• IP BLAWG

    Taking Candy from a Candy Company

    Beverly A. Berneman
    2/4/20

    If you like Sour Jacks and/or Welch’s Fruit Snacks, a lot goes on behind the scenes for your sugar pleasure. Promotion In Motion, Inc. or PIM holds the formulas and manufacturing process for the sugary snacks as trade secrets. PIM also owns the design of the packaging. Ferrara Pan Candy Co. manufactured and sold the sugar bombs for PIM from 1990 to 2014 pursuant to a confidentiality agreement and license.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Zero is Worth More Than Zero

    Beverly A. Berneman
    1/28/20

    Back in November 2016, this blog covered the case of the trademark, ADD A ZERO, for wearing apparel. The trademark is owned by Christian Faith Fellowship Church (“CFFC”). Adidas, the international sportswear powerhouse, sought to cancel CFFC’s trademark for various reasons. Adidas took on the cause because the USPTO refused registration of Adidas’s trademark, ADIZERO, due to a likelihood of confusion. Adidas argued that CFFC wasn’t using the trademark in commerce because CFFC only sold two items. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held that there is no ‘de minimis’ sale rule and so two sales were enough.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Ignorance Is a Catch-22

    Beverly A. Berneman
    1/14/20

    Some companies have an “ignorance is bliss” policy when it comes to reading patents. The belief is that if you don’t read it, you can’t be accused of knowing about it. And if you don’t know about it, you can’t be accused of willfully infringing on the patent. Willful patent infringement can increase or enhance the damages recoverable by a plaintiff. So a lack of willfulness can change the value proposition of prosecuting or defending an infringement suit. But is an ignorance policy a good idea?

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    ERISA 2019 Hall of Shame

    Andrew S. Williams
    1/14/20

    Doctor X’s various schemes to deprive employees of their plan benefits reduced their lump sum payments by almost one-half! This could leave a lot more money for Doctor X – who also was a participant in the plan.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Fake Influencer Followers Means Real Consequences

    Beverly A. Berneman
    1/8/20

    Influencers are individuals who have authority, knowledge, a position or a relationship that gives them the power to affect purchase decisions of others. Given the relationship between the number of an influencer’s followers and the influencer’s value, it’s no surprise that an enterprising entrepreneur could help influencers increase the number of their followers.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    IRS Announces Painless Retirement Plan Fix

    Andrew S. Williams
    12/18/19

    What can you do if your retirement plan operations don’t square with the provisions of your plan document?

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  • IP BLAWG

    Happy Holidays™ or ®?

    Beverly A. Berneman
    12/17/19

    As the holiday season ramps up, a question arises. Can someone own a holiday trademark? Many have tried with various levels of success. The successful registrations don’t try to corner the market on holiday greetings. Here are some examples.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Do Not Pass Go and Do Not Collect License Fees

    Beverly A. Berneman
    12/10/19

    Qualcomm is a leader in the market of wireless chip connectivity that every cell phone needs. Qualcomm holds patents related to 3G, 4G and 5G networking technology as well as other software. Qualcomm demanded a license fee for every device that connects to a cellular network. In other words, all cell phones. It forced its customers, like Apple, to enter into patent license agreements for Qualcomm’s technology; even if the customer was using a chip manufactured by someone else, like Intel.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Landlord’s Blind Eye Causes Sunglasses Burn

    Beverly A. Berneman
    12/3/19

    Luxottica Group S.A. owns the trademark, Ray-Ban, and its subsidiary owns the trademark, Oakley, for sunglasses. According to Luxottica, International Malls’ subtenants were selling counterfeit Ray-Bans and Oakleys. Luxottica sued the landlords for trademark infringement. The landlords defended the action asserting that they aren’t the infringers; their subtenants are.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Exceptions to Exceptions

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/19/19

    The New Republic magazine published 44 film reviews written by famed film and theater critic, Stanley Kauffmann. The magazine didn’t hire Kauffmann to write the reviews. He wrote them, submitted them and the magazine printed them. The parties never really talked about who owned the articles. They never entered into a “work for hire” agreement.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Uncertified

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/13/19

    USA-Halal entered into a certification license agreement with Best Choice Meats, Inc. As part of the license to use the certification on meats and poultry, Best Choice had to submit monthly production reports to USA-Halal. Three years into the license, Best Choice stopped submitting the reports. USA-Halal terminated the license. Best Choice told USA-Halal that it stopped using the certification mark. Technically, that may have been true. However, Best Choice started using a trademark that looked a lot like the USA-Halal trademark.

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  • IP BLAWG

    That’s Obvious

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/5/19

    TiVo is a television digital recording device (“DVR”). TiVo has search functions that allow the user to search broadcast and streaming television programs and schedule recordings for later viewing. TiVo acquired another company that it spun off as a subsidiary named Veveo. Through the acquisition, Veveo picked up a series of patents, one of which was a digital search system. The patent described the invention as a system for associating characters entered into a search bar with numerical identifiers and linking search targets, such as digital files, with digital combinations. You don’t have to know what that means. Just know that robust search capabilities would allow TiVo to surpass competitors like Comcast.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    ERISA Fiduciary Claim Barred By Employee Release

    Andrew S. Williams
    11/5/19

    The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa granted Bankers Trust’s motion for summary judgment. In doing so, the court determined that the language of the Release was so broad that it included ERISA claims, and that Bankers Trust was protected by the Release as a person “acting on behalf of” Telligen stockholders.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Halloween Goes Bananas

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/29/19

    In 2017, Rasta Imposta sued Kmart for copyright infringement because Kmart was selling a virtually identical banana costume (See Blawg Post dated 10/31/2017). The parties settled. Then Rasta Imposta’s competitor, Kangaroo Manufacturing Inc. started selling a substantially similar banana costume. The founder of Kangaroo had once worked for Rasta Imposta and knew that Rasta Imposta had registered the copyright in the banana costume. But Kangaroo manufactured and sold the banana costume anyway.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    Who Owns A Participant's Personal Information?

    Andrew S. Williams
    10/24/19

    Service providers for 401(k) and other retirement plans require access to personal data on participants including name, age, address, date of hire, compensation and possibly social security number. This data is necessary to allow plan administrators and recordkeepers to properly allocate plan contributions and earnings to individual participant accounts, to prepare participant statements and for income tax reporting purposes.

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  • IP BLAWG

    An Exit Strategy Doesn’t Include Taking Trade Secrets

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/22/19

    Trade secrets have 3 major elements. First, they have to be not generally known or readily ascertainable. Second, the owner of the trade secrets gets economic value from them because they’re not generally known. Third, they have to be the subject of reasonable measures of protection from disclosure.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Punsters Delight

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/15/19

    In two recent cases, trademark holders learned that it was a huge Missed-Steak to sue when puns were involved.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Antitrust and Stealing Trade Secrets Aren’t the Same Thing

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/8/19

    Premier Comp Solutions LLC develops customized panel listings of healthcare providers for workers’ compensation claims. The technology allows employers to contain workers’ compensation costs by ensuring that a chosen healthcare provider complies with local workers’ compensation laws with respect to qualifications, licensing and quality of care. The beauty of the system is that it can be localized by the state where the employee is located. The system was protected as a trade secret.

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  • IP BLAWG

    THE

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/1/19

    That’s not a typo. The subject of today’s blog is THE. THE Ohio State University filed an application to register THE for wearing apparel. According to news sources, Ohio State demands to be called “THE Ohio State University”. Ohio State argues that THE is part of its name. Sports and journalists have often commented on Ohio State’s branding insistence calling it stupid, ridiculous, pompous and arrogant. Ohio State responds to these negative comments saying that it has every right to protect its brand.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Big Little Copyright Lies

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/24/19

    An application to register tells the Copyright Office about you, your work and why you’re entitled to register a copyright. To further this goal, the Copyright Act requires that you include only accurate information in your copyright application. Gold Value International Textile d/b/a Fiesta Fabrics learned the consequences of not following this rule the hard way.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    Retirement Plan Records and the Forever Rule

    Andrew S. Williams
    9/20/19

    Retirement plan retention requirements are pretty clear. The retention lapses that do occur both in the Estate of Barton case and in our experience usually result from business acquisitions where the acquiring business either does not receive or fails to retain the “forever” records of the acquired entity. So, any due diligence checklist in a business acquisition should contain a detailed inquiry about the target’s “forever” records. And yes, you can retain your own forever records electronically in accordance with applicable Department of Labor regulations.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    How will higher property taxes impact lender decisions?

    Donald T. Rubin
    9/10/19

    As a result of the unprecedented assessment increases to commercial and industrial property values in Cook County, how will lenders deal with the resulting impact on their borrowers' tax liabilities? How will they respond to borrowers who claim they cannot meet their lender's call for substantial upward adjustments in their tax escrows? With regard to income producing properties, what happens when loan to value ratios change due to the decline in market values resulting from the affect of additional property tax expenses on the borrower's NOI. A $50,000 increase in property tax expenses, capped at 7%, could diminish the market value of a property by more than $700,000. It's not always that simple, but a decline in market value is the logical consequence of a higher tax bill for both owner/occupants and landlords. And that leads to an additional line of inquiry as to how tenants, and prospective tenants, will respond to a significant increase in their overall rent coming from these potential increases in their property tax liabilities? Will it, or has it already, caused a slow down in both leasing and sales activity? Will prospective tenants, as well as prospective purchasers and lenders, be taking a more cautious approach to making their final decisions going forward? How will lenders ultimately respond to their increased risk as existing loan to value ratios begin to fluctuate? The typical response would be for them to adjust interest rates upward where possible, to account for the sudden increase in risk, and to work to get their loan to value ratios back in synch. How they choose to accomplish this could have significant consequences for the real estate market.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Meme-ification of Pepe the Frog

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/10/19

    Matt Furie describes his popular Internet character “Pepe the Frog”, as a “cool, chill frog dude”. Celebrities like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj have published Pepe the Frog memes.* Online message boards posts fan art featuring Pepe the Frog and calling them “rare Pepes”. Pepe the Frog’s Internet popularity turned into a financial windfall for Matt.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    Cook County Assessor presents gifts to 1100 residential taxpayers in New Trier Township

    Donald T. Rubin
    9/4/19

    New Trier Township is located in Cook County, IL. The entire township was subject to a reassessment in 2019. The Assessor opened the township for appeals on April 29 2019. The Assessor then certified the final assessments for all real estate in the township on August 15, 2019, meaning that he had completed his work for the year and closed his books.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    Apparently No Evidence is Enough Evidence for the Cook County Assessor

    Donald T. Rubin
    8/22/19

    The Assessor proposed a 2019 market value of approximately $1,744,000 for a property. The party purchased the property for approximately $1,150,000 at the end of 2018 in an arm's length, brokered transaction. The evidence tendered in support of the appeal included the following documents:

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