Intellectual property is an area of the law that involves the protection of patents, trademarks copyrights and trade secrets. Just as trademarks and copyrights are registered to protect a brand or an idea, lawsuits can be filed to stop another from violating the owner’s rights. To help you understand how intellectual property law is applied, we’ve put together a list of some of the most interesting and newsworthy intellectual property cases that were filed last year.

  • In order to protect profits earned from his name and brand, legendary quarterback Tom Brady filed an application for the phrase “Tom Terrific” – an application that was denied by the Trademark Office as a result of the phrase already being associated with Hall-of-Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. Brady is not a novice when it comes to trademark protections. He currently holds trademark registrations for TB12 (a fitness website that he owns) and after his move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers he applied for protection for both “Tompa Bay” and “Tampa Brady.”
  • A patent and copyright infringement case involving photographs of a shipwreck associated with the notorious pirate Blackbeard went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the wreck belongs to the state of North Carolina, a photographer took photos and videos of the salvage and copyrighted them. The state used the materials and the photographer filed an intellectual property lawsuit. The issue at hand was whether North Carolina had sovereign immunity in light of Congress having passed laws specifically waiving states’ immunity to patent and copyright infringement lawsuits. The Supreme Court determined that Congress had acted beyond its authority.
  • A trademark application to protect the use of a specific color on product packaging was denied by the Trademark Office, but the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their decision, indicating that a single color used in product packaging could “indicate the source of the goods to a consumer, and therefore can be inherently distinctive.”
  • An interesting question was raised when the travel reservation website attempted to register its name with the Trademark Office. The office denied the request because they asserted that the word booking is generic, but the Supreme Court held that “A term styled ‘’ is a generic name for a class of goods or services only if the term has that meaning to consumers,” and in the case of, that was not the case.

If you would like information on obtaining a copyright or trademark or believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, contact our experienced intellectual property attorneys today to set up a time to discuss your needs.