Author: Paolo A. Strino

Generative AI in USPTO Practice: Key Considerations Under the USPTO’s New Guidance

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Anthropic’s Claude, Midjourney and others, have made waves across various industries and the legal profession is no exception. Specialized publications and recent news are replete of examples of professionals in all fields increasingly turning to these tools to streamline their work. However, the use of generative AI in legal practice also raises special concerns about the potential for errors, bias, and ethical violations. In recent high-profile cases, the use of ChatGPT by attorneys came under scrutiny when their court filing were found to contain false statements and references to non-existent legal authorities. In one case, two lawyers were sanctioned for submitting non-existent AI-generated judicial opinions with fake quotes and citations, without properly verifying the accuracy of such citations. See Mata v. Avianca., No. 22-CV-1461 (PKC), 2023 WL 4114965 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2023). This incident highlights the need for lawyers to exercise caution and maintain human oversight when using generative AI tools. Building upon the growing awareness of the pervasive use of generative AI, and its gradual adoption in the legal profession, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has taken steps to address the use of AI tools in practice before the agency. In February 2024, USPTO Director Katherine K. Vidal issued a memorandum to...

The Russo-Ukrainian War’s Implication on Intellectual Property Rights

Following the 2014 so-called “Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity” and the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea, a major escalation of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War occurred in 2022, culminating in the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The invasion triggered Europe’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis since World War II, causing an unprecedented amount of human suffering and countless civilian casualties.

Trademark Modernization Act Becomes Law, Easing the Burden of Trademark Owners to Obtain Injunctive Relief and Curbing Trademark Registrations That Falsely Claim Use of a Mark

As part of the recent COVID-19 relief and government funding bill (“the Consolidated Appropriations Act”), Congress introduced significant changes to U.S. trademark law. The Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (TMA) was signed into law on December 27, 2020. The Act intends to curb trademark registrations that falsely claim use of a mark, addresses the false-use-claim problem by creating new procedures to improve examination effectiveness and efficiency, and promotes remedies designed to protect consumers in trademark cases. The TMA, which becomes effective one year after the date of its enactment, amends the Lanham Act by changing certain procedures in trademark prosecution before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), providing new avenues for canceling fraudulent registrations, and clarifying the standard for obtaining injunctive relief in trademark litigation. The key takeaways from the Act are discussed below. Third-Party Submission of Evidence of Non-Use: Section 3 of the Act provides for third-party submission of evidence during examination of an application for federal registration of a trademark. In particular, codifying the practice of Letters of Protest, Section 3(a) allows third parties to submit to the USPTO certain evidence relevant to the examination of a trademark application for consideration in deciding whether a trademark registration should be issued. Relevant evidence can relate to any ground on which an examiner...

Supreme Court Invalidates Ban on Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks

In a long-awaited decision, Iancu v. Brunetti, the Supreme Court held – in a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice Kagan – that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The decision completes a trilogy of cases that, in recent years, stirred up significant interest on the interplay between freedom of speech and certain Lanham Act trademark prohibitions. Initially, the constitutionality of the bar against registration of disparaging marks was brought to nationwide media attention through the Redskins case (Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc), previously reported on by Gibbons, which culminated the legal effort by Native American tribes to delineate the term “redskin” as an offensive and disparaging racial slur, resulting in the initial cancellation of the eponymous mark owned by the Washington Redskins. Pending review by the Supreme Court, the Blackhorse case was cut short by another case, Matal v. Tam. In that 2017 decision, the Court struck down a Lanham Act provision that prevented registration for marks that are deemed “disparaging,” thus rendering moot any further review of Blackhorse. Because the Court in Matal had already declared the “disparaging” bar unconstitutional, it comes as no surprise that the Section 2(a) prohibition (15 U.S.C. § 1052(a)) on registration of “immoral or scandalous” matter fared similarly under the scrutiny of...

Reversing the First Circuit, the Supreme Court Holds That Rejection of an Executory Trademark License Does Not Bar the Licensee From Continuing to Use the Mark

In Mission Product Holdings v. Tempnology, the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, held that a debtor’s rejection of a trademark license under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code does not terminate the licensee’s rights to use the trademark under the agreement. Tempnology made clothing and accessories designed to stay cool during exercise, and marketed those products under the brand name “Coolcore.” In 2012, Tempnology gave Mission Product Holdings an exclusive license to distribute certain Coolcore products in the United States and granted Mission a non-exclusive global license to use the Coolcore trademarks. The agreement was set to expire in July 2016. In September 2015, however, Tempnology filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, and rejected the license agreement under Section 365(a). The Bankruptcy Court held that Tempnology’s rejection of the agreement revoked Mission’s right to use the marks. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed. The First Circuit rejected the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel’s view and reinstated the Bankruptcy Court’s decision. The First Circuit reasoned that Congress, in enacting Section 365(n) in 1988, “expressly listed six kinds of intellectual property,” but not trademarks. The First Circuit thus held that trademark licenses are categorically unprotected from court-approved rejection. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, and reversed the First Circuit. Section 365(a) of...

Washington Redskins Must Wait Their Turn for High Court

On October 3, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not take up an appeal by the Washington Redskins regarding the constitutionality of a Lanham Act provision that prevents registration of trademarks that disparage “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” See 15 U.S.C. §1052(a).

Alabama District Court Orders TTAB to Vacate Precedential Decision

Last year’s Supreme Court’s decision in B&B Hardware raised the stakes in opposition proceedings when it stated that TTAB rulings may have preclusive effects in subsequent federal district court litigation. As litigants and practitioners are still assessing the consequences of that landmark decision, an unexpected confrontation took place between the Board and the Federal District.

District Court Issues Opinion on “Fair Use” of Viral Videos

In Equals Three, LLC v. Jukin Media, Inc., the United States District Court for the Central District of California presented an informative “fair use” analysis in a dispute between two media companies over viral videos. The Court’s decision highlights the fact-sensitive nature of the doctrine of fair use. It also clarifies the extent to which a use must be transformative in order to be deemed fair use.

The Hurdles to Register a Scent as a Mark

Registrations of non-traditional trademarks are uncommon, and often discussed only among legal scholars and in academic papers. A recent Wall Street Journal article, however, called attention to a growing trend in trademark law: registration of scents and fragrances. The article describes the efforts of CESI Chemical, Inc., a producer of solvents for the fracking industry, which filed an application to register the orange scent imbued in its chemical additives for its hydraulic fracturing fluid.

TTAB Rulings May Have Preclusive Effects in District Court Cases

In a 7-2 split decision issued on March 24, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) rulings may have preclusive effects in subsequent federal district court litigation. The Court ruled that so long as the elements of issue preclusion are met, it is irrelevant that the TTAB is not an Article III court.