Facebook Allowed Trademark for ‘Face’

Notice of Allowance for ‘Face’ Trademark

What to do when you have a product or service that is very popular but can be easily copied?  Well… trademarking the name is certainly an option, but what else can be done?

In the case of Facebook, the company has been trying to ward off copy cat sites that might use the word “Face” in their names.  So, earlier this year, Facebook quietly registered the mark “Face”… and was recently issued a Notice of Allowance from the US Patent & Trademark Office (see above).

Facebook’s trademark application limits the terms of its trademark to specific situations related to its business.  (The use of the word ‘face’ in other situations is, of course, allowed.)

According to Facebook’s application, the mark ‘Face” applies to: ‘Telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter.’

Happy Thanksgiving!

U.S. Design Patent D527,217 to Morgan

Estamos bien en el refugio los 33

Back in August the news was grim for minors trapped in the San Jose copper-gold mine in Copiapo, Chile.  As in most mining disasters, the expectation was that most, or all, the miners would be dead.

Although there was possible tapping heard from deep below, rescuers were surprised when, two weeks later, attached to one of their drill bits, was a note from one of the miners confirming that they were all alive:

Estamos bien en el refugio los 33

(Translated, “We are okay in the refuge, the 33 of us”).

Sixty nine days after being trapped, all 33 miners were successfully rescued.  They are now world heroes.  There will be book deals, movie deals, etc.  But who (if anyone) owns any rights in the above message?  Is this even copyrightable?

The issue has since been resolved by the Chile Copyright Office in favor of the author, Jose Ojeda.

Note to Mr. Ojeda:  the above use of your intellectual property falls under the category of fair use.

General Motor’s Patent Application for Refurbishing Car Batteries

Things are certainly improving for General Motors. With the most successful IPO in US history behind it and the company about to unveil the “all-electric” GM Volt, the company has also been quietly amassing a patent portfolio for electric car and battery technology.

Among the most interesting of the applications that have been published (first noted by GM-Volt.com) is US Patent Application No. 2010/0124691 (Figure 3 reproduced above) entitled Method and Apparatus for Rejuvination of Degraded Pouch-Type Lithium Ion Battery Cells.

Essentially, what this patent application calls for is the ability to refurbish worn-out lithium battery packs.  In other words, the car owner would be able to take the car in and have the electrolyte material in the batteries replaced.  If done right, the process could be much cheaper than replcaing the battery… all the more reason, perhaps, for investors to be excited about GM again.

In the next few days, I will be getting a list of all of GM’s published patent applications and patents relating to electric car / battery technology… which I will post here.

Prosecution Laches

The biggest complaint that patent attorneys hear from clients regarding the patent process is the long time it takes to get a patent.  Well… the flip side to this is that occassionally it is the applicant which causes most of the delay.  And under the doctrine of prosecution laches a defendant can assert that a patent is unenforceable if the delay is deemed unreasonable.  However, there’s more to it than that.

In the case of Cancer Research Technology Ltd. v. Barr Laboratories, Inc., decided last week, the patent applicant filed 11 continuation applications and abandoned 10 applications, taking over a decade to finally obtain the patent on a new drug.  Later, when Cancer Research Technology sued Barr Labs for patent infringement, the defense of laches was raised, and the case was dismissed on the ground that the applicant unreasonably delayed the prosecution of the patent.

On appeal, however, the Federal Circuit made clear that laches requires also a finding of prejudice.  This would usually mean that the accused infringer invested in the technology or used the claimed technology while the plaintiff was still prosecuting the patent application.  Since Barr did not show this to be the case, the Federal Circuit reversed the decision of the lower court.  (The Court also reversed on the lower court’s finding of inequitable conduct).

An interesting case… and one to note when prosecuting a patent or later asserting patent rights.

Does Bing Infringe Upon Google’s New Patent?

This week the blogosphere is abuzz about a newly issued patent by Google (US Patent No. 7,836,391).

According to many commentators this patent covers placing a thumbnail image next to a search result.  Because the search engine Bing does this, some are saying that Bing may be infringing on the patent.

For example, over at The Next Web, there is speculation that Bing may be infringing on claim 5, which  recites,

5.  The search engine of claim 1, where the decision component is further to associate the thumbnail representation with the link to the particular document additionally based on a relevance score for the particular document being higher, by at least a threshold amount, than relevance scores for all other ones of the identified documents.

The only problem with this theory is that claim 5 is a dependent claim and includes every claim limitation from independent claim 1, including

….  a decision component to: rank the identified documents, calculate a click-through rate associated with each of the identified documents, and associate, with a link to a particular one of the identified documents, a thumbnail representation of the particular document in response to calculating that the click through rate associated with the particular document is higher, by at least a threshold amount, than the click through rates associated with all other ones of the identified documents.

Thus, to infringe Bing would have to calculate a “click-through rate” for the search and associate the thumbnail with the search result only if the click-through rate was higher than a certain predetermined click-through rate.  Because Bing is merely a search engine, it does not calculate a click-through rate when determining and presenting search results.  Thus, it is not seen how Bing would be infringing.

It appears that the above Google patent would be used as part of Google’s paid advertising model.

For similar faulty analysis, see Go Rumors.

The Rapper vs. the Drug Kingpin

For those of you who do not follow hip-hop music, one of the more popular rappers of recent times is named Rick Ross, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II. It seems that that the rapper got his stage name from convicted drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross, who presided over a drug empire in Los Angeles in the 1980′s. Well, Mr. Ross (the convicted drug dealer) was not happy that Mr. Ross (the rapper) took his name, so he sued him in federal court for trademark infringement. Only problem, as the court noted, is that one does not have a trademark in their own name (unless your name happens to be associated with a brand or product). The Court opined:

“In support of his trademark claims, Plaintiff alleges that his name was well known in the drug trade and by law enforcement segments of the urban crime, rap and black comity because he did business as Rick Ross, until he was arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated in federal prison. Because this illegal activity cannot be used to establish secondary meaning, such allegations do not provide support for Plaintiff having a valid trademark for his name.”

Seems to make a lot of sense.