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By Philip Zies

I recognize that a trademark holder has to aggressively defend its mark in order to preserve its mark.  I also understand the motivation to stop counterfeiters from selling knock-offs when each purchase of a knock-off bag likely deprives you of hundreds of dollars in profits, had the knock-off purchaser actually bought one of your authentic bags from you instead. 

We have all seen knock-off Coach purses offered for sale on Canal Street in New York City, or at the Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas, or on Ebay.  But, does that mean that EVERY Coach purse offered for sale in one of those venues MUST be a knock-off?  Coach seems to think so. 

According to a blog post on the World Trademark Review, Coach’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist letter to Gina Kim, a seller on Ebay, demanding that she stop offering for sale her used Coach bag, apparently alleging the bag was counterfeit.  Since the bag was authentic, not counterfeit, Kim sued Coach, Inc. and Coach Services, Inc. for violation of her State’s Consumer Protection Act, Misrepresentation of Trademark Infringement, Defamation, and Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy. 

Who knows whether Kim will prevail on any of her claims, but what she has certainly won is my admiration for standing up to this week’s IP Bully candidate, Coach. 

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By Philip Zies

Remember when Prince, the Twin City tunester who partied like it was 1999, changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol?  Well fast forward to 2011, and move over to the home of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, and I think you will agree with me that Starbucks, the maker of Starbucks Coffee, may have spent a little too much time laughing in the Purple Rain.  

It is being reported that Starbucks Coffee Company, who since 1971 has been selling coffee, has decided to remove its name, “Starbucks”, and its primary product, “Coffee”, from its new logo it plans to begin using in March, leaving only an image of a mythical Siren to operate as the logo for the Seattle-based company.  While this isn’t the first time Starbucks has changed its logo (it’s actually the fourth logo for Starbucks) it is the first time that Starbucks has removed its name from the logo. 

Until the most recent logo change, there were three constant components in Starbuck’s logos:  the name “Starbucks”; an identification of the primary product “Coffee”; and the image of the Siren, or at least parts of the image.  With each successive logo, Starbucks has magnified, and modified, the image of the Siren; perhaps to de-emphasize certain anatomical aspects of the young lady/fish. 

Why would Starbucks remove its name from its logo?  Is it unhappy with its record label?  Will it, like the Gap, give in to consumer protest and revive its more familiar, and more descriptive, logo?  Why would it throw away 19 years of customer recognition for a mark that identifies the source of Starbucks’ goods and services?  Go ask Alice. 

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By Philip Zies

At this time of year, with half the country nearly frozen, nothing warms the heart more than a story about a holiday miracle.  Leave it to an article from the Los Angeles Times, a publication from the fully-thawed half of the country, to provide just such a story.

The setting for the holiday miracle?  The Orange County, California jail.  The recipient of the holiday miracle?  Orange County jail inmate, Malcom Alarmo King.  It seems that King was unhappy with the normal menu offered inmates at the on-site dining establishment.  Perhaps inspired by his surroundings, where metal poles, the airing of grievances, and feats of strength abound, King turned to the fictitious holiday Festivus, from the television show “Seinfeld”, for inspiration.

Claiming Festivus as part of his religious beliefs, King was able to convince a Judge to Order that King receive Kosher meals, and double portions at that.  For months King received double portions of Kosher meals, in place of the normal jail fare, until jail officials concluded that double portions were not medically necessary and that King did not hold a sincere religious belief that required Kosher meals.  King was released from jail in October.

What is Festivus and what about a Festivus for the rest of us? A history of Festivus, as explained by Frank Costanza, can be found here.

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By: Philip Zies

While perusing a news publication, I came upon an article that made reference to an until-then-unknown variant of the troll family, the fabric troll.  We are all, by now, familiar with not only the patent troll, but also the copyright troll.  The fabric troll, however, is a new one to me. 

Upon review of the Compendium of Intellectual Property Monsters, it became clear that a new entry for the fabric troll was necessary.  I began drafting such an entry, but found I had significantly more questions about the fabric troll than I had answers.  Clearly these questions about the fabric troll had to be answered before a meaningful entry to the CIPM could be made. 

One such unanswered question about the fabric troll was, is the fabric troll a species unto itself, or is it a sub-species of the copyright troll?  While many studies on this and other issues are yet to be conducted, I have a theory that the fabric troll is a sub-species of the copyright troll. 

We are in search of infringing fabric...

Apparently there are individuals and/or entities out there that are acquiring copyrights on fabric patterns for the sole purpose of suing perceived infringers of the copyright-protected fabric pattern.  I can only guess that these fabric trolls have highlighted hair, manicured nails and matching accessories. 

We’ll keep you posted.

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By: Philip Zies

This is where we eat pancakes.

An article published by The Kansas City Star reports that IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, recently sued IHOP, the International House of Prayer, for trademark infringement and trademark dilution.  The 52-year old purveyor of pancakes filed its lawsuit against the 10-year old ministry in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last week after the Kansas-based religious group started serving food at some of its branches. 

This is where we pray for pancakes in the end times...

While it may seem odd to you that the all-hours breakfast place is doing battle with Midwestern men of the cloth, if you look a little deeper you’ll see that the pancake place is simply trying to protect six registered trademarks, including the acronym “IHOP”, used in connection with 1,476 restaurants operated across the country.  According to a spokesman for the home of “Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity,” the suit was filed only after the church mission refused repeated requests to stop using the “IHOP” acronym. 

The International House of Pancakes started using its four-letter acronym in 1973 while the International House of Prayer started preparing for the “end times” in 2000.  Some might consider this pretty damning evidence against the doomsday sentinels, but they are purported to have friends in high places.  Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer, claims to have been to Heaven…..twice.

I hope you enjoyed this pun-riddled article as much as I enjoyed writting it.


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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

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