Pattishall IP Blog

April 25, 2013

The FTC Issues Revised Guidance for Mobile Device and Social Media Advertising Claims

Filed under: Advertising, Social Media — Tags: , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 3:33 pm

PB LRby Phillip Barengolts, Partner

On March 12, 2013, the Federal Trade Commission issued revisions to its digital advertising guidelines, “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising” (the “Guides”).[1]  The Guides do not break new ground, but they provide advertisers with valuable examples of compliant disclosures that qualify advertising claims appearing on mobile devices, on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and through any other non-traditional platform.

The Guides highlight the FTC’s fundamental belief about advertising claims: the medium does not matter; the advertising claim must be true and not misleading from the viewpoint of a reasonable consumer or else it violates Section 5 of the FTC Act.[2]

Disclosures that qualify an advertising claim must be clear and conspicuous – which can be difficult when dealing with social media or mobile devices due to space constraints.  The FTC’s revised Guides helpfully explain that an advertiser must place a disclosure as close as possible to the qualified claim and must communicate the disclosure in a manner that a consumer is likely to notice and understand.

What if a platform does not provide an opportunity for an adequate disclosure (e.g., Twitter)?  The FTC is clear: don’t use the platform or modify the claim for that platform so that a disclosure is unnecessary.  The Guides do have some detailed suggestions, including:

  • If a consumer has to scroll to view a disclosure, then the disclosure should be unavoidable;
  • Linking to the text of a disclose is permissible, but not if the disclosure is integral to the claim or inseparable from it;
  • Don’t use pop-ups because many browsers block them and most users ignore them;
  • Disclosures should be made before a user clicks “add to cart” or “order now”;
  • If the advertised product is available through outlets other than the advertiser, for example, at an online or brick-and-mortar retailer, the disclosure must be in the ad itself; and
  • for Tweets, the advertiser should use clear terms such as “Ad” or “Sponsored” at the beginning of the Tweet.

The most useful part of the Guides for advertisers are the many examples of compliant and non-compliant disclosures.  Just to highlight a few:

  • the advertiser should optimize its website for mobile devices to ensure that users zooming on a phone will not miss a disclosure;
  • hyperlink disclosures should be right next to the claim they modify (if they can be used at all); and
  • Tweets should include the necessary disclosure not link to it.

Advertisers must be aware of the impact of their claims, intentional or unintentional, and use proper disclosures – suitable to every platform on which the claim will be seen by a consumer –  to qualify any potentially misleading claims.  The Guides provide the FTC’s position on the adequacy of a disclosure to avoid enforcement action.  Of course, advertisers should consult their advertising review counsel to ensure compliance with the Guides and other advertising rules and regulations.

*     *     *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, false advertising and unfair competition litigation, trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, advertising and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation: Forms and Analysis, published by Oxford University Press.


[1] The entire 53-page Guidelines can be found here: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf.

[2] It should be noted that the Guides, like all other FTC guide, are not laws, but if a company fails to comply, the FTC “might bring an enforcement action alleging an unfair or deceptive practice.”

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October 1, 2012

ICANN Seeks Comments On The Procedures To Be Used by the Trademark Clearinghouse In Connection With The Implementation of New gTLDs

Filed under: International, Internet — Tags: , , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 4:31 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Partner

On September 24, 2012, ICANN requested comments on two important procedures in the implementation of the Trademark Clearinghouse[1] – proof of trademark use and determination of a match. http://www.icann.org/en/news/announcements/announcement-7-24sep12-en.htm.  The Trademark Clearinghouse will serve as a repository used by trademark owners to protect against the use of their marks for domain names in any of the new gTLDs during the sunrise period of a new gTLD and for trademark claims generally.[2]  See prior coverage here: http://blog.pattishall.com/2011/11/08/trademark-protection-in-icann%E2%80%99s-new-generic-top-level-domain-%E2%80%9Cgtld%E2%80%9D-space-will-require-diligence-by-trademark-owners/.  The deadline to submit comments is November 7, 2012.

The specific procedures for which ICANN seeks comment now are: 1) the procedures that the Trademark Clearinghouse will use to verify that a claimed trademark is in use; and 2) the process by which the Trademark Clearinghouse will determine a match between a trademark recorded with the Trademark Clearinghouse and an applied-for domain name.  Highlights of these memoranda are below.

Proof of Use

ICANN has decided that only marks that are in use will be provided protection through the Trademark Clearinghouse during the sunrise period of a new gTLD.[3]  Most jurisdictions throughout the world do not require proof of use to obtain a trademark registration, but the U.S. does have such a requirement (with notable exceptions for foreign trademark registration holders).

To prove use, a trademark owner must submit a signed declaration of use and a single sample of current use.  The specific proposed declaration is below:

The [Trademark Holder/Licensee/Agent] hereby certifies that the information submitted to the Clearinghouse, is, to the best of [Trademark Holder/Licensee/Agent’s] knowledge complete and accurate, that the trademarks set forth in this submission are currently in use in the manner set forth in the accompanying specimen, in connection with the class of goods or services specified when this submission was made to the Trademark Clearinghouse; that this information is not being presented for any improper purpose; and that if, at any time, the information contained in this submission is no longer accurate, the [Trademark Holder/Licensee/Agent] will notify the Clearinghouse within a reasonable time of that information which is no longer accurate, and to the extent necessary, provide that additional information necessary for the submission to be accurate. Furthermore, if any Clearinghouse-verified mark subsequently becomes abandoned by the holder, the holder will notify the Clearinghouse within a reasonable time that the mark has been abandoned.

The sample of use must be “an item that evidences an effort on behalf of the trademark holder to communicate to a consumer so that the consumer can distinguish the products or services of one from those of another.”  Examples include:

  • Labels, tags, or containers from a product; and
  • Advertising and marketing materials (including brochures, pamphlets, catalogues, product manuals, displays or signage, press releases, screen shots, or social media marketing materials). (more…)

August 22, 2012

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is Seeking Comments on Potentially Amending the Federal Trademark Act, the Lanham Act, to Require the Filing of a Declaration of Use After Three Years of Trademark Registration Rather Than the Current Five

Filed under: TM Registration — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 5:10 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Partner

On August 16, 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a Request for comment in the Federal Register on the potential amendment of the Federal Trademark Act – the Lanham Act – to require the filing of the first Affidavit or Declaration of Use or Excusable Nonuse (Affidavit) from between the third and fourth year after the issuance of a trademark registration, or the six-month grace period that follows.  See www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-16/pdf/2012-20130.pdf.  Specifically, the USPTO “is interested in receiving public input on whether and why such an amendment is or is not favored.”  The deadline to submit comments is October 15, 2012.

Currently, under Sections 8 and 71 of the Lanham Act, the period to file the required Affidavit is between the fifth and sixth years after the trademark registration issues.  This proposal would require Congress to amend the Lanham Act, and the USPTO cannot implement this change itself through a rulemaking or otherwise.

The purpose of the Affidavit is to eliminate “deadwood” (marks that are not actually used) from the federal trademark register.  For attorneys and companies actively involved in the clearance of potential trademarks, having an accurate trademark register is valuable, and reduces trademark selection costs.  However, as any diligent trademark attorney will tell you, just because a trademark registration has expired does not mean that the underlying trademark is not in use, nor does an active trademark registration reveal the scope of use in the marketplace – only an investigation can provide such details.

A potentially important consideration for this request by the USPTO is that an applicant for a trademark registration in the U.S. relying upon a foreign trademark registration (under Sections 44(e) an 66(a) of the Lanham Act) does not need to submit a specimen of use to obtain the registration.  Thus, such registrations would now be subject to a use requirement two years sooner.

The specific questions on which the USPTO seeks comment are:

1.    Is ‘‘deadwood’’ on the trademark register a concern of yours, and what impact do you believe it has?

2.   Do you favor or oppose an amendment to shorten the first filing deadline for Affidavits or Declarations of Use or Excusable Nonuse under Sections 8 and 71 as a means of ensuring the accuracy of the trademark register? (Please explain why.)

3.   If you favor shortening the deadline, what time period do you believe would be most appropriate for the first filing deadline?

4.   Are you concerned that an amendment to the first Section 8 and 71 affidavit deadline would foreclose the ability to combine the filing with the filing of an Affidavit or Declaration of Incontestability under Section 15? What impact do you believe separating these filings would have?

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Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.

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July 5, 2012

European Parliament Rejects Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

Filed under: Counterfeiting, International — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 2:38 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

The European Parliament voted against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).  Thus, it is highly unlikely to become law in the European Union.  The E.U. had signed the agreement[1] and the European Commission referred it to the European Court of Justice for review.[2]  The E.U. Parliament’s vote signals, however, that ACTA is not likely to be ratified by the E.U. member states.  According to the press release, this was the first time that the Parliament had exercised its Lisbon Treaty right to reject an international trade agreement.[3]  The vote was not even close with 478 votes against, 39 in favor and 165 abstentions.

As previously noted here,[4] ACTA was negotiated among a select group of nations, including the U.S. and the E.U., to set a higher floor for laws against trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy, including on the Internet.  Most of these countries already have strong protection for intellectual property rights, but these protections were not consistent and, often, not consistently enforced.

ACTA’s provisions establish a level of protection for trademarks and copyrights higher than the baseline embodied in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  ACTA achieves this enhanced protection primarily by harmonizing the participating nations’ laws on remedies (e.g., criminal penalties for commercial counterfeiting and copyright piracy, statutory damages, seizures, preliminary injunctions) and customs authorities’ ability to act.  Some countries, like the U.S., already had these types of laws in place, while others, like Canada, will now have to make minor changes to come into compliance.

ACTA remains signed by 8 of the negotiating nations: the U.S., Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, and Singapore.  Thus, it can go into effect for those nations once their signatures are properly deposited, despite the likely rejection of the agreement by the E.U.

The negotiations over ACTA generated much controversy because of non-governmental non-IP rights-holder stakeholders generally were not invited to participate.   After early texts were leaked and a draft text officially released, as well as other stakeholders invited to make comment, the final text of the agreement[5] was released by the participating nations in December 2010.

The primary controversy that lingers in the U.S. is whether the President can simply enter into this agreement without ratification by the Senate – as required with a treaty.    Throughout the E.U., however, a mass movement developed against ACTA because of fears that individual rights on the Internet would be threatened.  The agreement generated protests, with some of the largest in Poland, and even a 2.8 million signature petition.

The provisions of ACTA, as ultimately written, simply did not merit such anger in large part because most European nations already have enforcement mechanisms as tough or even tougher than ACTA would have put in place.  In this author’s opinion, because the debate in the E.U. over ACTA coincided with the debate in the U.S. over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at the beginning of this year, the perception of ACTA grew far more negative than was warranted, even though SOPA and ACTA have almost no resemblance and served very different purposes in the overall goals of the IP community.  It remains to be seen where international protection for intellectual property rights goes from here.

*     *     *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


March 27, 2012

Fourth Circuit Overturns Laches Defense Victory for Clear Channel

Filed under: Litigation, Trademark (General) — Tags: , , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 10:17 am

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

Trademark owners have a duty to police their rights or risk erosion or even loss of those rights.  This duty does not extend to every known infringement, but alleged infringers often assert unaddressed third-party use of other infringing marks as a means of defeating a trademark infringement claim against them.  Thus, a trademark owner should engage in a consistent level of policing to protect its investment in its brand.

As with most types of tort claims, waiting to file suit against a particular infringer carries the risk that the equitable doctrine of laches will bar the suit.  In most jurisdictions laches, may bar monetary relief for trademark infringement, but rarely precludes injunctive relief.  The Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in Ray Commn’s, Inc. v. Clear Channel Commn’s, Inc., No. 11-1050 (4th Cir. Mar. 8, 2012),[1] highlights the difficulty of prevailing on a laches defense and provides guidance for plaintiffs overcoming a laches problem in a suit.

The dispute concerned the trademark AGRINET, used for competing agricultural news radio programs.  Both parties used the mark for many years, but it was undisputed that Ray Communications (“RCI”) was the prior user in all geographic areas.  The relevant issue for laches was whether RCI delayed so long as to bar its trademark infringement claim as a matter of law.  The district court said yes, granting Clear Channel summary judgment on RCI’s trademark infringement claim.  The Fourth Circuit reversed, finding the district court abused its discretion.

The main points raised by the Fourth Circuit in vacating the district court’s decision were:

1.      Although RCI knew of Clear Channel’s uses of AGRINET in certain regions of the country for over 25 years, because it did not use the AGRINET mark in those regions, its trademark infringement claim had not yet accrued;

2.      There was a genuine dispute as to RCI’s grant of licenses to some of Clear Channel’s predecessors-in-interest (even though RCI had trouble producing those licenses in discovery); and

3.      Evidence that Clear Channel had stopped using AGRINET in some jurisdictions to facilitate settlement suggested that Clear Channel would not suffer any economic injury from changing its mark.

The key teachings of this decision are that laches does not start to run until the trademark owner is aware of the infringement, as distinct from mere knowledge of the use.  Keeping a record of all trademark licenses, and other grants of permission, helps protect trademark owners in future suits.  Finally, at least in the Fourth Circuit, to bar injunctive relief, a defendant must meet a higher standard than the traditional factors of 1) knowledge, 2) unreasonable delay, and 3) undue prejudice to the defendant.

 * * *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


March 14, 2012

Sky Diving for Dollars: Ninth Circuit Upholds Jury’s $6 Million Award to Skydive Arizona for Defendants’ Trademark Infringement, False Advertising, and Cybersquatting

Filed under: Advertising, Litigation, Trademark (General) — Tags: , , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 11:12 am

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

Skydive Arizona sued a group of defendants, collectively called “Skyride” by the court, for trademark infringement, false advertising, and cybersquatting.  At trial, the jury awarded Skydive Arizona $1 million in actual damages for false advertising, $2.5 million in actual damages for trademark infringement, $2,500,004 in defendant’s profits from the trademark infringement, and $600,000 for statutory cybersquatting damages.  The district court, upon its own initiative, then doubled the two actual damages awards, for a total of $10.1 million.  Finally, the district court enjoined Skyride from operating in Arizona.  Skyride appealed and, except for the doubling of actual damages, lost.[1]  See Skydive Arizona, Inc. v. Quattrocchi, No. 10-16099 (March 12, 2012), available here: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2012/03/12/10-16099.pdf.

Trademark and false advertising litigation is different from other commercial litigation in many respects, but what the Ninth Circuit opinion highlights is the difference in precision required to support monetary damages.  Skyride’s appeal focused on the lack of evidentiary support for the jury award.  Specifically, Skyride argued that the district court abused its discretion by:

(1) upholding the jury’s actual damages award, because Skydive Arizona did not present sufficient evidence concerning the amount of damages; (2) upholding the jury’s lost profits award, because the jury failed to deduct SKYRIDE’s expenses and costs based on the “clearly erroneous” testimony of Skydive Arizona’s expert; (3) enhancing the jury’s damages award to punish SKYRIDE; and (4) upholding and enhancing the entire actual damages, lost profits, and statutory damages award, because the judgment was grossly excessive.

Other than (3), the Ninth Circuit found these arguments unpersuasive.

Under the Lanham Act, a court may award the following in its discretion: (1) defendant’s profits; (2) any damages sustained by the plaintiff; and (3) the costs of the action.  15 U.S.C. § 1117(a).  “In assessing profits the plaintiff shall be required to prove defendant’s sales only.”  Id.  A mark holder is held to a lower standard in proving the exact amount of actual damages.  See La Quinta Corp., 603 F.3d 327, 342 (9th Cir. 2010).  Plaintiff’s damages are measured in the same manner as in tort cases: “the reasonably foreseeable harms caused by the wrong.”  A jury award may be supported by “crude” measures “based upon reasonable inferences.”  See Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int’l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 621 (9th Cir. 1993).

The jury had only the following evidence to support the actual damages award: three exhibits showing Skydive Arizona’s advertising expenditure for the years 1997-2007, declarations and witness testimony blaming Skydive Arizona for problems caused by Skyride’s acts, and counsel’s request that the jury consider Skydive Arizona’s need to engage in corrective advertising.

To establish Skyride’s profits, Skydive Arizona presented an expert who calculated Skyride’s revenues by:

calculating the number of Arizona residents identified in SKYRIDE’s records and then increasing that number by 2.131 to account for files missing residence information.  He then multiplied that number by an average transaction amount, and then adjusted for resulting revenue from out-of-state residents who also jumped in Arizona.  Lastly, [he] added an interest factor of 10%, using the prejudgment interest rate applicable under Arizona law.

Skyride argued after trial and on appeal that this expert testimony was clearly erroneous because “he did not properly deduct vendor payments or overhead costs, and he applied an improper interest rate.”  The Ninth Circuit stressed that Skyride did not challenge the admissibility of this expert testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 through a Daubert challenge at any point during the trial and, therefore, upheld the award of profits.  Of course, both courts could also have pointed out that, under the Lanham Act, the burden of deducting vendor payments and overhead was Skyride’s and not Skydive Arizona’s.

Skyride finally won a point on appeal by successfully arguing that the district court doubled the damages awards to punish Skyride.  Lanham Act damages must be compensatory and cannot be punitive. 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a).  The district court’s commentary surrounding the doubling conveyed its distaste for Skyride’s “purposefully deceitful” conduct and need for Skyride to “accept the wrongfulness of [its] conduct.”

Skyride’s last argument was that the overall award of $10 million at trial was grossly excessive and punitive for a company with “only $23 million” in nationwide gross revenues.  The Ninth Circuit easily dismissed this contention that, essentially, Skyride was “too small to justify such a large award.”

So, here is what you need to support a $6 million damages award in a trademark and false advertising case: an unsympathetic defendant, proof of your advertising expenditures, proof of defendant’s revenues, and evidence suggesting the need for corrective advertising.  Your results may vary.

*       *      *

 Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


[1] Skydive Arizona appealed the geographic scope of the injunction as being too narrow and lost, but we won’t address that here.  For further background on this case and the facts at issue, see http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2010/05/geographic_trad.htm.

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February 23, 2012

What’s In A (Domain) Name? What A Cybersquatter Calls A Web Site By Any Other Name Would Not Sell For A Million Dollars Or Provide A Platform For A Three-Year Old’s Artwork

Filed under: Cybersquatting — Tags: , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 3:41 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

In “one [of] a series of domestic disputes between” Paul Bogoni and Vicdania Gomez, Gomez registered the domain names paulbogoni.org and paulbogoni.com without his authorization.[1]  She offered to sell the domain names for $1 million each and posted content on one of them related to certain of her and her daughter’s artwork.  Bogoni sued under the personal name protection provisions of the Anti-cybersquatting Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. § 8131, seeking a preliminary injunction.  He prevailed when Gomez’s defense of use in connection with a copyrighted work failed to show her good faith registration.  Bogoni v. Gomez, No. 11 civ 08093 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 6, 2012).[2]

Gomez initially populated paulbogoni.org with statements that her three-year old daughter wrote and operated the website, which would donate proceeds to charity from the sale of art objects called “Angel” and “Airplane.”  A message on the site stated, “Hi, I’m Vittoria and this my [sic] first website that my mommy helped me launch in order to begin my journey in making the world a better place.”  The web site advised visitors that the two art objects were constructed at an arts institution named “Make Meaning in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.”  The “Airplane” object was titled “Bogoni.”  Finally, the web site displayed the following statement: “I will am [sic] also selling this domain name http://www.PAULBOGONI.ORG and http://www.PAULBOGONI.COM for $1Million (ONE MILLION DOLLARS) each.”  A photograph of “Airplane” appeared on the web site a month after the filing of Bogoni’s complaint and Gomez never explained the relationship between the name Bogoni and the “Airplane.”

Under these facts, Bogoni satisfied his burden to show that Gomez: (1) registered a domain name that consists of his name; (2) did so without the Bogoni’s consent; and (3) had the specific intent to profit from Bogoni’s name by selling the domain name for financial gain.[3]  The court’s analysis turned on the availability of a defense to cybersquatting liability for

“good faith registration of a [personal] domain name . . . if such name is used in, affiliated with, or related to a work of authorship protected under Title 17 . . . and if the person registering the domain name is the copyright owner or licensee of the work [and] the person intends to sell the domain name in conjunction with the lawful exploitation of the work.”

15 U.S.C. § 8131(1)(B).

The Court found that Gomez exhibited an absence of good faith based upon the facts in evidence, and her offer to sell the domain names was not “in conjunction” with the sale of the two art objects.  Thus, she did not qualify for this copyrighted work defense.  The Court’s injunction did not require Gomez to transfer the domain names, however, but only required her to stop using them, which she did by removing all content.  Currently, paulbogoni.org simply states “underconstruction.”

This decision illustrates a key distinction between a claim over the use of a personal name as a domain name under the ACPA versus the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy: the UDRP does not protect personal names that are not trademarks as well, even the names of famous people who do not use their names in connection with a designation for their business.  See http://www.wipo.int/amc/en/domains/search/overview2.0/ (response to question 1.6).  Business executives who find themselves subject to attack or pseudo-extortion through domain names incorporating their personal names may be able to take advantage of this targeted ACPA claim, as well as claims under state laws protecting rights of privacy.

* * *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


[footnotes]

[1] Although the Court is vague on specifics, this statement is telling: “[T]he parties made clear to the Court during oral argument that the parties’ relationship is, at the very least, contentious.”

[3] The Court discussed at some length whether Bogoni satisfied the third prong of this test because of some prior decisions finding that personal name cybersquatting to recover a debt would avoid liability.  See Carl v. BernardJCarl.com, 409 F. App’x 628, 630 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curium) (unpublished).

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January 13, 2012

False Advertising Claim Over Statements In Billing Letter To Patients Not Sufficiently Pled Under Lanham Act

Filed under: Advertising, Litigation — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 2:24 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

Ameritox is “the nation’s leader in pain medication monitoring, offering urine drug testing services to help physicians assess medication adherence of patients on chronic opioid therapy.”  Millennium Laboratories is “a national, research-based medication monitoring company whose test offering, technology, customer support, educational resources and experts are specifically focused on clinicians who treat chronic pain.”  Essentially, the companies are urine testing labs that compete in the market for monitoring drug levels in patients who complain of chronic pain because such drugs are very susceptible to abuse.  Ameritox sued Millennium over an alleged scheme to provide improper inducements to physicians to use Millennium’s testing services over those of other companies.  The claims included false advertising under the Lanham Act and a related claim of common law unfair competition.[1]  Millennium moved to dismiss these claims and prevailed (with leave to amend). See Ameritox Ltd. v. Millennium Laboratories, Inc., 8:11-cv-775 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 6, 2012).[2]

As part of this alleged scheme, Ameritox claimed that Millennium provided an “advertisement” to its physician customers that informed patients that they would not be responsible for any additional charges beyond those billed to the patients’ insurance companies or Medicare.  The court identified this “advertisement” as a billing letter, i.e., the letter a patient receives that shows the amounts charged, covered by insurance/Medicare, and owed by the patient.  Ameritox asserted that this letter was misleading because “patients enrolled in Medicare, by law, are not subject to any deductible or co-payments for clinical laboratory services, thus any benefit to a Medicare patient is, in fact illusory.”  It was this letter primarily at issue under the Lanham Act and common law unfair competition claims.

Millennium argued that the letter was not “commercial advertising or promotion,” as required under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), because it was sent to patients while the relevant consumers were physicians.  Ameritox countered that: a) the letter was distributed both to patients and physicians; and b) patients also were potential customers.  The court rejected Ameritox’s argument because Ameritox “failed to allege that the Millennium Billing Letter was sufficiently disseminated to the relevant purchasing public.”  Specifically, the court noted that Ameritox’s amended complaint was not clear about who actually was the relevant purchasing public and “how many consumers in the relevant purchasing public Millennium contacted.”[3]

The Court found Ameritox’s factual allegations that the letter was misleading to be sufficient, but at the same time Ameritox had not plausibly pled that the billing letter was likely to deceive potential customers.  The Court did not explain these seemingly contradictory findings beyond stating that Ameritox’s allegation that “Millennium’s statements are…likely to deceive a substantial portion of the targeted customers,” was nothing more than a naked assertion devoid of further factual enhancement – the type of pleading prohibited by the Supreme Court’s decisions in Iqbal and Tombly.  It is not clear what factual enhancement the Court would accept as sufficient to support an allegation of likelihood of deception.  Professor Tushnet wonders whether Ameritox may have to plead that it has a survey in hand. See http://tushnet.blogspot.com/2012/01/pleading-standard-dooms-misleadingness.html.  It seems to this author that explaining how an advertisement is misleading usually would be sufficient to underpin how it is likely to deceive potential consumers.  For example, here (assuming what Ameritox states turns out to be true, as one must on a motion to dismiss), it seems that Ameritox is claiming that patient-consumers are likely to be deceived into believing they are receiving a benefit by having their tests conducted by Millennium because of Millennium’s statements about patients not having to make co-pays, etc.  Perhaps Ameritox needs to be explicit on this point when it amends its complaint, even if such pleading seems above and beyond the notice pleading required by the Federal Rules.

Finally, the Court found insufficient to plead materiality to the purchasing decision Ameritox’s allegation that “Millennium’s false or misleading statements have already, and will continue to, influence materially purchasing decisions to the extent that customers choose Millennium’s services instead of those offered by Ameritox.”  This author sees a pretty direct connection between conveying to a consumer that they don’t have to pay as much when using one company’s service over a competitor’s and the likelihood that the consumer will go with the cheaper provider (essentially, Ameritox alleges that Millennium’s statements convey this type of message).  That is, deception over a price difference seems very material to a consumer’s purchase decision, but maybe that’s just me.  Again, the court may be looking for Ameritox to be more explicit when it re-pleads, but it provided no guidance.

Ultimately, this Court appears to have taken a strict view of the requirements enunciated in Iqbal/Twombly regarding facts that must be pled to support allegations of false advertising under the Lanham Act.  Ameritox was given leave to amend, so we anticipate more specific allegations in the amended complaint.  This decision underscores the need for plaintiffs to be explicit about the impact of an allegedly false advertisement on the target consumers which likely will require more pre-complaint investigation and analysis, as well as artful pleading.  Whether other courts follow this precedent remains to be seen.

*          *          *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


[footnotes]

[1] Ameritox also asserted claims under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act that are not at issue here.

[3] According to the opinion, Ameritox alleged only that “Millennium’s services are offered, advertised, and sold to customers throughout the country.”

December 13, 2011

Judge In New Mexico Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Research In Motion To Prevent Use Of BBX Mark At Conference In Singapore

Filed under: International, Litigation — Tags: , , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 11:01 am

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

Research In Motion (RIM) planned to introduce its newest mobile platform at the BLACKBERRY developers’ conference (DevCon) in Singapore.  It was going to call it BBX – until Basis International obtained a temporary restraining order against RIM’s use of the name the day before the conference opened.  See Basis Int’l Ltd. v. Research In Motion, Ltd., No. 11‑cv-953, slip op. (D.N.M. Dec. 6, 2011).[1]  Now, RIM is going to call the platform BLACKBERRY 10.  Meanwhile, the suit continues with a hearing on Basis’s motion for preliminary injunction, scheduled for December 19.

The Lanham Act can have extraterritorial application to stop foreign use of an infringing mark under appropriate circumstances.  As stated in the order:

This Court may issue an injunction having extraterritorial effect in order to prevent trademark violations under the Lanham Act where: the extraterritorial conduct would, if not enjoined, have a significant effect on United States commerce, and then only after consideration of the extent to which the citizenship of the defendant and the possibility of conflict with trademark rights under the relevant foreign law might make issuance of the injunction inappropriate in light of international comity concerns.

Id. at 3.

The court decided the facts satisfied these conditions, so issuing a temporary restraining order was appropriate.  From this author’s view, three facts convinced the court: (1) RIM was going to use a mark identical to Basis’s mark; (2) the parties targeted identical consumers, i.e., business software developers; and (3) actual confusion had already arisen – upon RIM’s original announcement of the BBX platform in October, Basis had been contacted about the connection between RIM and Basis.

RIM, a Canadian company, argued that the Lanham Act should not be applied to stop the use of BBX by RIM’s Singapore subsidiary (which was running the conference), but the court found that line of reasoning unpersuasive.  “It is naive to believe that further confusion of the BBX mark in the United States will be confined to only those attending the conference from this country.”  Id. at 4 (emphasis in original).  The court did not explore this conclusion, but did say that “it is not a stretch to state that RIM is attempting global publicity, much of which is aimed at BASIS’s core customer base—U.S. software developers.”

Companies with products in international markets must be cognizant that use of a mark that has a substantial or significant effect on U.S. commerce may result in a violation of the Lanham Act.  This was true even before the age of the Internet, but the Internet has helped blur national boundaries – with no small help from RIM and its BLACKBERRY.

 *          *          *

Phillip Barengolts is a partner with Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP, a leading intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Pattishall McAuliffe represents both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark, copyright, and unfair competition trials and appeals, and advises its clients on a broad range of domestic and international intellectual property matters, including brand protection, Internet, and e-commerce issues.  Mr. Barengolts’ practice focuses on litigation, transactions, and counseling in domestic and international trademark, trade dress, Internet, and copyright law.  He teaches trademark and copyright litigation at John Marshall Law School, and co-authored Trademark and Copyright Litigation, published by Oxford University Press.


December 1, 2011

E-Discovery In The Board: A Reasoned Approach

Filed under: E-Discovery, TTAB — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 4:27 pm

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) generally follows the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for purposes of its proceedings, including with respect to discovery.  Thus, discovery of electronically stored information (“ESI”) has become as important in Board proceedings as in federal court litigation.  Unlike a number of federal courts, which have struggled with these issues and sometimes ruled in ways that greatly increase the costs of litigation, the Board recently struck a reasonable balance for engaging in e-discovery in its proceedings.  Specifically, the Board denied an applicant’s motion to compel an opposer to engage in extensive e-discovery in the precedential decision in Frito-Lay North America, Inc. v. Princeton Vanguard, LLC, Opposition No 91195552 and Cancellation No. 92053001 (T.T.A.B. Nov. 16, 2011).[1]

The underlying dispute involves Frito-Lay’s opposition to Princeton’s application to register PRETZEL CRISPS for “pretzel crackers.”[2]  During their mandatory discovery conference, the parties failed to agree on discovery of ESI.  After both both parties served requests for documents, including ESI, Princeton extensively reviewed and produced its relevant ESI – costing Princeton approximately $200,000, with an anticipated $100,000 more to comply with its ongoing obligations under the Federal Rules.  Frito-Lay was less forthcoming, so Princeton moved to compel Frito-Lay to produce ESI in the same manner as Princeton.

At its heart, the dispute is best summed up in the words of the parties’ attorneys (as quoted in the Board’s Order):

  • Princeton’s counsel complained that Frito-lay had not conducted “attorney-managed electronic data retrieval and search” and this “failure to conduct an attorney-supervised ESI retrieval, search (using appropriate keywords) and review has substantially prejudiced [Princeton’s] ability to defend.”  Moreover, “[n]o cost, burden or other reason allows [Frito-Lay] to rely on custodians to search their own files where the results of that policy are clearly insufficient. . .”;
  • Frito-Lay’s counsel responded that Frito-Lay had conducted a “reasonable investigation to locate, gather and produce documents reasonably responsive” to Princeton’s discovery requests, including by identifying document custodians and asking them to search their own files and computers.  Further, attorney-supervised searches of ESI would cost Frito-Lay an additional $70,000 – $100,000, “an expense that would far outweigh the benefit of any information in determining the matters at issue in this proceeding,” especially since the claims in the proceeding pertained solely to Princeton’s mark and Frito-Lay.[3]

For the litigators among you, this dispute likely has a familiar ring.  (more…)

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