Another year rolls round – 2022 in Trade Marks
As another year rolls round, we can reflect on a challenging period. This year brought us war in Europe, the sad loss of Her Majesty the Queen, and the looming likelihood of global economic hardship. Through it all, however, we have been reminded that the power of ideas is something that must be protected and that, occasionally, it offers a welcome lighter lens on life.
Here are some of the stories that piqued our interest, the trends we saw emerging, and some of the developments at WebTMS during 2022:
Winter: War forces brands to withdraw from Russia
In late February the world was stunned as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military offensive against neighbouring Ukraine, sparking an immediate humanitarian crisis and setting in motion a cascade of impacts on people and economies. With governments worldwide installing far-reaching sanctions against Russia, brands operating in the country responded by pausing, and in many cases completely ceasing, operations. Brands from McDonalds to H&M, Ikea to Visa are among hundreds – if not thousands – of companies that no longer operate in Russia.
WIPO, EUIPO and UKIPO all issued statements condemning Russia’s actions and affirming support for Ukraine. EUIPO announced on 9th March that it had halted all cooperation activities with Russian IP institutions.
CITMA maintains a page with the latest information on sanctions and guidance for firms implementing them.
Spring: The return of INTA… and Cuthbert!
As the days lengthened in the northern hemisphere, the WebTMS team was excited to return to a fully in-person INTA for the first time since the pandemic. We were also delighted to welcome some guests to our blog to share their insight into being trade mark paralegals. CITMA Paralegal representative Kane Ridley; Laura, Monica and Michaela from Bomhard IP; Frankiska Kulke of Bauer Media; and Samantha and Viviene of WebTMS had so much information to share that we also collated a second blog post drawing together Ten Tips and Tricks of the Trade for Trade Mark Administrators.
In the wider world, the legal battle between ALDI and Marks and Spencer over their respective caterpillar-shaped cakes was resolved in November 2021, with the parties reaching an undisclosed agreement. That agreement did not prevent the return of Cuthbert, nor stop ALDI’s repeated trolling of M&S, and the cheeky caterpillar was back on the shelves in June, with the rest of us continuing to wonder just how ALDI gets away with it.
Also in June, news broke that a Russian individual had filed for 100 well-known Western trade marks, from Absolut and Adidas to Heineken and Whiskas. Talking to WTR Magazine, Clarivate IP’s Robert Reading noted that such filings would have cost more than $5000, saying “That’s a lot of money for most people in Russia to be gambling.”
Clint Eastwood also hit the trade mark headlines in June, winning a second case against a CBD product company that had been illegally using his name in metatags to promote their wares online. As the popularity of CBD-based products grows and several countries and US states move to make THC-containing products legal, we took a look at the issues and opportunities in the cannabis market.
Summer: Queens battle for supremacy
Despite the summer weather, it was Christmas that hit the headlines in August as Mariah Carey applied to register “Queen of Christmas” as a trade mark. Her application was promptly opposed by rival holiday music singers Elizabeth Chan and Darlene Love and ultimately Mariah’s team did not respond to the opposition notice, meaning the application did not proceed to registration.
It wasn’t only the Christmas Queendom causing controversy, either. Scottish crime writer Val McDermid shared that she had received a cease and desist letter from the estate of the late Agatha Christie, asking her publishers not to use “Queen of Crime” to describe her.
On the WebTMS blog, we brought together a library of useful resources for trade mark administrators and paralegals covering everything from educational resources and useful social media accounts to productivity tools and industry news sites. It has proved one of our most popular posts!
In a new development, the EU IPO grand board held its first-ever oral hearing in September, where the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs made its request for the invalidation of supermarket chain Iceland’s marks on the basis of descriptiveness and non-distinctiveness. HGF’s Lee Curtis wrote an excellent article about how the case unfolded, including the “surreal argument over whether bananas could be grown in Iceland”.
Autumn: “White lives matter” case raises issues of poor IP reporting and it’s Back To School for WebTMS
Increasingly controversial celebrity Kanye West seemed set on provoking public outrage when he donned a T shirt bearing the offensive slogan “White Lives Matter” during Paris Fashion Week. The incident sparked a stream of largely inaccurate IP reporting when two black activists – radio presenters Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward – claimed they had “bought” the trade mark to “White Lives Matter”, in a bid to prevent Kanye from monetising it. Amid all the confusion, Bloomberg Law’s Kyle Jahner aimed to clarify what trade mark law can and cannot do.
At WebTMS, it was Back To School for Nick March, who is retaking the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorney’s Paralegal course. Nick shared his thoughts on the changes he’s noticed as he takes the course 20 years on.
In November, we attended Europe’s IP Service World conference for the first time and the team enjoyed catching up with industry peers in the beautiful city of Munich. In the US we attended the IP Institute Conference in Dana Point and NDA conference in Las Vegas.
Looking ahead to 2023, trade mark law will get more time in the spotlight, as the US Supreme Court hears the case of Jack Daniel’s against the producers of “Bad Spaniels” dog toys. The defence hinges on the interpretation of parody under the First Amendment and, reports Bloomberg’s Kyle Jahner, “may lead to new rules for trademark use in expressive works – and what counts as such a work.”
These are just a small selection of the stories and activities that have kept the WebTMS team busy in 2022. We’d like to thank all our customers for their continued support and take this opportunity to wish all our colleagues, customers and friends a joyous and peaceful festive season and a successful 2023!