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IP Implications of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

On December 27, 2020, Congress signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, into law. The omnibus act includes new legislation affecting patent, copyright and trademark law. A brief summary of key provisions is provided below. Patents – Section 325 Biological Product Patent Transparency 42 USC § 262(k) was amended to require that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provide the public with more information about patented biological products. Within six months, the FDA must make the following information available to the public on its Database of Licensed Biological Products or “Purple Book,” and it must update the list every 30 days: A list of each biological product, by nonproprietary name, for which a biologics license is in effect The license date and application number The license and marketing status (as available) Exclusivity periods The amendment requires that the holders of a license to market a biologic drug now disclose all patents...

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This Mashup Is Not a Place You’ll Go – Seuss Copyright Will ‘Live Long and Prosper’

Presented with a publishing company defendant's mashup of Dr. Seuss' copyrighted works with Star Trek in a work titled Oh, the Places You'll Boldly Go!, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tackled claims of both copyright and trademark infringement, including the defense of fair use and the use of trademarks in expressive works. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendants on the copyright infringement claim and affirmed the district court's dismissal and grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on the trademark claim. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. v. ComicMix LLC, et al., Case No. 19-55348 (9th Cir. Dec. 18, 2020) (McKeown, J.) Seuss Enterprises owns the intellectual property in the works of late author Theodor S. Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Seuss Enterprises carefully yet prolifically licenses the Dr. Seuss works and brand across a variety of entertainment, media, art and consumer goods,...

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BREXIT: How Will It Impact Your European Trademark Rights?

The United Kingdom (UK) has officially withdrawn from the European Union (EU) on February 1, 2020, but will only become a third party after a transition period ending on December 31, 2020. With that date fast approaching, you are probably wondering what will change for your trademark rights on January 1, 2021? EU TRADEMARKS REGISTERED BEFORE JANUARY 1, 2021 Owners of EU trademarks (and EU parts of International Registrations) registered on or before December 31, 2020 will automatically receive a registered and enforceable UK trademark on January 1, 2021, without any re-examination or additional costs. The UK trademark will be for the same sign, the same goods, and the same filing, priority or seniority date as its corresponding EU trademark. Trademark owners will have the right to opt-out from this automatic cloning as of January 1, 2021 if they have no interest in the UK territory. As of January 1, 2021, EU registered trademarks and corresponding UK clones...

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Fifth Circuit Says No Preliminary Injunction in Boozy Beverage Trademark Fight

The maker of BRIZZY-brand hard seltzer claimed that consumers would confuse a product branded VIZZY hard seltzer with its own. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disagreed, however, and affirmed the district court's denial of the preliminary injunction with an explanation as to how the plaintiff failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success on the merits with respect to its trademark infringement claim. Future Proof Brands, L.L.C., v. Molson Coors Beverage Company, et. al., Case No. 20-50323 (5th Cir. December 3, 2020) (Smith, J.). With a booming market for hard seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails, it is no surprise that disputes over brand names of the bubbly alcoholic beverages have followed. After the district court denied Proof Brands' request for a preliminary injunction against Molson Coors' entry into that market, Proof Brands appealed. The Fifth Circuit issued a reminder that a preliminary injunction is “an...

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“You’ve Changed!”—New Trademark and TTAB Fees Incoming

Effective January 2, 2021, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO") is increasing and adding certain trademark and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB") fees. The changes come after a nearly three-year fee status quo. The following TTAB fees will increase anywhere from $25 to $200: Petition to cancel filed through the Electronic System for Trademark Trials and Appeals (“ESTTA") (now $600 per class); Notice of opposition filed through ESTTA (now $600 per class); Initial 90-day extension request for filing a notice of opposition, filed through ESTTA (now $200 per application); Second 60-day extension request for filing a notice of opposition, filed through ESTTA (now $200 per application); Final 60-day extension request for filing a notice of opposition, filed through ESTTA (now $400 per application); and Ex parte appeal filed through ESTTA (now $225 per class). New TTAB fees are also taking effect. A $100 fee per application will apply for a...

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“Icy” Guidance on Polaroid Factors

In a “somewhat unusual" trademark case involving directly competing products and marks using the same words, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part the grant of summary judgment for the accused infringer on trademark infringement and dilution claims. The Court found that the similarity of the marks and bad faith on part of the accused infringer weighed in favor of finding infringement. Car Freshner Corp. v. American Covers, LLC, Case No. 19-2750 (2d Cir. Nov. 19, 2020) (Newman, J.) Car Freshner and American Covers both sell car air freshener products. Car Freshner filed a lawsuit against American Covers alleging that Car Freshner's trademark “Black Ice" was infringed and diluted by American Covers' sale of air freshener products using the words “Midnight Black Ice Storm." The district court rejected Car Freshner's trademark infringement claim, concluding that “Midnight Black Ice Storm" was not similar enough to...

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PTO Exam Guide: Post Booking.com, Generic.com Terms Still Face Uphill Battle for Registration

Addressing the Supreme Court of the United States' ruling in USPTO v. Booking.com B.V., the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recently issued guidance on the examining procedures for “generic.com terms." (Examination Guide No. 3-20, Generic.com Terms after USPTO v. Booking.com, October 2020.) Booking.com had been engaged in a prolonged battle to secure registration for its BOOKING.COM trademark in connection with hotel reservation services. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court addressed the issue in Booking.com, rejecting the PTO's proposed per se rule that a generic term combined with a generic top-level domain (a “generic.com term") is necessarily generic and therefore ineligible for trademark protection. As the Supreme Court concluded, “[W]hether any given 'generic.com' term is generic . . . depends on whether consumers in fact perceive that term as the name of a class or, instead, as a term capable of distinguishing among members of the class." In...

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Sticky Situation? Circumstantial Evidence Can Support Intent to Confuse in Trade Dress Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment for the defendant on trade dress infringement and trade dress dilution claims, finding that evidence relating to the likelihood of confusion was not viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. However, the Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment for the defendant on the plaintiff's false advertising claims because the allegedly deceptive advertising was not material to consumer purchasing decisions. J-B Weld Co., LLC v. Gorilla Glue Co., Case No. 18-14975 (11th Cir. Oct. 20, 2020) (Tjoflat, J.) (Carnes, J., concurring). J-B Weld and Gorilla Glue are competitors specializing in heavy-duty adhesive products. Gorilla Glue introduced an adhesive under the brand name GorillaWeld that mimicked the packaging of a J-B Weld product. Gorilla Glue advertised GorillaWeld as a steel bond epoxy based on the strength of the bond and its similarity to an...

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Trademark Cancellation Is Appropriate Sanction for Misconduct

In upholding a grocery store chain's standing to petition for cancellation of a US trademark registration, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's (TTAB's) express authority to impose cancellation of a trademark by default judgment as a sanction in a TTAB proceeding. Corcamore, LLC v. SFM, LLC, Case No. 19-1526 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 27, 2020) (Reyna, J.). SFM owns US federal trademark registrations for the mark SPROUTS for use in connection with its retail grocery store services. SFM filed a petition to cancel Corcamore's US trademark registration for the mark SPROUT for use in connection with vending machine services, alleging a likelihood of consumer confusion with SFM's prior trademark rights. The TTAB denied Corcamore's motion to dismiss the cancellation petition for lack of standing. Relying on Empresa Cubana del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co., the TTAB confirmed SFM's standing based on its “real interest”...

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Cookie Trade Dress Infringement Case Crumbles in Face of Functionality Challenge

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that trade dress protection did not extend to the design of a chocolate-dipped, stick-shaped cookie, because the product configuration was useful. Ezaki Glico Kabushiki Kaisha v. Lotte Int’l America Corp., Case No. 19-3010 (3d Cir. Oct. 8, 2020) (Bibas, J.). Ezaki Glico is a Japanese confectionary company that makes and sells the snack food Pocky, which is a thin, stick-shaped cookie with one side dipped in chocolate (or a flavored cream) and the other uncoated. Pocky cookies have been sold in the United States for more than 40 years, during which time Ezaki Glico obtained two trade dress registrations for the Pocky design and a patent for a “Stick Shaped Snack and Method for Producing the Same.” In 2015, Ezaki Glico sued its competitor, Lotte, alleging that Lotte’s similarly designed cookie, Pepero, infringed the Pocky trade dress. The district court granted Lotte’s motion for summary judgment, finding the...

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