The Ninth Circuit recently considered an issue of first impression: What standard of review does an appellate court apply when reviewing a district court’s grant of summary judgment in a trademark infringement case on the equitable basis of the unclean hands doctrine. The Ninth Circuit faced this issue in the case titled: Metal Jeans, Inc.

The validity of a United States patent can be challenged in federal court litigation.  Patents can also be challenged in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which, in most cases, is a quicker and less costly process.

The PTO provides three procedures by which a patent can be challenged: inter partes review (IPR), post grant review (PGR), and ex parte reexamination.  In IPRs and PGRs, the challenger and the patent owner both participate, and the proceedings are handled by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).  In an ex parte reexamination, the challenger is not involved after the request for reexamination has been filed, and the proceeding is handled by the PTO examiners.

In IPRs and PGRs, anyone except the patent owner may file a petition to challenge the patent.  The filing fees are high, $41,500 for an IPR and $47,500 for a PGR, with additional fees depending on the number of claims challenged.  The proceedings are handled by a three-judge panel of administrative judges with technical background in the field of the patent.  There are two phases in these proceedings.  The first phase consists of the filing of the petition by the challenger, the filing of a response by the patent owner, and the decision whether to institute the IPR or PGR by the PTAB.  If the PTAB institutes the IPR or PGR, then the second phase (the trial phase) begins.  The second phase consists of discovery (more limited than in litigation), briefing, an oral hearing, and a final written decision by the panel.  The entire process from institution to the final decision should take no more than 12 months.  The parties may appeal the decision to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
Continue Reading How to Challenge a Patent in the PTO

On March 16, 2021, U.S. Circuit Judge Evan J. Wallach for the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals announced he plans to take senior status on May 31, 2021.  This semi-retirement is set to create the first vacancy at the Federal Circuit in almost six years.  The Federal Circuit handles all appeals of patent cases from Districts Courts in the U.S., and appeals from various government agencies.  Thus, the Federal Circuit is the only one of the thirteen federal courts of appeal whose jurisdiction is determined entirely on the subject of the lawsuit it hears, rather than on the geographical location from which the appeal originated.  This means the Federal Circuit can hear appeals from every District Court in the United States as long as it has subject matter jurisdiction. The only court in the United States with more authority over patent related issues in the United States Supreme Court.

The Federal Circuit was the only federal court of appeals that did not have any vacancies during President Donald Trump’s administration.  In fact, President Trump nominated and succeeded in putting a judge in every other appellate court during his four years in office, including fifty-four judges on the federal appeals bench.  However, the Federal Circuit remained untouched, and in fact currently has eight Democratic-President appointed judges, and four Republican-President appointed Judges.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Set to Have First Vacancy in Six Years

We recently discussed a new trend in celebrity copyright litigation on our YouTube channel and podcast (The Briefing on YouTube). Specifically, we discussed celebrities taking a stand and defending copyright claims brought by photographers against celebrities who reposted photos on their social media accounts. Two specific celebs who have taken a stand are

While Shakespeare may have wondered “what is in a name?”, the executives at Peloton believe that the trademark SPIN is of great importance. Last month (February, 2021), Peloton filed petitions to cancel the trademarks SPIN and SPINNING for physical fitness instruction and for stationary exercise bicycles on the grounds that the marks are generic. Mad Dogg Athletics, located in Venice, CA, is the owner of the trademarks SPIN and SPINNING. Mad Dogg registered SPIN on the principal register in 1998 and SPINNING in 1993. In its petition, Peloton asserted that Spin classes and spin bikes are part of the fitness lexicon and that Mad Dogg’s trademarks for SPIN and SPINNING have become generic. Peloton cited to Internet evidence, including memes, to support its argument that the terms SPIN and SPINNING have become generic.

It is a serious issue for a trademark owner if their trademark becomes generic.  Generic terms are terms that the relevant purchasing public understands primarily as the common or class name for the goods or services. Put in common parlance, if the general public primarily understands the word to designate the product rather than the producer, the word is generic. Generic terms are incapable of functioning as registrable trademarks denoting source, and are not registrable on the Supplemental Register or on the Principal Register after having acquired secondary meaning.

There is a two-part test used to determine whether a designation is generic: (1) What is the class of goods or services at issue? and (2) Does the relevant public understand the designation primarily to refer to that class of goods or services? The test turns upon the primary significance that the term would have to the relevant public.
Continue Reading SPIN Trademark Has Peloton Wrapped Around the Axel