This week’s blog is mostly about trademarks, but not entirely. The law refuses to be packaged into a neat little box sometimes, try as we might.
- Speaking of surprises, Gap got a nasty surprise recently when it was hit with a lawsuit from shoe designer Charles Philip. The complaint alleges that the Gap is copying Philip’s designs and selling them for 80% less. The Gap’s designs include a striped insole, like Philip’s, and have names like the “Phillip Slipper” (note the two L’s in the Gap’s spelling). Philip contends that his shoes, which are sold at high-end retailers, have much more detail than the Gap’s versions do. He is concerned that people will think he’s partnering with the Gap because other big-name designers have.
- Whether a striped insole will be the next big trademark battleground remains to be seen. But at least we know who owns the trademark for a certain camouflage pattern: the Navy. After 5+ years of litigation, the U.S. Navy has been awarded the trademark for a pattern consisting of “irregular block-shaped pixels that consist of a four-color pattern of black, deck grey, light grey and navy blue.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had argued that the pattern was functional in that it helped keep the military uniforms neat and clean (a Navy requirement) by masking dirt and everyday wear. Apparently the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board judge disagreed and granted the Navy rights for four separate applications.
- Have you heard of Johnny Football? If Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has his way, you will (if you haven’t already). The freshman and his family are looking to trademark the nickname, even though he can’t profit from it while he’s still a student. The filing comes after a College Station investments company tried to trademark the term earlier this month. Manziel’s lawyer said his clients will oppose that filing. He has not detailed any plans for future use of the mark, should it be granted to Manziel.
- Actor Hank Azaria, best known for voicing multiple characters on the Simpsons, is suing another actor over the rights to one of his characters. Azaria claims that he created a voice for a specific baseball-announcer character and told Craig Bierko about it more than 20 years ago. After creating a character that used the voice in a Funny or Die skit two years ago, Azaria entered into negotiations to make a feature film based around the character. Bierko found out and allegedly contacted Azaria claiming that he had created the voice. Azaria now seeks a declaration that the voice is his and not Bierko’s, and that the voice alone is not alone copyrightable, but the character is. He is also asking for attorney fees and court costs.