It's not unusual for California business owners to want to have something truly unique about their brand that's also legally protected. The World Intellectual Property Organization reports that the number of trademark application filings has spiked considerably. In 2017 alone, applications jumped 30 percent over the previous year. Because of the rise of trademark application filings, there is greater need to be diligent about screening, clearing, registering and watching trademarks.
While legalized cannabis may present an exciting new business frontier for many entrepreneurs, it can also lead to traditional disputes over intellectual property. United Parcel Service has filed suit against a group of marijuana delivery businesses for infringing its trademarks. In its lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, UPS also claims the companies are engaging in deceptive advertising.
One major California movie studio is being hit with a lawsuit over its upcoming film. Fox is releasing "Alita: Battle Angel," a major science-fiction production directed by Robert Rodriquez, in February 2019. However, Epic Stone Group filed suit on Jan. 30, claiming that it owns the trademark to the phrase "Battle Angel." The Florida company is accusing 20th Century Fox of trademark infringement and unfair competition. It says that it has been selling "Battle Angel" merchandise for over 10 years.
The California-based footwear manufacturer Vans has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Target Corporation according to recent media reports. Vans claims that the retail giant's Camella sneaker copies design elements of their iconic Old Skool shoe introduced in 1977. Court documents reveal that Vans believes the Old Skool design was deliberately copied by Target to improve the market profile of its Wild Fable line or merchandise, of which the Camella sneaker is a part.
Families in California and across the country may face conflicts when business and even intellectual property enter the picture. In one case, relatives of Phyllis Schlafly, the well-known late conservative activist, failed to block a brewery owned by a relative from trademarking their surname. A panel of the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of Saint Louis Brewing LLC, co-founded by a nephew of Schlafly. He applied in 2011 to trademark his last name for his Schlafly-branded beer.
California residents may be aware that the Boy Scouts of America started admitting girls in 2017, but they may not know that this decision has sparked a contentious legal dispute with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. In a federal lawsuit filed in New York on Nov. 6, GSUSA alleges that BSA's branding of some of its offerings as "Scouting" and "Scouts"infringes on its trademarks in a way that damages its brand and confuses the public.
Creators in California rely on registration of patents and trademarks through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to establish their ownership of valuable intellectual property. Stakeholders often use the Trademark Electronic Application System to send in their applications, but a small portion of active applications and registrations have been compromised. The USPTO has issued an alert to warn people about entities making unauthorized changes to applications and registrations. Their goal appears to be switching registration to third-party brand registries.
Even small, independent businesses in California could face trademark infringement lawsuits from major corporations. In one such case, Vogue, the famous fashion magazine owned by Advance Publications, has filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement against a 26-year-old designer and activist who created a line of shirts and other items bearing the words "Black Vogue" in a similar font to the magazine's famous header.
Music fans in California will likely recognize the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan. This famous tune inspired the name of the Heaven's Door brand of whiskey, which debuted this year in collaboration with the famous songwriter. However, the name has also inspired a trademark infringement lawsuit. Heaven Hill, a large distillery, filed a complaint in federal court because the whiskey producer considers the name and logo of Heaven's Door whiskey confusingly similar to its brand.