Play-Doh Scent is Now a Federally Registered Trademark: Why Brands Should Embrace Non-Traditional Trademarks

Did you know you can federally register a scent as a brand? Hasbro, Inc.’s recent registration of the smell of Play-Doh “toy modeling compounds” has highlighted one of the lesser-known brand categories: scents.

The United States defines a trademark as any “word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof…to identify and distinguish his or her goods.” Trademark attorneys usually short-hand this explanation and note that trademarks are source identifiers – something unique that consumers associate solely with one source. Source identifiers can be words (MCDONALD’S), logos (the Nike Swoosh), colors (pink for Owens-Corning fiberglass insulation), packaging designs (the Coca-Cola glass bottle shape), product designs (the Lego person figurine), store layouts (the Apple Store layout and features), motion (the MGM lion roaring), sounds (the NBC chimes), scents (the Le Vian chocolate smell in jewelry stores), and even flavors (the Original Rainbow Cone, Inc. owns a registration for five flavors of ice cream, arranged in a particular order and sold on a cone). In each case, consumers recognize the visual, auditory, or olfactory reference with a specific provider. Continue Reading

Trade Secret Protection Yields to Washington’s Public Records Act

In a shocking turn of events, the Supreme Court of Washington recently ruled in Lyft, Inc. v. City of Seattle, No. 94026-6, 2018 WL 2437513 (Wash. May 31, 2018), that trade secret protection yields to disclosures required under the Public Records Act (PRA).

This hotly debated dispute began after the City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2014 that limited the number of active drivers for transportation networking companies, such as Lyft and Rasier (collectively “L/R”), at any given time. Afterwards, the City and L/R came to an agreement whereby L/R would submit quarterly standardized reports to the City that contained information about each ride, including the percentage of rides completed in each zip code and the pick-up and drop-off zip codes. In response to concerns about the confidentiality of the zip code data, the City agreed that it “[w]ill work to achieve the highest possible level of confidentiality for information provided within the confines of state law.” Continue Reading

Why Food & Beverage Brands Should Care About the Crystal Head Vodka Case

Almost everything about Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head vodka is unique: according to the company’s website, distilled corn and peaches are mixed with “pristine water from Newfoundland,” then the liquor is filtered through semi-precious crystals known as “Herkimer diamonds.” The unique brand story is matched by the vodka’s packaging, a memorable clear glass skull that stands out visually and on store shelves.

With this much effort put behind the packaging and brand, it’s understandable that Globefill Inc. executives (the company behind the Crystal Head brand) were concerned enough several years ago to file a lawsuit against another company producing a spirit in a similar skull-shaped bottle. Globefill was eventually successful in the case, winning an important trade dress case against their competitor. And while a single win in court isn’t always indicative of a larger trend, food and beverage companies would be wise to learn an important lesson of the Crystal Head vodka case: the importance of protecting intellectual property rights known as “trade dress.” Continue Reading

David Brandon Published on Technology Association of Oregon’s Blog: Five Guideposts for Developing a Tax-Conscious IP Strategy

In a post for the Technology Association of Oregon, David Brandon highlights five questions that entrepreneurs, CFOs, and IP managers should ask; each a guidepost to aid the reader in preserving the desired tax consequences and maximizing the value of the reader’s IP strategy. 

To read the full post, click here.

Patent Attorneys from Marger Johnson to Join Miller Nash Graham & Dunn

Our intellectual property team is pleased to announce that seven attorneys from Marger Johnson, a well-respected 32-year-old patent law firm, will be joining our firm’s IP practice on July 1, 2018. We are looking forward to welcoming the following patent attorneys:

Each attorney has extensive experience working in all aspects of patent law, including electronic circuits and hardware, technology, engineering, bioscience, software, and computer arts. Beyond patent strength, they will augment our broad intellectual property practice, applying their varied and well-rounded backgrounds as engineers or former in-house counsel at well-known corporations like Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, Micron Technologies, Sharp Labs America, and Louisiana Pacific.

On behalf of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn’s IP team, we are happy to announce the expansion of our IP practice and look forward to introducing each of our new attorneys and their specific experience in future posts on this blog.