By: Peter J. KarolTV host John Oliver made waves recently when he launched a campaign on his HBO show Last Week Tonight to “Make Donald Drumpf Again,” a reference to the Republican presidential frontrunner’s less-than-sonorous historic family name. As part of that 21-minute skit, which has been watched an astounding 21 million times on YouTube in just a few days, the host claimed to have filed for trademark protection for the term DRUMPF. Did he? Can he?
By: Peter J. KarolToo often the catch-all term “intellectual property”— useful in describing practitioner specialty areas, law school courses, and text books, among other things— serves a subtly insidious function. It suggests that those discrete bodies of law which it encompasses—roughly, copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret law—have fundamental commonality. Not only, it implies, do those legal areas overlap, but more critically that those overlaps somehow count for more than any divergences. This has a real effect on the development of the law. Courts are quick to presume that a rule applicable to one area of intellectual property ought to apply to all. The burden, it seems, is on one challenging such an extension to show why a given area of law, say trademark law, is distinct enough from another, such as patent law, so that a rule for one should not apply to another. The courts, for instance, over the past decade worked to extend a rule from a 2006 patent case that denies prevailing patent infringement plaintiffs entitlement to injunctive relief (eBay Inc v. MercExchange) to copyright and trademark law. We are now seeing that process inexorably repeat itself with respect to statutory fee-shifting.