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Kansas City Intellectual Property Blog

Girl Scouts vs. Boy Scouts

The Girl Scouts of America have filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the Boy Scouts of America. The Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) allege that there is brand confusion now that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is admitting girls, which is a practice they began in 2017. Both organizations have traditionally been afforded distinct trademark protections under the law in view of the prior gender split, but now it appears BSA's widened admittance policies have upset that peaceful coexistence.

"Scouting" and "Scout" usage in dispute

UGG uses design patent to protect its boots

UGG boots have been popular women’s winter wear for more than a decade. For much of that time, UGG’s parent company Decker Outdoor Corporation (DOC) has spent considerable time and effort to protect its soft, moccasin-like boot made of sheepskin with a wooly lining against cheaper knockoffs. Unfortunately, the  general appearance of the UGG boots has been challenging to protect, so DOC has recently tried to become more creative in fighting off encroachment. 

According to recent reports, DOC has turned to design patents, which protect the ornamental appearance of product designs. Now, DOC is once again going up against its old nemesis Romeo & Juliette (R&J), whose Bearclaw look-alike allegedly infringes a number of DOC’s design patents. The two parties settled an earlier case, but R&J has a new line that once again has DOC taking umbrage.

Schlafly family losses appeal over brewery trademark of surname

The family of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly lost their appeal Monday to block the use of the Schlafly name by Saint Louis Brewery, LLC, which brews under the Schlafly name.

Founded by Phyllis Schlafly's nephew Thomas Schlafly in 1989, Missouri's largest independent craft brewery had started using the family name and the Schlafly logo in 1991. Since then, the brewery has grown to distribute in a dozen states and serve an estimated 74.8 million cans, bottles, and drafts from 2009-2014. Saint Louis Brewery applied for a trademark of the family name in 2011.

HBO and Trump enter the parody fray

President Trump will be remembered for many things, but his use of Twitter has been an effective and groundbreaking approach to connecting with constituents and the wider world. He recently took to Twitter to announce the imminent arrival of sanctions against Iran. He did this with his own parody of Game of Thrones: using the line "Sanctions are Coming" in a font similar to the one used by the acclaimed show. There was also a picture of him with an almost Dothraki-like scowl.

HBO, which owns several federal registrations for the phrase "WINTER IS COMING," quickly claimed infringement with the response of: "How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?" However, while the cable channel's response is witty, experts are quick to point out that trademark misuse is rarely applied as a matter of trademark infringement. In fact, it is often used by the trademark holder to protect itself against use in violation of the law.

Court dismisses photo copyright case: Lessons for photographers

We recently talked in this space about a case in which the court found that a photograph copied onto a website was not only substantially similar to the copyrighted original, as required for copyright infringement, but it was identical, an exact digital copy. Today we share further observations from a new federal copyright case involving photographs out of California. 

At Hovey Williams LLP, we work hard with our photographer and other artist clients to protect their intellectual property rights in their expressive, creative works. It is smart for a photographer to build an ongoing relationship with a lawyer so that when he or she creates new work, the copyright registration process can begin immediately to maximize legal protections. If later questions arise such as whether another party is improperly using the client’s photos on a website or in an advertisement, for example, the attorney is ready to negotiate with the infringing party to resolve the violation. If necessary, legal counsel can proceed with a copyright infringement suit.

Court observations about copyright infringement in photography

At our law firm, we represent professional photographers in the protection of intellectual property rights in their creative works. Our advocacy includes asserting copyright protections when others infringe on copyrighted photos such as by reproducing them without permission. This work is more important than ever given the ease of digitally reproducing an image online. 

In September, we wrote here about a recent New York federal case in which the court found copyright ownership in the heirs of the deceased photographer who took almost 3,000 pictures of Marilyn Monroe in a series of 1962 photo sessions at the iconic Los Angeles Bel-Air Hotel, rather than in the owners of Vogue magazine, where the images were published.

Can Your Family Recipes Be Patented?

Who would have thought that recipe for Aunt Martha’s spaghetti sauce could be copyrighted or patented and turned into a moneymaker?

That would be the case if former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer and culinary enthusiast Nathan Myhrvold has his way. To date, copyright law has not applied to most recipes because they are basically instructions for combining a list of ingredients in certain proportions.

Hovey Williams involvement in Global Entrepreneurship Week

An important day for the Kansas City area is almost here. On Monday, Nov. 12, a major weeklong conference begins — dedicated to supporting and celebrating innovative people who launch startup businesses — Global Entrepreneurship Week. As a regional law firm dedicated to protecting the intellectual property — inventions, brands, trade secrets, processes and creative works — of our entrepreneur and inventor clients, we at Hovey Williams LLP in Overland Park, Kansas, embrace this opportunity. 

With more than 170 events, the conference is free of charge and open to the public. You can register online and build your own itinerary at the event website, which also includes free materials relevant to entrepreneurial endeavors.

Hovey Williams attorneys to speak at entrepreneurship conference

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. That may be true in some situations, but if someone uses your idea, name or product without permission, it can threaten your livelihood. There are preventative measures for protecting intellectual property, and steps to take if someone uses what you have created without your authorization.

Crissa Crook and Blair Barbieri, attorneys with the Kansas City intellectual property law firm Hovey Williams, LLP, will lay out these strategies on Thursday, Nov. 15, in an educational session entitled “Cease and Desist? What To Do When Your Intellectual Property Rights Are Violated.”

Do employees own their ideas?

Starting a new company with a great new idea can be exciting, but there needs to be some clear boundaries if the founder is jumping from a job as an employee in the same field. While the idea may be a good one with lots of promise, many employees sign Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreements. This could mean that an idea created or developed while working for someone else is owned by that employer, even if the employee created the idea during off hours at home.

Some employers do allow employees to work on side projects without claiming ownership, but the aspiring entrepreneur needs to be careful about their current obligations.

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