Jessica Neer McDonald
Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, magna cum laude, and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law, magna cum laude. While in law school, she was a Miami Scholar active in various leadership roles, including Managing Editor of the Inter-American Law Review, Board Member of the Charles C. Papy Moot Court Board, Board Member of the Public Interest Leadership Board, Secretary of the Society of Bar and Gavel, and Student Board Member of the Student Affairs Committee of the University of Miami Board of Trustees. Jessica has served the Florida legal community through legislative employment in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, as well as through internships with Judge Adalberto Jordan, Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
On Friday, November 8, the Supreme Court granted the federal government's petition for review in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com. The issue to be reviewed is whether the addition of the generic top-level domain ".com" to a generic term can create a protectable trademark.
The dispute first arose when Booking.com applied to register trademarks containing the term BOOKING.COM in connection with online hotel reservation services. The USPTO refused registration on the ground that the term "booking" is generic for the underlying services in the application and that the addition of the generic top-level domain ".com" did not create a protectable mark. The decision was reviewed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which held that BOOKING.COM was non-generic and potentially protectable as a trademark. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.
According to random audits by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), over half of active trademark and service mark registrations include some goods or services that are not actually being used in commerce. Registrations with goods or services not in use may block mark owners from registering their own marks that are in use. As part of a response to this concern, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) is piloting a program for cancellation proceedings limited to abandonment and/or nonuse claims with no counterclaims.
The program implements a procedure for addressing registrations or classes not use, which can save petitioners time and money. Click here for more information on this pilot program from the TTAB. A recent precedential case that was part of the pilot program also provides further insight, TV Azteca, S.A.B. de C.V. v. Jeffrey E. Martin, 128 U.S.P.Q.2d 1786 (TTAB 2018).
Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning how costs are awarded under the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act provides that a court “in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs” to a prevailing party under 17 U.S.C. § 505. Currently, there is a circuit split over what costs are recoverable. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Eleventh Circuits have held that the Copyright Act’s allowance of “full costs” is limited to taxable costs under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1920 and 1821. On the other hand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the Copyright Act also authorizes non-taxable costs.
The case is Rimini Street Inc. v. Oracle USA Inc., 17-1625, out of the Ninth Circuit.
The Comphy Co. ("Plaintiff"), a California corporation selling luxury bedding products, filed a complaint against Amazon.com, Inc. ("Defendant") in the Northern District of Illinois alleging trademark infringement, contributory trademark infringement, and false designation of origin under federal law. The complaint also alleges violation of Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Consumer Fraud under Illinois law.
The claims primarily involve (1) the Plaintiff's "COMPHY," stylized "C," "COMPHY COMPANY," and "COMPHY SHEETS" trademarks and (2) Plaintiff's insistance that it has no interest and has expressly refused to sell its products on Defendant's website, amazon.com. According to the complaint, the Defendant is making unauthorized and infringing use of Plaintiff's trademarks by using the trademarks to promote bedding and related products not made or authorized by the Plaintiff on Defendant's website. In particular, the Plaintiff states that the Defendant is posting results for "inferior" third-party sheets when consumers search for terms including Plaintiff's trademarks on Defendant's website. Moreover, the Defendant pays third-party search engines to direct consumers to Defendant's website when searching for "COMPHY" brand sheets. Such actions are said to drive sales to competing products and are likely to cause and have caused actual confusion.
The Plaintiff asks the court for an injunction as well as a variety of monetary damages, fees, and costs.
The case can be followed at The Comphy Co., v. Amazon.com, Inc., 18-cv-04584 (N.D. Ill.).
Following our previous report, the U.S. Supreme Court held in WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp. that WesternGeco, the patent owner, can recover lost foreign profits as a result of ION's infringement under §271(f)(2) of the Patent Act. WesternGeco LLC v. Ion Geophysical Corp., U.S., No. 16-1011, 6/22/18. Justice Thomas delivered the majority opinion in the 7-2 decision.
Over ION's objection that the lost-profits damages occurred outside of the United States and the foreign conduct after ION's infringement was necessary to give rise to the infringement, Justice Thomas wrote that awarding lost-profits damages under the circumstances was a domestic application, and therefore, consistent with the presumption against extraterritoriality that presumes federal statutes apply within the U.S.
This week the Eleventh Circuit ruled on service mark infringement claims brought by Savannah College of Art and Design ("SCAD") against Sportswear, Inc. for selling unlicensed apparel and other goods on its website. The district court in the Northern District of Georgia had found that though SCAD had registered marks in connection with education services, SCAD failed to establish its mark's rights extended to apparel. More specifically, in relying on precedent concerning unregistered marks, SCAD could not show common law priority because SCAD could not show prior use of the mark on apparel before Sportswear.
On appeal, Judge Adalberto Jordan published a decision reversing the district court's findings, relying on 1975 precedent Boston Prof'l Hockey Ass'n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., to find that SCAD's registered service mark protection may extend to goods as well. While recognizing that infringement claims under § 1114(1)(a) are based on federally-registered marks, claims under § 1125(a) can be based on federally-registered or unregistered marks, and the oft-blurred lines between both claims, both claims nonetheless required SCAD to establish the following: (1) enforceable trademark rights in the mark (validity and scope); and (2) likelihood of confusion from the infringer's unauthorized use of its mark. In informing the first part of the analysis, the Court found it instructive to follow Boston Hockey based on SCAD's registered service marks. The precedent, which is not without criticism, "extends protection for federally-registered service marks to goods, and therefore beyond the area of registration listed in the certificate." The case was therefore remanded for further proceedings under the § 1114(1)(a) and § 1125(a) claims in light of Boston Hockey.
See the full opinion here: http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201513830.pdf
When applying for trademark/service mark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an examining attorney reviews the application to determine whether it complies with applicable statutes and rules. If there are any substantive, technical, or procedural deficiencies, the examining attorney will likely issue an Office Action letter explaining any of these refusals. One of these refusals can be based on the proposed mark failing to function as a trademark because the proposed mark merely communicates information about the goods/services, uses widely used commonplace, social, political, or religious messages, or directly quotes passages or citations from religious texts. Some examples include: “I ♥ DC” for clothing items; “ONCE A MARINE, ALWAYS A MARINE” for various clothing items; “BRAND NAMES FOR LESS” for retail store services; and “PROUDLY MADE IN THE USA” for electric shavers.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently issued a guide for aiding in the determination of whether a proposed mark functions as mark. The guide creates categories for types of matter that may be considered merely informational, discusses when an examining attorney must refuse registration or require a disclaimer, provides applicant response options, and illustrates case law examples. For example, under applicant response options, should the applicant receive this type of refusal, the applicant must show that the public perception of the proposed mark is that of a source indicator. Evidence of the applicant's use as a mark or exclusive use in the relevant marketplace for the goods/services under the mark can be supportive towards overcoming this refusal.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court announced it will hear Lee v. Tam, an appeal from a Federal Circuit decision that held Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment. The case involves a band that was denied registration for the mark “THE SLANTS” under Section 2(a) because the name may disparage individuals of Asian ancestry. This case may also effectively resolve the ongoing dispute involving the Washington Redskins trademarks.
The justices will hear arguments in Lee v. Tam early next year.
Leonard v. Stemtech Int'l, Inc, No. 15-3198 (3d Cir. 2016)
These pictures are worth more than just 1,000 words. In August, the Third Circuit affirmed a jury’s return of a $1.6 million verdict for Andrew Leonard as a result of copyright infringement by Stemtech International. The infringement stemmed from photographs that Leonard took of stem cells using electron microscopes in a highly technical type of photography. The two photographs at issue were created in 1996, then registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2007, when he planned to bring the lawsuit.
Are you ready for some football? In the midst of preparing for football season, the National Football Association ("NFL") continues its fight to overcome cancellations of the Washington Redskins' trademarks. The NFL is appealing a district court decision to the Fourth Circuit.