Orange County Trademark Attorney® Blog

April 2013 Archives

The Rush of "Boston Strong" Trademark Applications Has Begun

April 30, 2013,

registered R.jpgOrange County - In the aftermath of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon attack, no less than 8 separate trademark applications containing the words "Boston Strong" have been filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The phrase became a popular credo for Bostonians who gathered to show support for one another during a difficult time.

Two of these applications, Serial No. 85,906,569 filed by Born Into It, Inc. for "clothing and accessories" and Serial No. 85,906,495 filed by an Allston, Massachusetts individual for "Imprinting messages on wearing apparel, accessories and mugs" were filed as quickly as two days after the tragedy. The Allston Massachusetts individual has already expressly abandoned that application. Then, on April 20, 2013, three additional applications were filed by individuals in Oxford, Connecticut, New Port Richey, Florida and Brockton, Massachusetts all for apparel items. On April 22, 2013 two more applications were filed and there could be more because it takes about a week for the applications to show up online.

The bad news for those filing a BOSTON STRONG application after April 18th is that the Born Into It Application filed on April 17th will stand in the way of registration. So, that will likely knock out all but one Application filed for BOSTON STRONG COFFEE.

Another problem the applicants face is that the BOSTON STRONG phrase has recently come into widespread usage, so it will likely be very difficult to enforce trademark rights even if the trademark registered. Beyond these issues, most of the applications were filed on an intent to use basis and the applicants likely do not realize that merely printing words on a t-shirt or hat is not considered trademark use by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Instead, a trademark must act as a source identifier, so to be accepted as a specimen of use the trademark must be used on a label or hang tag.

A final issue is that most people will view the rush to register the trademark as in bad taste. The public view of any efforts to enforce rights to the BOSTON STRONG trademark by way of a cease and desist letter or by litigation would likely be viewed in an even dimmer light.

While it is not uncommon for individuals to rush out to file trademark applications involving the newest fad or latest news, as most if not all of these applicants will soon realize it is rarely a good idea.

"See Better Live Better" Trademark Generic According to Bausch & Lomb

April 16, 2013,

eye.jpgOrange County - Bausch & Lomb Inc., well-known optical innovators since the early 1900's, recently filed a counterclaim seeking cancellation of a trademark in a lawsuit in which Bausch & Lomb was sued for trademark infringement. The trademark at issue is "See better Live Better".

The Plaintiff in the lawsuit is Stuart J. Kaufman, M.D., a Florida Ophthalmologist who owns SEE BETTER LIVE BETTER U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3,917,064 for physician services in the field of ophthalmology. Mr. Kaufman is seeking injunctive relief as well as damages from Bausch & Lomb's use of the phrase "See better. Live better" in advertising and on its web site.

The original complaint against Bausch & Lomb was filed in February. In response to being sued, Bausch & Lomb decided to file the counterclaim against Dr. Kaufman asserting that SEE BETTER LIVE BETTER is a generic term in the industry of eye care and therefore the trademark should be cancelled by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. In the counterclaim, Bausch & Lomb states that many others in the eye care industry are using the slogan or similar slogans and therefore "No one party should have exclusive rights to this popular phrase." In its counterclaim Bausch & Lomb states that "See Better Live Better is generic for eye services that help people see better so that they can live better."

While it may be a stretch to say that the trademark is inherently generic, Bauch & Lomb can still be successful in cancelling the trademark if it can prove that it is in widespread use. Examples of trademarks that became generic over time are ASPIRIN and CELLOPHANE. To support its claim that the trademark has become generic, the counterclaim lists many other uses of the trademark including uses by ophthalmologists that allegedly used the slogan prior to Mr. Kaufman. This is somewhat of a position pill argument in that Bausch & Lomb is arguing that it also is not entitled to trademark protection in the slogan. Considering this, it may be advisable for Bausch & Lomb to cease use of the phrase regardless of the merits of the claim.

Dr. Kaufman is accusing Bausch & Lomb of "reverse confusion." In other words, he is alleging that the public will believe that Bausch & Lomb is the true owner of the trademark which will lead the public to believe that Mr. Kaufman is the infringer rather than Bausch & Lomb.