Dawn Ellmore Employment's Blog

IP and Legal Industry Updates


April 2017

Company Chief Executives Now More Aware of Trade Marks Value for Businesses

There are over 55 million active worldwide trade marks with 6 million trade mark applications filed in 2015.  The volume of trade marks applications continues to rise with an average annual growth rate of 7% over the last two years.  The amount of trade mark infringement cases resulting in court action has remained fairly consistent from 2005 to 2015, mainly due to negotiation and settlement deals rather than a reduction in trade mark infringement actions.

A recently published survey conducted by market research company Opinium looked at US, UK, Italian, Spanish, French and German company chief executives’ views on the positive and negative values of trade marks from a brand enforcement and trade mark infringement stand point.

Of the surveyed companies, the findings were as follows:

  • Factors considered most important when applying for a new trade mark included competitive positioning (45%) and whether a mark is “unique” (41%)
  • 20% had a process to actively watch more than 75% of their trade marks, although 50% watched only 26-75% of their marks.
  • 66% had plans to launch new trade marks within the next year.
  • 80% said they would likely launch more trade marks if clearance process were simpler.
  • 53% have taken some form of action against third party infringers
  • 80% believe trade mark infringement of their trade marks is increasing.


Small Brewery Forced to Rebrand Following Trade Mark Dispute Over ‘Moose’ Name

Small US based brewery ‘Mooselick Brewery’ which opened in 2015 was recently forced to change its name to ‘Granite Roots Brewing’ after being accused of trade mark infringement by the much larger Canadian Brewery ‘Moosehead Brewing’ founded in 1867 over the ‘Moose’ name.

Moosehead Brewing sent Mooselick Brewery a cease and desist letter in 2016.  The Canadian brewery objected to the name moose in their brand name as well as in a number of their beer names and the use of a moose image on their label and logo.  As Moosehead Brewing (Canada’s oldest independent brewery) had a history of filing similar trade mark litigation lawsuits to other breweries, Mooselick Brewery decided to rebrand instead of trying to fight the trade mark action.  Although the rebranding was quite costly and involved production of new logos, labels and promotional material it was still cheaper and quicker than waiting to fight the trade mark infringement claim.


Microsoft Patents Advanced Eye Scanning Security System

Microsoft already has security through Windows 10 that allows users to log into devices with their face or their fingerprint.  Microsoft now seems to be taking things further with its recently patented iris recognition technology that could potentially be implemented into future Microsoft devices for enhanced security methods.

The patent filing details how the device will illuminate the eye from multiple angles while a the camera simultaneously captures photos of these different parts of the eye, creating distinct data points allowing it to differentiate a real eye from a photograph of an eye.  This new method of recognition should enhance security by taking extra steps to validate the data presented.

Whilst this patent filing is an interesting technical development it does not mean that it will result in production of consumer technology.


Amazon Granted Patent for ‘on-demand apparel manufacturing’

Amazon was recently granted US patent 9,623,578 for on-demand apparel manufacturing’ which was originally filed in 2015.  The patent reveals a new idea for cutting the cost of making clothes by using computer software to collect clothing orders worldwide and then efficiency fulfilling them (with textile printers, cutters and an assembly line) on-demand centrally in large scale groups of orders according to similar factors e.g. size, shape, fabric type, or delivery location.  The patent also alludes to plans to expand on-demand manufacturing beyond the clothing market.

Amazon has been investing heavily in the clothing sector lately with 7 inhouse fashion brands, US TV fashion advertising and an online “Outfit Picker” tool for prime Amazon members helping people chose what to wear.

Two of the inventors named in the patent are Aaron Barnet and Nancy Liang, co-founders of the 3D printing startup business Mixee Labs, who started work for Amazon in 2015.  More information on the granted patent is available here:


The UK Intellectual Property Office Publishes Corporate Plan 2017-2020

It is now generally accepted that intellectual property (IP) is valuable and important to the UK’s economic well-being with IP essential for innovation and growth.  The UK government aims to make the UK the best place to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and grow a business as well as to protect IP.  Progress is already being made with regards to a landmark voluntary code of practice agreement in place whereby search engines and creative industries help to prevent consumers ending up on infringing websites by decreasing infringing links in online search results.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) recently published its latest corporate plan covering 2017-2020.  The corporate plan outlines six IP goals as follows:

  1. Promoting UK Growth through IP policy
  2. Delivering High Quality Rights
  3. Ensuring IP rights are respected and appropriately enforced
  4. Educating and enabling business to understand, manage and protect their IP
  5. Improving skills and capability of our people
  6. Increasing efficiency and delivering value for money

More information on the UKIPO’s corporate plan can be found here:

How Legal is Memorabilia Containing The Pope’s Image?

There seems to have been a recent increase in tourist souvenirs and other memorabilia containing the representation of The Pope.  Some reasons for this include the great popularity of Pope Francis (the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church) among Catholic people and the easy access to the Pope’s photographs online.  The use of unauthorised images, symbols and official coats of arms fall within the legal scope of trade mark as well as competition law for prosecution in Italy.

Protection of The Pope’s image and holy symbols are reportedly being stepped up after a statement by the Secretariat of State was released warning against unauthorised use and misuse of the image of Pope Francis.  Image right protection is particularly strong in Italy, in fact the law states:

“If the image of a person, their parents, their spouse or their children is used or published outside the cases in which use or publication is allowed by the law, or in such a way as to cause prejudice to the honour or reputation of the person themselves or their said relatives, a judicial authority upon request of the person, can repress the violation and order payment of damages.”

The Secretariat of State has also reportedly hired a law firm to monitor and repress any unauthorised third-party uses of the image of The Pope, sending cease-and-desist letters on behalf of the Vatican.

So it would seem that any memorabilia containing The Pope’s image or other holy symbols without prior authorisation from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome are illegal and should therefore be avoided.


New Method for Valuing Patents Proposed by US University Professors in Published Article

The ability to accurately determine patent value has always been expensive and time consuming to ascertain requiring input from patent attorneys and economists.  An exciting new research article published by two US university professors (Andrew Torrance, the Earl B. Schurtz Research Professor at the KU School of Law and Jevin West, the University of Washington Information School) claim to have found a quick way of assigning patent importance.

The professors’ co-authored recently published article was entitled: “All Patents Great and Small: A Big Data Network Approach to Valuation”.  The article details a study the two university professors undertook using a set of big data provided by the USPTO (covering information about every US patent issued from 1976 to the present). The professors believe the study has resulted in a new and powerful method to evaluate patents using (newly developed algorithms to analyze big data (including patent citations) to instantly determine which patents are the most important.  The results show that litigated patents tend to be much more valuable than those not litigated and that the value of litigated patents tends to rise strongly with the level of court in which litigation occurs.

These methods claim to be able to help patent holders determine the patents are worth protecting, defending as well as being able to identify which patents to buy, sell or license.


Ed Sheeran Settles Copyright Infringement Claim on Song ‘Photograph’

British singer song writer Ed Sheeran was recently reported to have settled a copyright infringement claim against him in the US worth $20m (£13.8m) with no admission of guilt.

The infringement claim centred over Ed Sheeran’s 2014 song called ‘Photograph’ which discusses a long-distance relationship inspired by Sheeran’s own experience of being away from his then-girlfriend while on tour.  ‘Photograph’ was said to have a similar structure to an earlier song called ‘Amazing’.  ‘Amazing’ is a song by British singer-songwriter Matt Cardle (who won X Factor in 2010), released as the third single from his successful debut studio album, Letters, on 19 February 2012.   ‘Amazing’ was co-written in 2009 by Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington.  The chord structures for both tracks were submitted as part of court documents and these revealed that the chorus of both songs shared 39 identical notes.


Will Robots be the Future Disney Character Greeters at Disney World Theme Parks?

Disney recently filed a patent application for soft body robots (US patent 20170095925 entitled “soft body robot for physical interaction with humans”) that could be used instead of humans to greet people in Disney’s theme parks.  The robots would wear Disney character costumes and would move and interact like the animated character they were representing.  According to the patent application the soft body robots would be made up of fluid or air and could feel pressure to either react to a hug from a child or avoid a collision.

Whilst Disney may save money on employment costs by using robots instead of people as their Disney character greeters they would need to be aware of health and safety issues and fully test the new robots.  Whilst this patent seems to indicate an interesting development it does not mean the robots will ever make it into production and utilisation within Disneys theme parks.

More information on Disney’s soft body robot patent application can be found here:


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