We just returned from an exhilarating five days in San Diego where we attended the International Trademark Association Annual Conference. Bringing together over 9,800 attorneys to discuss the recent developments in trademark law, it was five days of learning and socializing with some of the brightest minds in the world of intellectual property.
Here are three takeaways that could benefit your brand strategy:
1. International trademarks are more important than ever.
The world is becoming more global and not thinking about a global trademark strategy for your company early on can spell disaster as you expand into international markets. It is important to not only think about clearance but transliteration and translation issues. You don’t want to be in a position where your name translates into an offensive term in a foreign country, e.g., “Turn it Loose”, a slogan by beer maker Coors, can mean “get loose bowels/diarrhea” in Spanish.
2. The Supreme Court validated the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board
Many practitioners don’t always give TTAB hearings much importance because it was unclear how much power the governing body had over trademark disputes. Well, this year the Supreme Court B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc., decided that TTAB decisions related to likelihood of confusion would be binding on federal court litigation. This means a decision by the TTAB concerning likelihood of confusion could not be relitigated in the federal courts. Therefore, TTAB decisions just got a whole lot more important!
3. Fashion and technology is creating some interesting trademark questions
“Wearables” are everywhere. With joint collaborations between Tory Burch and Fitbit to Nike and other apparel companies redefining themselves with technology, the joint projects between fashion brands and technology companies are creating some unique issues in trademark registrations. Some of the important questions raised at our table topic discussion on the subject were: (a) How should co-branding be handled? (b) Should you have joint ownership of new brands created by two different companies? (c) Who has enforcement and decision-making rights with co-branding? These were all questions no one had an answer to but will surely require competent counsel to help guide companies engaging in such ventures.