Articles by: Randy Michels

Trademarks For Dog People

Before starting our law firm, we spent several hours brainstorming names. We didn’t want to use the traditional law firm naming convention of using the surnames of the founding partners. As trademark lawyers, we push our clients to select distinctive trademarks. They are the best and strongest trademarks from a legal perspective. So, we wanted to practice what we preach. We’re dog people. And one of the early contenders was Bird Dog. However, we ultimately settled on Trust Tree, which was popularized in this scene from the movie Old School: When discussing sensitive subjects, we would jokingly describe ourselves as […]

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Puppy with a participation trophy

The Supplemental Register – The Consolation Prize of the Trademark World

The "participation trophy" is supposedly a hallmark of youth sports these days. It's often cited as a reason for our young people getting "soft" in a world where only winning and losing matters. My kids are 12 and 9 and play many sports (sometimes it feels like all of them). I've yet to see a single participation trophy in the real world. Maybe the trophy is just a myth, a useful wedge issue for culture warriors. Anyways, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has its own version of a participation trophy. It's called the "Supplemental Register". It's a consolation prize [...]
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Orioles Trademark Magic (Feel it Happen)

Growing up in Baltimore, the Orioles were my first sports love. I first got hooked in 1983 when they won the World Series … coincidentally, the same year the Colts played their last season in Baltimore (Bob Irsay, curse thy name!). The “worst to first” team in 1989 renewed my love of the franchise, and I spent a substantial amount of my remaining childhood years watching the O’s on Home Team Sports. After graduating high school in 1994, I moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt, and my relationship with the team suffered. Those were early Internet days, which made it [...]
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Photo of a puppy with a magnifying glass

Trademark Searching is Dead! Long Live Trademark Searching!

After 23 years, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is retiring its trademark electronic search system. Or, in government speak, the USPTO is retiring TESS. Supposedly, the retirement is not voluntary. TESS relies on a backend system and programming language that will no longer be supported. I don’t know about the backend and programming language, but the user interface has barely changed since its launch. Here’s what TESS looked like in 2001 when I graduated from law school: Here’s what TESS looks like today: So, like Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel, TESS is being replaced by a more modern search tool. [...]
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Photo of Goo Goo Cluster store in Nashville

What a Cluster of a Trademark

Trivia time! Can you name the first candy bar in the United States to feature a collection of ingredients? Hint: It's made here in Nashville. Give up? It's the Goo Goo Cluster. Recently, a friend celebrated his birthday by planning some "tourist in your own town" activities. This included taking a trolley down to the heart of Music City: Lower Broadway. Like many locals, I stopped frequenting Lower Broadway years ago when it transitioned from a quirky collection of honky tonks into a country music-themed mash-up of Bourbon Street and the Las Vegas strip. So, I was curious to check [...]
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Accelerate Your Trademark Protection With The Amazon Brand Registry

In today's digital marketplace, brand owners must safeguard their intellectual property rights. If you sell or plan to sell products on Amazon, enrolling your trademark in the Amazon Brand Registry can be a game-changer. The Amazon Brand Registry helps brand owners protect their trademarks on Amazon. Enrollment gives brand owners access to powerful tools, including proprietary text and image search, and increased authority over product listings with their brand name. The eligibility requirements for enrolling U.S. trademarks in the registry have changed over time. Initially, it was only for owners of registered word marks. Then Amazon loosened the requirements to [...]
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Marketing Masterpieces: How Renaissance Artists Pioneered Modern Marketing

Ciao from Italy! I'm currently on a multi-generational family trip. So what does this have to do with trademarks? Well, during a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I stumbled upon a fascinating connection between Renaissance artwork and early examples of advertising and marketing. Trademarks in Renaissance Art Italian Renaissance painting was not merely focused on sacred themes. Many paintings were used as creative advertisements for the businesses of art patrons. Let's look at two examples that showcase this unique blend of art and commerce. The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano (1423) Commissioned by wealthy merchant [...]
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Image of an X made of blue birds

Rebranding Spotlight: Transforming Twitter into X

After I heard that Elon Musk would rebrand Twitter as X, I did what many nerdy trademark lawyers did: I checked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database for any recent X trademark filings by Twitter or X Corp. I didn't find any, which is not necessarily unusual. Sometimes multinational companies will first file outside the U.S. and later extend protection to the U.S. So I checked another database for filings outside the U.S. and still found nothing. There is a lag between filings being made and when they first appear in the public trademark databases. In the U.S., it's [...]
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A real apple next to the Apple logo on a computer

Apple vs. APPLE – The Spectrum of Trademark Distinctiveness

During a recent discussion with a non-lawyer about trademarks, I explained the so-called “spectrum of trademark distinctiveness” and used APPLE as an example of an arbitrary mark. The person responded, “Wait, you can trademark that?”. The question caught me off guard since I assumed everyone knew that APPLE was arguably the most valuable trademark in the world. Well, to paraphrase Ted Lasso, you know what they say when you assume? You make an "arse" out of you and me. So let’s go back to the basics. When creating a trademark for your brand, product, or service, it’s important to understand [...]
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graphic binary code

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Trademark Law

The popularity of artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT has exploded in recent months. This has led to some handwringing among trademark lawyers about whether AI is coming for their jobs. Image created with Bing Image Creator So, I asked ChatGPT whether it was coming for me. Here's its answer: As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, AI like ChatGPT can't replace trademark lawyers, though it can certainly assist them in their work. Trademark law involves complex legal analysis, interpretation of legal texts, understanding context, advising clients, and negotiation skills, which are areas that AI is not yet capable of [...]
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