For many New Jersey businesses, protecting their intellectual property can be an important part of keeping their brands active and growing. There are a number of different venues where companies can take legal action against infringement of their trademarks, patents and copyrights. However, one question that may arise is whether a decision in one venue may prevent the issues from being raised again in a different court. According to one federal appeals court's decision, U.S. International Trade Commission rulings on trademark infringement do not necessarily preclude litigating the issue again in federal district court.
The Supreme Court made a ruling that will have an impact on intellectual property, specifically trademarks, in New Jersey and across the country. On June 24, the justices struck down a rule that had been in place for a long time banning scandalous or immoral symbols and words from trademark protections. The immediate case involved a clothing brand whose trademark application had been rejected.
New Jersey residents may be surprised to learn that the once notorious Crips street gang is taking steps to rebrand itself and escape its violent past. The Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle was a member of the Crips until he was gunned down outside a clothing store he owned in March. Hussle denounced gun violence in his music and worked tirelessly to provide opportunities to marginalized young men. In a step widely seen as an effort to associate themselves more closely with their esteemed former member, the Crips LLC filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 16 to trademark the late rapper's "The Marathon Continues" slogan.
Trademark licensees in New Jersey often depend on an agreement with the trademark holder that allows the licensee to operate significant amounts of a business. The sale and marketing of licensed products can be a major income stream for trademark holders as well as for the licensees who purchased the right to sell those items. However, when a trademark owner files for bankruptcy, it may attempt to reject the trademark license in order to obtain additional funds as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.
The former lead singer of an R&B group that has some New Jersey fans is suing two other band members for trademark infringement over use of the band name. The defendants have used the band name in promotions for their recent tour.
Individuals and companies in New Jersey are entitled to trademark their intellectual property. This gives them the exclusive right to use a logo, slogan or other mark. If other parties want to use something that has already been trademarked, they must get a license from the owner of that trademark. Those who believe that another party has engaged in trademark infringement may take legal action to put a halt to such activity.
Swear words may be a fact of life for many New Jersey residents, but the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether they can also be a part of a protected trademark. The justices are hearing a case brought by a clothing designer based in Los Angeles who launched a streetwear brand called "FUCT", sounding similar yet spelled differently from a common curse word. His application for a trademark was denied under a provision that allows requests for "immoral" or "scandalous" marks to be turned down.
Trademarks and patents are valuable assets for many New Jersey businesses and creators The award of damages in a case involving the infringement of magnetic fasteners developed by Romag has revolved around the question of whether Fossil, the infringing party, acted willfully. Interpretations of trademark law among various federal appellate courts have produced differing requirements concerning willful action. Romag's petition before the Supreme Court of the United States could lead to clarification on this issue.
The importance of protecting trademarks was emphasized recently when a lawsuit was filed in federal court regarding ownership of the Craftsman tool line. Sears previously sold Craftsman tools and owned the rights to its iconic name. However, that all changed when Sears began to struggle financially prior to its bankruptcy filing. According to a recent news report, Stanley Black & Decker acquired the Craftsman brand in March 2017, for which it paid Sears approximately $900 million.
Businessmen of New Jersey may be aware that the business landscape is a vibrant ecosystem with millions of new businesses budding every year. However, what they may not be aware of is that more businesses showing up means that there is a commensurate rise in trademarks: In comparison to the year preceding it, the year of 2017 saw a rise of 30 percent in the number of trademark applications filed, or about 9.11 million applications in total for that year. This ever-growing number of trademarks means that lawyers and brand strategists need to work harder than ever to protect their brand.