English Brand Burberry Files Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against American Retail Giant Target For Claiming Counterfeiting and Trademark Infringement
It isn’t the first and won’t be the last that the Brits and Americans get into an ugly battle. While this might not be on the same level as the Revolutionary War, this legal battle without a doubt is tumultuous.
On Wednesday, May 2nd, in a New York federal court, Burberry filed a lawsuit against Target for selling “blatant reproductions” of Burberry’s iconic check trademark for over a year and have “repeated, willful, and egregious misappropriation of Burberry’s famous and iconic check trademarks.”
Target was given a cease and desist letter by Burberry noting that is had exclusive rights over the checkered pattern. But this did not stop Target from releasing many products with the pattern including eyewear, luggage, and water bottles. Fast forward a bit and Target just released the scarves pictured above, which drove Burberry to file their lawsuit stating,
“the fact that Target continued its unlawful conduct by selling the infringing scarves within months of receiving Burberry’s cease-and-desist letter … demonstrates Target’s intent to continue selling infringing merchandise without regard for Burberry’s intellectual property rights.”
Burberry claims that Target’s scarves are of an inferior quality to that of their own brand adn will ultimately cause confusion amongst customers and customers will likely be misled to buy unauthorized Burberry products. Burberry also claims that since Target has a reputation of collaborating with fashion designers, it’s not difficult to confuse consumers that these are Burberry products.
For more information the case is Burberry Limited (UK) et al v. Target Corporation et al, 1:2018-cv-03946 (SDNY).
It is no exaggeration to say that the magnetic stripe card transformed the world of retail (and financial services). The inventor of the technology, Ron Klein applied for a patent on the technology way back in 1966 – and today he is frankly amazed that the technology has been around for so long.
However, when he invented the technology in the mid 1960’s the concerns that he was addressing were slightly different from the concerns of today’s world. Yes, fraud was an issue, in those days clerks were handed a book of cards that were linked to fraudulent transactions. They had to manually check to see if the card presented by the customer had not been used for any of these transactions. This slowed the checkout time considerably and led to enormous customer frustration.
Klein wanted to automate the system so that salespeople could simply key in a number and get a result – but he thought further than that – what would happen if a computer could read the card itself?
He had tried a number of ways to get the magnetic strip to adhere to the card – but all eventually led to the degradation of the strip – which then became unreadable. He eventually took a variety of glues and other adhesives home with him one evening to continue work. He explained the problem to his wife who had been ironing that day – she suggested ironing the strip onto the plastic card – and this worked perfectly, the heat from the iron was just enough to form a perfect bond between the plastic and the magnetic strip.
Klein patented the idea in 1969. But another company, IBM was working on a different angle. The designers at IBM did not even bother to patent the magnetic strip idea – they wanted to capture the market for the computers and readers of the strips – and the idea paid off handsomely. An engineer for IBM when interviewed in 1990 said that for every dollar that IBM had invested in the strip technology the idea of supplying the background technology of computers and readers had returned $1,500.
The magnetic stripe technology transformed financial services and the retail experience in the United States and later elsewhere in the world. Consumers could quickly and easily make purchases and just as easily fall into debt. By 2016 consumer loans and other credit debt stood at $3.5 trillion.
If you own a business and have a patent, you are probably wondering what happens to your business patent after your company is dissolved. After all, your patent is an important part of what you do. If you lose your patent, you might not be able to stay in the same line of business and your entire future could be ruined. Read on to learn about what happens to your patent when your company dissolves.
The patent creator usually assigns the patent to a company. When a business dissolves, the assets of the company are going to be distributed. If your company already had the patent prior to the company being dissolved, then the patent goes back to the original creator.
If you created the patent and registered it and the company was yours, then you will still own it. The patent always stays with the creator always. A simple way to look at it is that a patent is assigned to a person, not a business. The person can then assign their patent to a company or corporation. This turns the patent into an asset of the company. However, if the company dissolves the patent just reverts back to the person who assigned the patent.
Things can get complicated when a company dissolves and there are so many legal matters that have to be attended to. Things can be difficult to sort out which is why you are going to need legal help when your company is being dissolved. You are going to want to make sure that everything works out the way it is supposed to and that you are able to dissolve the company in the right way.
The patent is likely to be a big company asset so it is important that the patent gets taken care of the right way. When you dissolve a company you are going to be going through a difficult process. It is important to make sure that the patent issues are taken care of. When it comes to the patent, you can’t have any ambiguity. You must get the patent back to the proper person once the business is being dissolved.
You know what they say: you’re not really a company worth any money until someone is trying to sue you. Then again, it can be a stark reminder of how much more bigger companies stand to lose when they make a mistake or don’t look at the details. Maybe they should say that you’re not really a company until you’re too big to prevent mistakes that number way beyond what any one person could count. Is that what happened to Nintendo, though? No patent infringement case is simple–if they were, they probably wouldn’t end up in court.
When it comes to intellectual property, the court is where we go to determine precedent. These are complicated issues with murky, sometimes impossible-to-follow laws, and so it’s up to the judicial system to figure out the difference between right and wrong. In June of 2011, Tomita Technologies International, Inc. filed a claim against Nintendo because it believed the giant had stolen a patent for part of its 3D technology: “Stereoscopic image picking up and display system based upon optical axes cross-point information”, to be exact. Is that an accurate technical description of advanced 3D technology, or was someone on drugs? You decide.
The technology in question was novel because it didn’t require the use of 3D glasses to experience the effect–you know, the kind you find at 3D movies. Although the case description didn’t provide any background on how exactly Nintendo infringed upon Tomita’s creative tech, it doesn’t take a mad scientist to figure it out. Before Seijiro Tomita–a 30 year veteran of Sony until he parted ways with the company in 2002–applied for and was licensed with the patent in question, he showcased the technology in question to the good folks at Nintendo. Subsequent to this demonstration, Nintendo requested a sample.
When Tomita asked for a licensing agreement, that was that. Communication was cut off for nearly a decade.
The court sided with Tomita after both sides presented their arguments. Tomita believes Nintendo knowingly and willfully stole his patent, and Nintendo couldn’t do much to dissuade the judge that it hadn’t. Most damning of all was the fact that four Nintendo developers who were present at Tomita’s original tech demonstration were an integral part of Nintendo’s production of the 3DS handheld. That didn’t look so good.
Tomita’s legal representation wasn’t asking for much, all things considered, if the patent was knowingly and willfully stolen. They wanted just $9.80 of each 3DS that has been sold, and the systems can cost the consumer hundreds.
It’s important to keep an open mind, though. With all the technical details of each case, it can be hard to sort out the truth unless you’re experienced in the field. Even then, it can be rough. Nintendo says that such demonstrations of 3D tech were common when Tomita made his. Who can say if anything really was stolen?
Most of us don’t keep too watchful an eye on the policies of various car companies around the globe, and so many of us might not know the answer to the question of whether or not automakers are in the patent filing business. The short answer is yes, of course they do! Just like any other company, they want their technology to be the very best in the industry, and so they need to protect their property.
In the four year span from 2012 to 2016, the biggest automakers filed a combined 5,000 mobility patents. Most of these were focused on patents involving green or alternative fuel. Electric vehicles and the batteries that help power them are two technologies to watch carefully.
Ford is one car company that isn’t waiting for the future to swallow its profits. The automaker has filed a patent for an autonomous police car that can autonomously issue tickets and even pursue offenders if necessary.
Even though the typical car company will file a large number of patents, the emergence of new industry paradigms is evident. Google, Facebook, and Apple are all big players in the artificial intelligence industry, and that means the gargantuan companies are all filing patents of their own in order to protect the secrets behind their autonomous driving software’s integration with the hardware: cars. These companies have filed hundreds of patents in a relatively short period of time.
In Germany, the opposite seems to be true. The country’s biggest car manufacturers are focused on autonomous driving patents and filing fewer patents for technology involving electric cars. That said, over half of the world’s autonomous driving tech patents come from Germany. These patents were mostly filed by car makers Bosch, Audi, and Continental.
This divergence from the global norm might give Germany an edge when autonomous vehicles become mainstream, but no one really knows for sure. After all, the filing of a patent does not equate to the application of the new technology on which the patent is based. Sometimes, an idea just doesn’t work out!
When deciding to copyright a particular brand or logo, you should probably be aware of copyright infringement laws–and do your best to avoid them. That’s not what happened when someone decided to put an ice cream brand on the market called “Baby Gaga”. Although copyright infringement lawsuits don’t always get filed, your chances of getting sued increase in proportion with how much the other party doesn’t want their own brand associated with yours.
Baby Gaga ice cream is made using real breast milk, and that was apparently the last straw for Lady Gaga and her legal team, who filed a cease-and-desist letter to the U.K. based brand from “The Licktators”.
Many copyright infringement cases are decided based on the likelihood that one brand will be confused with another. In this case, it’s easy to see how Baby Gaga might confuse people or somehow be associated with Lady Gaga. Whether or not it would irk people is a different story.
Baby Gaga ice cream was put on the market twice. Once in 2011, and then again in 2015 when a “Royal” Baby Gaga edition was released. In 2015, Lady Gaga’s lawyer received a snarky response from representatives to The Licktators, who said that they would send complimentary tubs of the Baby Gaga ice cream to Lady Gaga in the hopes that she would “chill out.”
That wasn’t so different from the response in 2011, when she was told that “she’s acting like a big baby who is crying over spilled breast milk.”
Copyright infringement penalties can range from a measly $200 fine to a larger $150,000 fine and jail time. Legal realities and penalties regarding copyright infringement can become complicated, especially when international borders are crossed during a lawsuit. In this case, it would appear that Lady Gaga’s team decided not to take the matter any further than the cease-and-desist letter.
Royalties are a tricky topic. The general rule of thumb is this: if you were involved in the production of a commercial, episode of TV, song, or book, then you’ll likely be paid royalties whenever those products are shared. Often, those royalties are for life. If that episode of TV airs, then you get paid. If a book you wrote is purchased, then you get paid. However, it’s more complicated for that. The band “The Turtles” recently lost a lawsuit against Sirius XM because Sirius had no licenses and paid no royalties.
Sirius XM had played a song of the band’s that had been recorded before 1972. The Turtles proceeded to file a massive class action lawsuit in Florida, California, and New York on behalf of all artists whose songs recorded before 1972 had been played by Sirius XM. Sirius XM proceeded to pay a settlement of $25 million to the class. A lawyer can only do so much.
That settlement is actually pretty low, considering the scope of the case. Federal Judge Darrin Gayles first settled the case in favor of The Turtles, but members of the band, Flo & Eddie, didn’t stop there. The case went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which then requested additional information so they could make a final ruling.
A 1995 federal law stated that licenses must be obtained for songs recorded from the artists themselves for songs recorded after 1972. Flo & Eddie presented their case based on precedent set forth by a long forgotten 1943 case. Because the case was irrelevant in face of the 1995 law, the justices dismissed it as evidence and the previous ruling was reversed to instead favor Sirius XM.
Even though this case will provide new precedent, copyright still expires after a time. For certain types of works, the rule of thumb is the life of an author plus seventy years when a work was published after 1977. This prevents lawsuits like the aforementioned.
Trademark law doesn’t make the process as easy as you might want it to be. Let’s say you have an idea for something big, something important, something that could make all your wildest dreams come true. You have intellectual property, and you’d like to ensure it remains yours. How do you go about protecting it before you can show it off? Is it even possible? What steps can you take to dissuade others from trying to take what’s yours? These aren’t easy questions, but here are the basics of trademarking your idea, logo, or brand the right way.
The marathon from concept to trademark application to trademark licensing can be excruciating, because believe it or not–people do have the same universal ideas. It doesn’t help that the ideas that get trademarked almost always rely on simple foundations. A common shape, a pair of common colors, or a three word phrase you may have heard a hundred times before without even realizing it. Even though you might fail to get it licensed on the first try, first you need a single concept. If you’re making a logo, make a basic sketch of what you’d like. What kind of symbol are you looking for?
When you’ve answered that question, the next step is looking at the trademarks that already exist. Laws stipulate that you can’t copy someone else’s trademark. That much is obvious. But trademark court can also deny your idea if it can be easily confused with an already existing trademark. Don’t worry too much about that. Even if your first idea fails, you have wiggle room. Adjust a couple of things, and voila–you have a whole new trademark possibility. Because actually sifting through the database of existing trademarks is time-consuming and difficult, you’ll probably want a trademark attorney to help you through the process. It’s worth the financial strain at the end of the day, and you might need this kind of professional later anyway.
Common shapes include circles, squares, or stars. Many trademarked logos use animals–or paw prints for example. When you choose an idea that will likely have already been done a thousand ways already, you need to make it visually dissimilar from all the others. A paw print might face in a different direction, have claws or not, or have a different number of pads, different shapes, and different colors. A lot of clawed paw prints use cats as the animal blueprint, but the University of New Mexico went a different route and used a wolf instead. Take your time and be creative.
Apply for the trademark license as soon as you can. Just because your idea isn’t ready to go to market, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready with your branding. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that an idea that you had will be stolen. If that happens before you trademark the idea, then you’re out of luck. Once it’s been trademarked, the rules fall firmly in licensed individual’s favor.
Legality regarding copyright infringement can get a little complicated if you’re not familiar with the regulations, but then again most of us don’t need to concern ourselves with those details. The only people who do are those who rely on copyright or trademarking to protect their own products or brands from people who may purposely or accidentally use them. The case of Bowman v. Monsanto was complex, but not too complex that the ruling didn’t make sense.
In the case, Monsanto alleged that Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman purchased soybean crop seeds which he planted and then replanted after the first harvest. According to Monsanto, the product was sold not as a seed but as a commodity. Bowman had no license to plant the product as a seed, which was under copyright. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto, agreeing that Bowman had committed copyright infringement.
The ruling favored the owner of a patented seed by explaining that someone–such as a farmer–can use patented seeds without permission. This might seem obvious, but to farmers it isn’t. Say for example some patented seeds from a neighboring farm spread to your property and start growing. Are you liable for copyright infringement if you then use those seeds to farm on your own land? The ruling says that you are.
Another more complicated situation can develop as well. You may have the patent owner’s permission to use or grow a specific seed, but if that seed or the resulting crop is then modified or engineered to create a new strain for harvest, are you still subject to copyright infringement laws for growing the newer crop? The ruling once again says that you are.
This case was noteworthy for two other reasons: first, the ruling had the potential to force changes in regulatory policy regarding copyright and trademark infringement laws, and to the way farmers conducted business. Second, Justice Clarence Thomas was once a lawyer for Monsanto, raising concerns that his might be a biased opinion. It turned out not to make a difference, since Monsanto won in a unanimous ruling.
At the end of the day, the ruling means this: you can’t take someone else’s copyrighted product, use it to make a somewhat newer product, and claim the newer version as your own. Licensing matters regardless of where you conduct business, whether it be an Indiana or Atlanta. Credit must be due to the original maker, and you’ll be subject to copyright infringement laws if you steal this credit–because the Supreme Court says so.
Here is a video going into some more detail about the case:
Google Patents Car Safety Systems
If you want to know what direction a company is going, one of the items you can look at is what patents they have recently filed for or received. We all know Google as a tech-giant that revolutionized the internet. Since their conception, the company has been expanding at a rapid pace. They have spread their metaphoric tentacles into spaces you wouldn’t have imagined. One of their latest ideas to come to life was the Google home system. In the past, they have also invested in research and development in autonomous vehicles.
Google’s latest investments have once again been in the auto industry. As we previously stated, we have heard of Google doing research on autonomous cars. Since then, Google has filed for a couple of different patents. Both patents are in regards to user safety in the auto industry.
The first patent Google filed for was in 2016. Google developed a sticky concentration that is designed to be applied to the hood of a vehicle. The idea behind the material is that it will catch pedestrians if they are struck by a vehicle. This technology is necessary because sometimes things happen too quickly for a human, or even a computer, to process.
A year later, Google filed for a second patent. The second patent is for a “crumbling” system that will be installed in vehicles. The rationale behind this patent is to reduce the rate of impact of the collision. In turn, this will reduce the force of impact for passengers of the vehicle. How will the car know to start crumbling? Google’s autonomous cars use top of the line data sensors to learn their surroundings. The sensors on the vehicle will determine when a crash is inevitable, the mass of the object or vehicle you are going to collide with, and initiate the “crumbling” system. This technology can be extremely useful in head on accidents.
Why doesn’t Google just stick to what they know? Google, as any other tech company, wants to keep pushing technology forward. They have the budget to afford the best research and development, so why not try to better the world?