HEADLINE: Fight Over Obamacare extends to TM Office?


  • The press, public, and even the President, have embraced “Obamacare” as shorthand for “The Affordable Care Act”
  • In recent months, half-a-dozen or so trademark applications featuring “Obamacare” have been filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

o    Some related to insurance and education services

o    Some critical of the law See http://www.marketwatch.com/story/race-to-sign-up-for-obamacare-trademarks-2013-10-07

Continue Reading ON THE MARK Trademark News and Views

HEADLINE: Should Washington Redskins Keep Their ®?


Continue Reading ON THE MARK Trademark News and Views


“Gonna play that shady grove, play that shady grove.” Steve Earle, “Warren Hellman’s Banjo.”

As regular, or even irregular, readers of this blog know, music plays a big part in my life. From my roots in Trenton NJ, listening to The Beatles on a cheap transistor radio, to wearing out the grooves in CSNY’s Carry On at the Jersey Shore, to catching emerging artists like Joe Pug at DC’s wonderful Hamilton, music has brought me some of life’s happiest moments. And no musical moments have been happier than the San Francisco mornings and afternoons I’ve spent with my son, his friend Greg D. and Greg’s Dad Spiros at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (HSB as regulars call it).

Continue Reading Hardly Strictly Amazing: Warren Hellman and HSB

“There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.” Gone To Carolina In My Mind by James Taylor

We professionals who deal with trademarks and brand names for a living spend a lot of breath talking about goodwill. We call it the life blood of a brand, the currency of reputation, the vital core that embodies all that a business conveys and symbolizes to its customers. Often, however, goodwill gets caught up with and confused with the business side of things–valuation, return on investment, assets. At times, the “good” at the heart of this term seems to fade into the background–good feelings, good memories, good times.
But on a recent trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, (or the OBX as countless decals on the backs of SUVs call it), I was reminded what goodwill really means by a place that has been serving up goodwill for 24 years. The place is The Blue Point restaurant in Duck, NC, a town about 20 miles north of Kitty Hawk where brothers Wilbur and Orville demonstrated the Wright stuff long before it became popular to venture to the northern parts of this barrier island off the North Carolina Coast. When I first dined at the Blue Point, the place had been open less than a week. It was modest and homey, little more than a beach shack, but outfitted with a snazzy bar punctuated by distinctive red swivel stools complete with seat backs and footrests. A tile floor of large black and white squares made the cherry-red of those stools shine like neon. But the food–a clever mixture of coastal cooking and fresh local ingredients–shone even brighter. Crab cakes tasted like heaven, and have been a signature dish ever since, but so did everything else I’ve ever ordered since then. Whether serving filet mignon or fried catfish, the Blue Point never fails to surpass its own high standards. The decades have seen two expansions of my favorite “little” restaurant. Now, the place has dozens of tables, yet diners who don’t reserve one of them a month in advance have to settle for eating at lesser establishments. But even as The Blue Point has prospered and grown, it’s never lost touch with its origins. Each time I walk through the screen door into the small porch area that used to be one of the main dining spaces, I’m transported back to my very first time, filled with joyous memories of meals with family and friends, meals throughout the years that satisfy more than just the appetite. Meals that satisfy the soul. I’m already dreaming about next year and 25 years of The Blue Point. That’s goodwill.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
J. R. R. Tolkien

“Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the Autumn mist in a land called Honolee.” Puff The Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul, and Mary

I love satellite radio, although I was late to the party. I resisted taking the plunge, figuring that the programmers at XM/Sirius couldn’t approach, much less duplicate, the eclectic, genre-bending variety provided by my favorite terrestrial station, WXPN in Philadelphia (which I enjoy in D.C. courtesy of the Internet). But when my trusty car expired, I replaced it with a new model that came with a free trial subscription to Sirius/XM. I took me less than the ride home from the dealership to be hooked. Sure, each station might play a limited range of music–but the sheer variety of music across the Sirius/XM spectrum is mind-blowing, not to mention all the news, sports, comedy, and last but not least, Howard Stern. On any given commute, I can be serenaded by old stalwarts like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Neil Young, their modern-day progeny such as Dawes, Fleet Foxes, and Deer Tick, old-school and Outlaw country from Willie, Waylon, Merle, and McMurtry, and, of course, Elvis, Sinatra, The Boss, The Dead, and Pearl Jam, all of whom have channels devoted to them.

Continue Reading Puffery: It’s Not Just For Pastry

“Lately I’ve been thinking / What would the world do without the news / You wouldn’t know when wars were started / Or when they ended, win or lose.” Newspapers by Stan Ridgway

Yesterday’s IP blogosphere brought news of another battle of the bands involving trademark rights. Christian rockers the Newsboys did not turn the other cheek when they discovered a rap duo performing as New Boyz. They sued. And they lost. Bigtime. Oh, the Newsboys got their day in court all right, but it lasted just about one day, with the judge tossing the complaint as legally deficient. The Newsboys claimed that the rappers’ name New Boyz would confuse and confound the music buying audience. They railed that the New Boyz songs were sexually charged. They pointed to their own 1991 album title “Boys will be Boyz” as evidence that the groups’ names were too close for comfort. And the band that had honed its reputation in the realm of Christian Rock insisted that their music was not just for the religious set; they claimed “cross-over” appeal to the same “demographic” that listens to and downloads New Boyz allegedly salacious songs.

Continue Reading Onward Trademark Soldiers? Newsboys Cannot Stop the Rap Music

“Don’t Want to Die in a Super Eight.” “Super 8″ by Jason Isbell

Like me, you’ve probably driven by hundreds of Super 8 motels in your lifetime. Travelling up I-95 for hours on rides to Jersey and New York or on longer hauls southward to the Carolinas, Georgia, and down the endless Florida coast, the rectangular sign with big red 8, black “Super,” and bright yellow background is hard to ignore, even as it blends in with the melange of fast food oases and other budget-conscious lodges that dot the interchanges and byways of our endless ribbons of highway.

Full disclosure–I’ve never stayed at a Super 8 Motel. Never given the place much thought, really. Not because I’m some kind of snob when it comes to accommodations. Sure, I enjoy a swanky room at a Ritz Carlton or Monaco hotel. But I’m equally at home at a Motel 6, where Tom Bodett leaves the light on for us, or at a Holiday Inn, my parent’s motel of choice for our occasional family junkets. I’ve even stayed at a few La Quinta’s, which one of my musician friends, (who’s seen the inside of many a motel), insists means “next to Denny’s.” Somehow, however, my travelling stars and terrestrial GPS never aligned to guide me into the parking lot of a Super 8.

Continue Reading Annals of Trademarks: Super 8 Superates?

“One toke over the line, Sweet Jesus, one toke over the line.  Sittin’ downtown at the railway station, one toke over the line.” One Toke Over The Line, Brewer and Shipley

On a slow news day, word spread through the wire services that Jamen Shively, an ex-Microsofter, plans to launch a brand of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the only two states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  He is looking for “seed money” for his new venture, and hopes to source his product from Mexico. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. So Shively, who left Microsoft in 2009, sees a buoyant market for his brand, Diego Pellicer,  in both the recreational and medical markets.

Continue Reading Ex-Microsoft Exec. Plans to Brand Pot

“You and I travel  to the beat of a different drum.”  Different Drum, by Michael Nesmith

In a week dominated by devastation in the Nation’s tornado alley, it was easy to miss the news that Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the Doors, had died.  While Jim Morrison defined the Doors’ image with his flamboyant stage presence and apocalyptic lyrics, Manzarek defined the band’s sound, lending baroque classical flourishes to the definitive Doors song Light My Fire and propulsive jazz inflected stylings to many other of the band’s hits.

While Manzarek is best remembered for his music, his obituary also contains a Softrights-worthy footnote about a long simmering, and sometimes roiling,  trademark dispute over rights in the Doors name,  As reported in Billboard back in 2008, the four members of the Doors, Morrison, Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, signed a pact in 1970 that gave each of them veto power over any business deal.  According to Billboard, the four Doors inked that agreement after a nasty battle about whether to let Buick use “Light My Fire” in a television commercial.

Continue Reading The End: Death of A Door Likely Prevents Future Jams

“I don’t lose no sleep at night ’cause things with you are going right/And I hardly ever sing beer drinking songs.”  “I Hardly Ever Sing Beer Drinking Songs” by Johnny Cash

Go into any bar or restaurant on DC’s trendy U Street Corridor or into any joint in new hot neighborhoods such as Bloomingdale or Logan Circle.  For every irony-drenched hipster sipping a PBR, you’ll find dozens of Congressional staffers, lobbyists, lawyers, NGO-sters, and interns pouring over copious beer lists brimming with exotic offerings from microbrews both local (like Northeast DC’s Chocolate City Brewery) to international, such a Belgian premium drafts that rival a good Bordeaux in price and drinking pleasure.   The beer selections at “hoppin’” places such as Birch and Barley are literally dizzying, especially with beers whose alcohol content approach 10%.

It’s easy to forget that just a generation ago, finding an India Pale Ale or English bitter was rarer than a blue moon.  Now of course, Blue Moon Brewery is one of the more ubiquitous standard bearers of the “craft beer” explosion.  And imports once prized for their scarcity and pedigrees, such as Stella Artois and Pilsner Urquel (not to be confused with Steve Urkel), have now gone mainstream, rubbing shoulders with Heineken, Corollas, and even Bud and Miller (apologies to Buddy Miller, the most soulful and compelling alt. country musician/producer/guitarist performing today.)

Continue Reading A King Whose Reign Brewed An Industry