Fall Forrest of Beers

Fall is not just a time for pumpkins, crisp air, and fall colored-leaves. It’s a time for beer. Whether you like a traditional year-long beer like an IPA or Lager or seasonal “pumpkin ales” of sorts, beer is a big part of Portland, especially during this time of the year.

Alcohol is nothing new. Based on a Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing (yes she’s real), beer may be over 3900 years old. In a poem found in Mesopotamia/Ancient Iraq, there is a recipe instructing others how to make beer from barley. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_beer

Some historians argue that beer may even be 7,000 years old as ancient pottery has traces of yeast-like substances. Regardless of when beer was first invented, it has no doubt maintained its popularity throughout the ages. Thus, it is no surprise that many sites and publications like Discover Magazine offer great beer facts. I randomly picked two I found to be extremely interesting:

-Beer (in part because it contains antimicrobial ethanol) was a healthier drink than polluted Nile river water. 

-Experimenting with beer has taken many forms. John Lubbock, an 18th-century naturalist, studied the behavior of beer-boozy ants. 

http://discovermagazine.com/2013/june/21-20-things-you-didnt-know-about-beer

How is all of this relevant to Intellectual Property you ask? Well, hundreds of thousands of beer related inventions and patents have brought beer to where it is now (in addition to being in a glass in our hand)

For example, Louis Pasteur wasn’t just great at helping us with our milk. In 1873, he was awarded a patent Called “Improvement in brewing beer and ale” http://www.google.com/patents/US135245. Mr. Pasteur realized that even if beer was made correctly and not exposed to a lot of air during the brewing process, when it was transported exposure to too much atmospheric air made the beer have a lower quality. As a result he designed special tanks that had tubes inside that could spray water on the insular tank to keep the beer at the right air pressure (from what I gather from reading the patent).

His invention’s goal (which was accomplished) enabled the beer to be brewed “all seasons and in most any climate successfully, [and] the product [to be[ more aromatic and… perfectly limpid.” http://www.google.com/patents/US135245

Thousands of patents for beer barrels have existed over the years. One of them that changed things a little bit is the “Metal Container”. In an effort to reduce barrel cracking and various other pressure challenges, inventor William E. Coakley set out to provide a receptacle that which would be “simple, compact, and well balanced in construction [while being] rugged and durable.” It seems Mr. Coakley did a good job as we see metal barrels/kegs being thrown down from truck carriers and rolled into bars and restaurants on the daily. http://www.google.com/patents/US2132722

Sometimes a draught beer or bottle is not available and the beer is quickly available in a pop top can. The Beer Can (granted in 1939) was patented by Wark Samuel Arnold and Alfred C. Torem in 1939. This beer can design added an outer disk to the opening to overlap the hole covering. This way if the covering inside became lose bill wouldn’t spill all over the place. “Thus sealed, whether by reliance wholly upon the internal pressure or by the application of the sealing substance 6, the disk 5 is not readily displaced by accident, but it can be displaced by inwardly directed pressure of a .thumb through the aperture upon the disk, in the manner illustrated in Figure 3.”https://www.google.com/patents/US2147004. The Pabst Brewing Company most likely solutes you Mr. Arnold and Mr. Torem.

As mentioned thousands of beer related patents exist. When you are enjoying your beer and brats remember to cheers the inventors of beer related inventions then and now. At Mohr IP Law, our team enjoys a beer or two—but work comes before drinking- unless a client has a beer related invention that requires using actual beer to demonstrate its utility.

beercanpasteur%20beer%20patent-resized-600-jpgus2116795-0us2132722-0

 

 

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Happy Birthday-The gift of copyrights

A very special attorney at our firm has a birthday this upcoming week. It’s a good thing we won’t be infringing on someone’s intellectual property when we sing him “Happy Birthday to You.” Over the course of the last few years, you may have heard about this unique fight-the birthday song we all know and love was wrought with litigation. You look like a monkey and you stole my intellectual property too?

“Happy Birthday to You” also known as “Happy Birthday” was written by Patty Hill, a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky. Her sister Mildred and she used the melody of “Good Morning to All” with their new lyrics. It is believed that these sisters (who sound drink sweet tea or lemonade on the porch and bake peach cobbler lovely) wrote the lyrics around 1893. The lyrics made made their first written appearance in 1912. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

“The brief recap is that although the music and lyrics to “Good Morning” have a clear copyrightable moment in 1893, the same music coupled with the “Happy Birthday” words does not. The lawsuit notes the appearance in print in the early 1900s in various sources of alternate words, but without being authorized specifically by the Hills—who ostensibly retained copyright to “Good Morning,” not the Song Stories publisher—that doesn’t necessarily diminish their claim.”  http://boingboing.net/2015/08/07/the-twisted-history-of-the-hap.html

In July 2015, a filmmaker making a film about the history of the song claimed to have proof that the song should be public domain (instead of the company Warner/Chappell who had been claiming ownership of the song). The filmmaker explained that in 1934 a new Irving Berlin musical on Broadway called As Thousands Cheer featured a birthday scene in which “the birthday song, without the “Good Morning” verse [was performed]. As TIME reported in 1934, while the case was still ongoing, the producer of As Thousands Cheer was sued for plagiarism, to the tune of $250 in payment per performance. Though Patty Hill said that she had “long ago resigned herself to the fact that her ditty had become common property of the nation,” those who had paid to use the tune in the past—like Fox, which had used it in Baby Take a Bow, a Shirley Temple film released that same year—didn’t feel so easygoing about it, and neither did Hill’s family.” http://time.com/3976577/happy-birthday-copyright-history/.

Because this is a blog, you get the condensed version. Long story short, in 1935 the Hills decided to officially register the copyright of the birthday specific lyrics and were successful doing so. Because the Irving musical was popular, the song spread. The challenging part regarding intellectual property is that the song even early on had various versions, piano and other instrument accompaniments, verse re-writes, verse additions, and so on.https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/09/happy-birthday-song-lawsuit-warner-chappell-settlement.

After 80 years, the Happy Birthday song has been freed. Before this year, Warner/Chappell was earning $2 million a year by licensing the song mostly for commercial use (not charging restaurants or birthday party attendees). “On February 8, 2016, Warner/Chappell agreed to pay a settlement of $14 million to those who had licensed the song…on June 28, 2016, the final settlement was officially granted. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

I’m sure you’ve never used the song for commercial use or planned on it. Regardless, now you know that while singing the song, you don’t have to worry about an attorney or the ghost of Patty Hill lurking over your shoulder.

At Mohr IP Law we do patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Instead of receiving a scratchy sweater from Grandma, maybe you can ask her and your other loved ones for the gift of intellectual property protection-the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re lucky our team will also sing you a song.

Condensed Timeline from: http://www.latimes.com/visuals/graphics/la-me-g-happy-birthdays-history-20150923-htmlstory.html

1893

Louisville, Ky., sisters Mildred J. and Patty Smith Hill publish the song “Good Morning To All” and assign copyright to the publisher.

1934

The producer of the Irving Berlin musical revue “As Thousands Cheer” sue for plagiarism when the song’s melody is used in a scene. The lawsuit is eventually settled.

1935

The Clayton F. Summy Co. files for the copyright.

1962

Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President John F. Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday.

1988

The successor to the Summy Co., the Birch Tree Group, is purchased by Warner Music for $15 million, and through that acquires the rights to “Happy Birthday.”

2015

Los Angeles Judge George H. King rules that the Summy Co. never acquired a valid copyright to the song, and that the 1935 copyright covered only specific piano arrangements of the tune.

1624083_stock-photo-happy-birthday-cake

 

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An Intellectual Property Movie Night

Doesn’t an IP Law Movie Night sound fun? I think so. I decided to compile a list of movies that are not just entertaining, but that touch upon intellectual property protection and infringement issues. The following are movies I have personally seen and highly recommend. Descriptions are from: www.imbd.com. Feel free to read their descriptions out loud to yourself in your best movie phone voice-I did.

Joy (2015)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper

Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty [You know the movie about the miracle mop inventor].

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2446980/

 

Father of Invention (2010)

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Camilla Belle, and Heather Graham

After 8 years in prison, inventor Robert Axle struggles to win over his estranged family and catch up on current technology as he works to once again become the king of the infomercial.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1381505/?ref_=nv_sr_2

 

Big Eyes (2014)

Starring: Amy Adams

A drama about the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1126590/

 

Flash of Genius (2008)

Staring Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham

Robert Kearns takes on the Detroit automakers who he claims stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1054588/

 

Almost Famous (2000)

William Miller is a 15-year-old kid hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band. This wonderfully witty coming-of-age film follows William as he falls face first to confront life, love, and lingo.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181875/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

Dark Mind (2006)

Paul, an optimistic inventor, turns into a recluse after facing a brutal betrayal. Convinced that Russians are spying on him, he struggles to protect his greatest invention: The Cube. When an accident thrusts him into the spotlight, his sense of reality is threatened and his world becomes twisted beyond recognition.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0422479/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

 

The Social Network (2010)

Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, but is later sued by two brothers who claimed he stole their idea, and the co-founder who was later squeezed out of the business.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1285016/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

Will your movie night include your own kids, relatives, or kids you are watching? Maybe you want to watch a few of these classics:

Flubber, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Big Hero 6, Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory, Meet the Robinsons, Robots, Iron Man, Honey I Shrunk The Kids films, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, The Absent-Minded Professor, and the Back to the Future films.

At Mohr IP Law, we have clients that may or may not inspire films. One thing for sure is that everyone we meet has a story and an idea. And our clients are all stars. Watch a few of these films, let the creative juices flow, and contact us when you are ready to “Let your ideas take flight.” Grab your popcorn and your note-pad!

 

 

 

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Barbie-Life in Plastic, IP Protections are Fantastic

I recently heard that Barbie got a diversity make-over but it seems she has been getting a makeover since her first appearance March of 1959 (March 9th is considered her birthday just so you know). During the 57 years of her existence, Barbie has had every job in every industry and has been the subject of love and controversy. Many note that if she were a real woman her dimensions would cause her to both look odd and trip incessantly. Some are pleased with her ambition but get angered that she is still all about flash and beach houses. It seems the one consistent thing about her is her staying power.

A few months ago, NPR did a story about Mattel’s attempt to once again re-envision her. Many lauded the new Barbie and Barbie’s friend choices. Some however remarked that making a larger Barbie may cause a child to think it’s ok to not worry about the health effects of obesity. Yep, as mentioned –there is no pleasing everyone. I personally, think the changes are rather positive. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/02/05/465317939/roundup-heres-what-people-are-saying-about-barbies-diversity-makeover

Barbie all started (came to light, was born, or however else we can describe her existence) when Ruth Handler noticed her daughter giving her paper dolls adult jobs and roles. Actual dolls that she did have didn’t have adult-bodies either. Her husband Elliot, a co-founder of Mattel and Mattel’s directors didn’t really think highly of Ruth’s adult-doll for kids, invention idea.

In 1956, on a trip to Europe, Ruth saw a German doll called ‘Bild Lilli’ that was an adult doll based on a comic strip character. It was first sold to adults but a year prior became a popular children’s toy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie

Long story short, Ruth went back to Mattel and showed them some of these dolls and expressed that if Germany could make something like this, so could America. Mattel agreed and started making dolls that were different, but similar. Mattel bought the company that made the German Lilli doll, stopped making the doll and made Barbie instead, and licensed out the use of Lilli’s design to other companies for fees.

Louis Marx and Company sued Mattel in March 1961. After licensing Lilli, they claimed that Mattel had “infringed on Greiner & Hausser’s patent for Bild-Lilli’s hip joint, and also claimed that Barbie was “a direct take-off and copy” of Bild-Lilli. The company additionally claimed that Mattel “falsely and misleadingly represented itself as having originated the design”. Mattel counter-claimed and the case was settled out of court in 1963. In 1964, Mattel bought Greiner & Hausser’s copyright and patent rights for the Bild-Lilli doll for $21,600.[5 b https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbie

There have been several other issues, settlements, controversies, PR nightmares, lawsuits, and some combination of all of these. Now we know why Barbie and Ken spend time at the beach relaxing after a stressful year. One of the most recent and notable IP controversies started in the year 2000 when Carter Bryant, a Mattel Design Team employee pitched his idea for “Bratz” dolls to MGA (a competing toy company). Because the company loved the idea and gave Bryant a contract, he quickly after signing quit his position with Mattel.

If you have more time and/or interest, you can read this entire story at: http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2011/04/article_0006.html

Essentially numerous lawsuits occurred after Bratz became extremely popular on after a short time on the market.

“The jury awarded damages of $20 million against MGA and $10 million against Larian [Chief CEO of MGA] in each of three causes of action — intentional interference with contractual relations, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of the duty of loyalty.

They also found that MGA owed Mattel $6 million for copyright infringement, while Larian owed $3 million in distributions he’d received from Bratz-related sales, and MGA Hong Kong owed $1 million.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26410627/ns/business-us_business/t/mattel-awarded-million-bratz-lawsuit/#.V8Rwr4-cGUk

All in all it’s important to do intellectual property searches, own and protect intellectual property rights, and to defend as necessary, and infringements. Call a gentleman or doll at Mohr IP Law today.

Just for you and the enjoyment or non-enjoyment of your co-workers-The Aqua “Barbie” song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyhrYis509A

Barbie Patent

 

 

 

 

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Thank You Air-Conditioning Inventor(s)-We Appreciate You

Many Portlanders don’t have air conditioning in their homes and rightfully so. Until the last few years, summers in Portland were warm, but not scorching. The past few summers have shown high temperatures especially in the July and August months. Last week there were three heat records broken three days in a row.  “Thursday’s 99 degrees was the hottest in the history of August 18ths in Portland. Friday’s 100 followed suit. Saturday also broke 100 degrees, rounding out the streak.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/08/portland_breaks_heat_records_t.html

Those who don’t have air-conditioning in their homes are surely grateful for their offices that do and large shopping malls. There are people who literally go to grocery stores to walk the isles just to breathe in cool air before heading home to sleep sin clothes, on top of the covers of their bed.

Modern air-conditioning was invented in 1902 in Buffalo, New York by Willis Carrier. An engineer at the Buffalo Forge Company, Carrier was tasked by a publishing company (Sackett-Wilhelms) to help them with ‘summer issues.’  When it got extremely hot outside, the inside of the press also became hot. Anything printed became wrinkled, runny, and a straight-up mess.

“Carrier’s invention controlled not only temperature but also humidity. [He] used his knowledge of the heating of objects with steam and reversed the process. Instead of sending air through hot coils, he sent it through cold coils (filled with cold water). The air was cooled, and thereby the amount of moisture in the air could be controlled, which in turn made the humidity in the room controllable.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_conditioning

Carrier was a forward-moving agent of this process but not the only one involved. The history of air conditioning has quite the timeline. While learning about this topic I found various timelines but the most thorough one (and hoping most reliable) is one compiled by The US Department of Energy. On the timeline which is pretty chill, it makes 1851 the year of air-conditioning’s beginning-the year when mechanical refrigeration took shape. Essentially without refrigerator and heater knowledge we may have never had air-conditioning. Some timelines took it even further back then this-attributing Ben Franklin and his electricity experiments and findings around the year of 1740 to air-conditioning we know and love.

http://energy.gov/timeline/history-air-conditioning

Just like any great product there are variations and developments. The air-conditioning intellectual property world is vast. However, the most historical/forward-moving patents for air-conditioning can be narrowed down to about 5.

Title Primary Class Description Inventor Assignee Issue Date Patent No.
Improved Process for the Artificial Production of Ice 62/66; A01H 5/02 (20060101) Ice-making machine John Gorrie ___ May 6, 1851 US8,080
Humidifier or Air Moistening Apparatus 261/16 An apparatus to add moisture to Cramer’s textile mill in order to make textiles easier to process. Cramer also coined the term “air conditioning”. Stuart W. Cramer ___ December 20, 1904 US778,172
Apparatus for Treating Air 96/356 The world’s first spray-type air conditioning equipment. It was designed to humidify or dehumidify air, heating water and cooling. Willis H. Carrier Buffalo Forge Company January 2, 1906 US808,897
Method of Humidifying and Controlling the Humidity and Temperature Thereof 236/44C Air conditioning system with dew-point control Willis H. Carrier Buffalo Forge Company February 3, 1914 US1,085,971
Air conditioner for vehicles 62/151 Vehicle air-conditioning system: the Thermo King. Joseph A. Numero; Frederick M. Jones Thermo Control Company December 1, 1942 US2,303,857

From: http://patent-invent.com/patents/air_conditioning_patent.html

Articles like, “Surviving the Summer without Air Conditioning” or “Today’s Hot Question: Can You Live Without Air Conditioning” have made their way all over newspapers and the internet. Granted clean water and food and shelter are high up there, but air-conditioning has become up there in our must-haves. Maybe 10-15 years ago it would have sound like a ‘first world problem’ but today it’s, “If there’s no air-conditioning there then I’m not going.” http://tacticalintelligence.net/blog/surviving-the-summer-without-air-conditioning.htm and http://johnjanedoe.com/can-you-live-without-air-conditioning/

Let’s take a moment to thank all of the inventors who contributed to air-conditioning as we know it. Attorneys at Mohr Law don’t blow out any more hot air. They are as smart as they are cool. Contact us today for all your Intellectual Property Law needs. Maybe you’re the next best thing since sliced bread, or air-conditioning.

 

Willis-Carrier-Inventor-Air-Conditioning

Picture from:

http://www.carrier.com/carrier/en/us/about-us/willis-carrier/

From: http://www.kaodim.com/blog/2015/02/25/8-coolest-vintage-air-conditioner-ads/

 

 

 

 

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Everything is Awesome Including Legos and Blogs

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, my brother and I dumped bins of legos on the floor and made exciting projects, and quite the mess. Despite my Mom or Dad stepping on a lego or two barefoot or our dog realizing that plastic is not as tasty as a rawhide chew, playing with legos was phenomenal. Scratch the ‘was.’ It is still one of the most amazing things to exist

Even though I went from school projects to work projects and playing house to managing house, I’m 100% certain you could still put a lego set or giant bin of legos in front of me and I would be occupied for hours. Maybe you full-heartedly agree. Regardless, think about this-despite the popularity of the original Nintendo sets all the way to today’s Pokemon Go craze-Legos are still one of the most used and requested toys.

Lego is potentially an all-encompassing word that implies both singular and plural like ‘fish.’ Multiple legos would be ‘lego bricks.’ Just like we are still calling all tissues Kleenex and told to Xerox things when making copies on non-Xerox machines, I’ll give you a pass.

The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen. The word ‘lego’ is derived from the Danish words “leg godt” which means “play well.” The company is proud of its history of not only being named “Toy of the Century” twice, but that despite an age of corporate buy-outs and third-party management, ownership has passed from father to son and now to Kjed Kirk Kristiansen, a grandson of the founder. http://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/lego-group/the_lego_history

Despite the founding of the group in 1932, it wasn’t until 1958 that the first plastic interlocking bricks we know were made. Prior to this the small toy shop in Billund, Denmark made wooden toys, stepladders, and ironing boards.” Even before the plastic bricks we now know, the shop had major grown in 1948 when it grew from a few people to 50. At this time, made toy ducks, clothes hangers, a ‘Numskull Jack on the goat’  (whatever that is), wooden blocks, and a plastic ball for babies. http://history1900s.about.com/od/1950s/qt/lego.htm

It seems like 1947 changed the life of the company forever:

 LEGO bought a plastic injection-molding machine to produce plastic toys one of which were “automatic binding bricks” produced in 1949…in 1953 these bricks were renamed LEGO Bricks. In 1958, they changed shape to look like legos we know today. By the early 1960s, LEGO had gone international, with sales in Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany, and even Lebanon. In 1964, for the first time, consumers could buy LEGO sets…” http://history1900s.about.com/od/1950s/qt/lego.htm

You may be asking—what about intellectual property? How did the company say “Lego my legos” or something similar? In 1958, Kirk Christiansen Godtfred and his attorneys contacted Mohr IP Law (I’m just kidding-we weren’t around then) to file a patent for “Toy building brick.” You can see the patent here: http://www.google.com/patents/US3005282.

In 1961, Godtfred and his company were awarded their first U.S. Patent. The design called for “hollow rectangular bricks with studs on top and a round hollow tube on the bottom. The LEGO brick was “patented not only in Denmark and the United States, but in many European countries and even some African countries.” http://lego.wikia.com/wiki/Lego_Patent. As you can imagine, over the years there were numerous related patents filed and awarded for things such as the lego man (there are now lego women too as there should be)

http://boingboing.net/2011/10/21/expired-patent-of-the-day-lego.html

Everything was awesome in the LEGO world for quite some time until 1978. In 1978, 20 years after LEGO’s main/major patent was awarded, it had expired. A few years later, Tyco Toy Company started making “Tyco Super Blocks” and put out ads saying, “Which part is Lego? If you can’t tell the difference, why pay more?”

LEGO new their patent expired but decided their own choice was to file copyright and/or trademark claims around other toy companies using generic plastic building bricks hoping that numerous cased in several countries would decide that nobody could make LEGOS except LEGO. https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-effect-of-LEGO-losing-its-patent

LEGO would have been successful had they been the first to create plastic building bricks but it turned out that there was a prior similar plastic brick called “Kiddicraft bricks.” The long and the short of it is that other companies did not have to stop making LEGO like bricks.

https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-effect-of-LEGO-losing-its-patent

People still buy LEGO as a preferred company even though others making similar products exist. But don’t feel bad for LEGO. They discovered licensing and movies and licensing for movie merchandise. And then sets related to the movies. So everything was and is still awesome.

At Mohr IP Law we know all things intellectual property. We have filed both United States and International Patents. Whether you own a toy shop in Denmark or have a two-car garage housing your inventions, we can help you step by step, brick by brick.

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Lawyering about Olympic Intellectual Property Matters Could be an Olympic Sport

In a fascinating article, Marianne Wiithrich, Trademark Senior Legal Counsel of the International Olympic Committee, poetically explains that Olympic logos and pictures are not just logos. The intellectual properties are “…the visual ambassadors of Olympism… The five interlocking rings represent the coming together of five continents and symbolize the Olympic values: Excellence, Respect and Friendship.” http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2016/04/article_0004.html

Olympic intellectual property is protected by Rule 7 of The Olympic Charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Protected property includes the Olympic symbol as well as the Olympic flag, motto, anthem, identifications (such as “Olympic Games” and “Games of the Olympiad”), designations, emblems, the Olympic flame and torches.http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2016/04/article_0004.html

The International Committee is international, the Olympics this year are in Rio, and I live in the U.S. I know I know…it’s a bit confusing. After doing a bit of research I learned that The United States Olympic Committee is one of 204 National Olympic Committees and 174 National ParaOlympic Committees within the International Olympic and Paralympic Movements.“The USOC was reorganized by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, originally enacted in 1978. It is a federally chartered nonprofit corporation and does not receive federal financial support (other than for select Paralympic military programs). Pursuant to the Act, the USOC has the exclusive right to use and authorize the use of Olympic-related marks, images and terminology in the United States. The USOC licenses that right to sponsors as a means of generating revenue in support of its mission. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Olympic_Committee

Why is this important and how does this relate to intellectual property? Well recently, the United States Olympic Committee made it clear that businesses can’t use any of the following: Olympic, Olympian, Team USA, Future Olympian, Gateway to gold, Go for the gold, Let the games begin, Paralympic, Pan Am Games, Olympiad, Paralympiad, and Pan-American. http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/02/the-us-olympic-committee-is-banning-retweets/#ixzz4GsH47wG They were serious enough to start banning retweets (maybe they should help with our presidential nominees’ tweets).

In a Daily Caller article, author Ted Goodman explains that many businesses and brands don’t have an agreement with the United States Olympic Committee but often use the games for their own purposes. There are sponsors, non-sponsors, businesses that create products specifically for the games approved by the both the USOC and IOC, businesses that don’t but help sponsor or qualify athletes for the games, etc. New Balance and many others were rightfully confused. Not an official USOC or IOC sponsor, they did have 70 of its athletes (who work with the brand) qualify for the Games. They expressed their frustration by making this statement to ESPN:

“We find the IOC’s Rule 40 extremely frustrating and challenging to work with as a brand which wants to celebrate the many amazing achievements of our hard-working global athletes…It is also unfortunate that many athletes do not have the freedom or opportunity to support the brands that support them.”From: http://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/17120510/united-states-olympic-committee-battle-athletes-companies-sponsor-not-olympics

As part of a new compromise after businesses became outraged at all the rules and labeling process of sponsor vs. non-sponsor, the IOC, in concert with the USOC, allowed companies that did not have an official relationship to run ads during the Games so long as those ads started running in March and ran continuously through the Games.

http://www.espn.com/olympics/story/_/id/17120510/united-states-olympic-committee-battle-athletes-companies-sponsor-not-olympics

The most shocking may be the word ‘Olympic’ itself. What do you mean? It’s just a word you think as you read this blog. Well the International Trademark Association has been so kind to remind us that the word cannot be used for business unless…

  • Such use is not combined with any of the Olympic trademarks;
  • It is evident from the circumstances that the word Olympic refers to the naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name, and not to the USOC or to any Olympic activity; and
  •  Such business is operated, or such goods or services are sold and marketed, in the state of Washington, west of the Cascade Mountain range, and marketing outside this area is not substantial.

http://www.inta.org/TrademarkBasics/FactSheets/Pages/ProtectionofOlympicTrademarks.aspx

Figuring out who qualifies as a business for these rules, whether to follow U.S. or International rules or both, whether an exception for use is met, or whether a simple tweet is perhaps an intellectual property violation—makes me feel like I am doing rhythmic gymnastics on a small boat in murky Rio water. Know that if you don’t know what is allowed, especially for business purposes, it is always best to check.

At Mohr IP Law, we have attorneys who despite whatever challenges exist go for bronze, silver, or gold when helping clients with intellectual property needs. Contact us today to get the ball or shot put rolling.

 

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