Is it possible to legally protect an idea?  The answer is: not really.

Intellectual property is intangible personal property.  There are four types of intellectual property that are protected by law:  patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.  A separate set of laws governs each one.  Although ideas may be intangible personal property, ideas do not

The Supreme Court recently denied petitions for certiorari in two of the most highly watched intellectual property cases before the Court. Those cases were Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. VIP Products LLC and The Moodsters Company v. Walt Disney Company. Both cases were on petition from the Ninth Circuit and are summarized below for your convenience.

I.          Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC

In Jack Daniel’s Properties, Jack Daniel’s sued the maker of a dog toy, known as the Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker, that was comedically modeled after the Jack Daniel’s Old. No. 7 bottle. The toy was a clear parody, but Jack Daniel’s alleged that the toy infringed its intellectual-property rights. VIP Products argued that their use wasn’t infringement because the toy was an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection under Rogers v. Grimaldi. The district court rejected the argument and found VIP Products had infringed Jack Daniel’s trademark/trade dress.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Update: SCOTUS Denies Review of Two Highly Watched IP Cases

Weintraub attorneys Josh Escovedo and Scott Hervey are speakers for the IP Year in Review Webinar co-hosted by The Sacramento County Bar Association (SCBA) Intellectual Property Law Section and the Intellectual Property Student Association of McGeorge School of Law. Josh will be addressing the 2020 developments in trademark law, and Scott will be addressing the

With live events cancelled during the pandemic, content creators are increasingly dependent on merchandise sales.  Creators from podcasters to YouTubers to musicians are reliant on merch to bolster their revenue and their brands.  Subscribers stuck at home are watching more video and listening to more podcasts and music.  Apart from advertising and sponsorships, merch is the only way for creators to monetize their increased profile during the pandemic.

However, 2020 has seen an explosion of counterfeit products including branded merchandise by content creators.  An analysis from the New York Times in February 2020 found that the sale of counterfeit items represents more than 3 percent of global trade, corresponding to $1.4 billion in value in the U.S. alone.  Reviews on Amazon containing words like “fake” and “counterfeit” have doubled since 2015.
Continue Reading Trademark Protection for Your Brand Merchandise in the Age of Copycats, Counterfeits, and Fakes

Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari following an unfavorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit in the matter of VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. In that case, VIP Products sued Jack Daniel’s after receiving a cease-and-desist letter concerning its Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker dog toy. The toy is intentionally similar to the famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey bottle, but is clearly intended to be a joke.

Instead of saying Jack Daniels, the bottle says Bad Spaniels and includes a cartoonish cocker spaniel. Below that, where the Jack Daniel’s bottle usually says “Old No. 7,” the toy says “The Old No. 2” above “on your Tennessee Carpet” where the real bottle says Tennessee Whiskey. The squeaky toy is clearly intended as joke for dog owners, and I don’t believe it would confuse consumers into believing the product is actually associated with Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s apparently felt differently.

The district court agreed with Jack Daniel’s. While ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the Rogers test, which is used to balance the interests between trademark law and the First Amendment, was inapplicable because the toy is not an expressive work. Later, after a four-day bench trial, the District Court ruled against VIP Products and found it had infringed Jack Daniel’s IP.
Continue Reading Dogs, Whiskey, and Intellectual Property: Need I Say More?