Trademark Maintenance During Business Interruptions

Trademark Maintenance During Business Interruptions
Elizabeth Sewell

During this unpredictable time, we have a few practical trademark maintenance tips that could save “future you” time and money. Foundationally, trademark rights are maintained via use of the mark in commerce. For federally registered marks, this use is evidenced in maintenance filings during the lifecycle of the trademark. However, use in commerce may be difficult, if not impossible, during pandemic-related shutdowns. Typically, periods of non-use of a mark can leave a trademark owner without evidence to support a registration’s maintenance filings and may also leave a trademark vulnerable to claims of cancellation or abandonment.

The good news is that the Lanham Act, the law governing federal trademark rights, has a built in safeguard that allows owners to avoid unnecessary and unwanted results in light of unforeseen events, like, for example, global pandemics…

In the event that you have a U.S. Trademark Office maintenance filing due in the coming months, our team is ready to assist you. Just as important, trademark owners that may not have maintenance filings due, but who experience interruptions in operations, should note the following for their records:

  1. The date that use of the mark stopped (or your “non-essential” business had to cease operations);
  2. The approximate date when you hope to resume use (or resume operations); and
  3. Documentation of the facts that lead to non-use (for example, an order from local or state government) and affirmation that you intend to use your trademark when those special circumstances are relieved. (37 C.F.R.§2.161)

We recognize that the health and safety of your family and community is your top priority during this difficult time. We will do our part to help you focus on what matters most by providing our expertise on the path forward for your business.

For further information regarding your trademarks, please feel free to contact us.

 

2020 Update: Data Privacy Laws in the United States

2020 Update: Data Privacy Laws in the United States
Courtney Reigel

After the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in 2016, the world watched to see whether the United States would adopt a similar data privacy law at the federal level.  While U.S. lawmakers, the tech industry, and consumer advocates have been working towards a federal data privacy bill, Congress has yet to pass, or even seriously consider, such legislation.  However, a federal law may finally be on the horizon – two data privacy bills have been introduced in the Senate, and a bi-partisan bill is currently being developed by a House committee.  In honor of Data Privacy Day, celebrated internationally on January 28, we explore the current status of data privacy laws in the United States.

In the absence of a comprehensive federal law, numerous states across the U.S. have passed their own data privacy legislation, including, perhaps most notably, California.  The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”) became effective on January 1, 2020, creating new obligations for covered businesses regarding privacy notices and the handling of California consumers’ personal information.  The CCPA only protects Californians’ personal information but may apply to companies that do business in California even if they are not physically located in the state.  Businesses continue to scramble to understand and comply with the CCPA, which is only one of many state and industry-specific laws forming the current patchwork of data privacy laws in the U.S.

However, a federal solution may be on the horizon.  In November 2019, two data privacy bills were introduced in the Senate – the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) and the United States Consumer Data Privacy Act (CDPA).  The bills share many similarities, including enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission, and would provide individuals with new rights regarding their personal information.  However, COPRA (introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.) and the CDPA (introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.) vary on some important points, leading many to wonder whether either bill could make it through Congress.  For example, COPRA would preempt only state laws that expressly conflict with the Act, leaving state laws that provide additional protection to consumers intact, whereas the CDPA would preempt all state laws regarding data privacy (except for data breach notification provisions), including the CCPA.  COPRA would also allow for an individual private right of action, similar to the CCPA, while the CDPA would not.

Additionally, the House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released an initial draft of a bi-partisan data privacy bill.  Bi-partisan support will be critical for Congress to enact a federal data privacy law, but the initial House bill does little to reconcile the differences between the two introduced Senate bills.  Further, while this federal legislation is pending, numerous states are actively considering data privacy bills themselves.  Specifically, multiple states are in the process of considering data privacy legislation mirroring the CCPA.  In other states, such as Virginia (where the Virginia Privacy Act was introduced earlier this month), representatives have pulled provisions from the CCPA as well as the GDPR to create a more tailored bill for their state legislature to consider.  With many states in their legislative sessions and various federal bills pending, 2020 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for data privacy in the United States.

Recording Trademark Registrations with U.S. Customs

Every year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processes millions of cargo containers passing through the over 300 ports of entry into the United States.  CBP examines the imports, searching for – among other criminalities – violations of intellectual property rights.  The agency’s inspection process results in the annual seizure of thousands of imported counterfeit and infringing goods.

Trademark owners may not be aware of the major role CBP has in policing the infringement of intellectual property rights by foreign-sourced products.  In order to reap the benefits of the agency’s enforcement actions, trademark owners should consider recording their U.S. trademark registrations with CBP.  The process of recording a trademark is inexpensive and relatively quick, especially in comparison with civil litigation.  Moreover, recording trademarks with CBP may be an effective method of deterring, and discovering, potential infringements.

In order to record a mark with CBP, a trademark owner must have a federal registration for the mark on the U.S. Trademark Office’s (USPTO) principal register.  Trademarks on the USPTO’s supplemental register, common-law marks, or state-registered trademarks may not be recorded with CBP.  In addition to submitting an application and a filing fee ($190 per mark, per class), applicants may provide supplementary information and/or documents to assist CBP with enforcement.  For example, trademark owners have submitted “product guides” with information about identifying legitimate marks or infringing goods.

Trademarks approved for recordation will be added to CBP’s national database of protected marks (and copyrights, which may be recorded with CBP as well).  Having a trademark included in this database is a significant benefit of recordation.  CBP agents refer to the database to enforce intellectual property rights, and inclusion in the database ensures that CBP is aware of a mark.  The public has access the CBP database as well, which may deter potential infringers who can easily check to see which marks are being actively protected.

CBP may seize and detain goods which potentially infringe a trademark owner’s rights and which have been recorded with the agency and included in the database.  If CBP seizes/detains goods which may infringe a recorded trademark, the agency will contact the trademark owner and can send the owner photographs or samples to assist with identifying infringement.  Therefore, while recording a mark with CBP ensures that the agency is aware of a trademark owner’s mark and that the agency will alert the owner of potential infringements, trademark owners themselves are also responsible for assisting CBP with enforcing their rights.

Owners of international trademark registrations may record their marks with foreign countries as well.  For example, owners of Chinese trademark registrations may record their mark with the General Administration of Customs in China, which examines imports and exports for potentially infringing goods.

In summary, recording a trademark with CBP establishes a partnership between trademark owners and the agency that may help owners discover and reduce foreign infringements.  Please contact us with any questions regarding the recordation of your registered trademarks and/or copyrights with CBP.

-Courtney Reigel, Esq.

Pam Gavin Interviewed by CBS 6

Thanks to SonaBank P.O.W.E.R, on Wedesday April 10, 2019 our very own Pam Gavin was interviewed by CBS 6’s Jessica Noll. Tune in to the video here, to learn more about Gavin Law Offices, Pam’s journey to where she is today and to talk about the importance of having a great team.

https://wtvr.com/2019/04/10/sonabank-p-o-w-e-r-believing-in-the-power-of-you-7/

Pam Gavin began her legal career at two “mega” firms before building her own firm Gavin Law Offices, PLC – we’re sitting down for a second cup with Pam to learn more about her firm, what drives her and how the Sonabank POWER program helped her to achieve it. Jessica Noll – WTVR CBS 6 #vtmsecondcup #vtmsecondcupwithjess #sonabank #sonabankpowerprogram

Posted by WTVR CBS 6 News on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

 

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Trails & Shores

 

Meet Gavin Law Offices Client: Meade Fitzgerald, Owner of Trails & Shores.

Trails & Shores is an outdoor-themed apparel company established in 2016. They are a team of outdoor enthusiasts with professional experience in the design, print, and apparel industry.

Like many business owners of creative products and services, Trails & Shores works closely with the Gavin Law Offices team for their intellectual property legal needs, specifically for their copyright and trademarking. In asking Meade why he chose to work with Gavin, he said, “Gavin really cares about who they are serving. Gavin found a way to protect my marks in a way that I had never thought of. It has been a learning experience for me, but they have taught me everything I need to know along the way as my business has continued to grow. I would highly recommend Gavin Law Offices to other small businesses and entrepreneurs, especially in the creative fields, to handle any and all intellectual property and business related legal services.”