is seen often, especially in times of economic duress. In fact, quite a few employees, entrepreneurs and freelancers seem to clam up when it comes to ideas. After all, how do you know your colleague isn’t going to steal that idea? Heck, how many wannabe Warren Buffett-s in the making have taken long soaks in the bathtub since this article came out? But without collaboration, ideas have a tendency to fester and die. Having a good sounding board can only help to strengthen an idea and test it against criticism. Continue reading

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