Levi's vs. D&G, Balloon Dogs, Ping Pong and a Local Child Inventor

Post date: Jan 21, 2011 4:41:31 PM

I've got a few interesting stories to celebrate the end of the week. Unsurprisingly, they all deal with intellectual property. Here we go.

(1) Levi's has filed suit against Dolce & Gabbana for trademark infringement. Levi's is claiming that the back pocket stitching on certain pairs of D&G jeans is confusingly similar to the characteristic stitching for Levi's. Apparently the actual term for the Levi's design is "arcuate", which is news to me. See the comparison pictures below and check out the source link for more info from the actual filing.

Far left: D&G designLeft: Levi's "arcuate" designSource: The Trademark Blog

(2) A somewhat famous artist -- Jeff Koons -- is going after two companies for copyright infringement based on balloon animal bookends. Apparently this is an interesting development because Jeff Koons is usually the one being sued for copyright infringement and now he is trying to use copyright law to bully someone into submission. I can't really agree with Koons on this one as the shape and design of a balloon animal dog is very common and not something Koons has the exclusive right to use, in my opinion. Next stop on the copyright infringement lawsuit tour: carnivals.

Far left: Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog"Left: allegedly infringing bookendsSource: The New York Times

(3) If you are looking to learn something new today, then look no further than this story. I don't know why this is surprising, but apparently "Ping Pong" is a registered trademark. Looking back, that really does make sense. That explains why every time you see a "ping pong" (as most people know the game by) table for sale in a commercial advertisement it is listed as "table tennis." Also, any time you see an event dealing with said sport, it is called "table tennis." Based on the new information, this is the case because PING PONG is a registered trademark and cannot be used without permission from the owner. An organization is getting sued by the trademark owner for using the name PING PONG without permission to promote their table tennis tournament. One option for the defendant is to fight the claim by establishing that PING PONG is actually a generic term and is part of the public domain. But, as the source article hints at, it would take $$$ to establish that PING PONG is generic and the defendant doesn't appear to have infinitely deep pockets to fight this.

(Note: I tried finding a picture displaying the mark PING PONG with the "circle R" for an example, but could not find one. Seems like evidence that they are not taking adequate steps to protect their IP and put the public on notice)

Source: The Trademark Blog

(4) Last, but certainly not least, this story comes from the great inventor haven of Kansas City. A 15-year old boy recently received a patent for his invention dealing with a folding chair and an attached blanket. Apparently the kid came up with the idea while attending sporting events and he got tired of having to walk back to the car to get the blanket. This just goes to show you that almost anyone can get a patent -- assuming you have a good idea, anyway. The chair + blanket device is called the "Sports Snuggler," which is a pretty good name. Whenever I hear the term Snuggler, though, I always think of this video with Zack Galifianakis.

A few observations: First, as this kid may find out, just because you have a patent does not mean that you will be rich/make money. A patent does nothing other than allow you to prevent others from making that exact item. It does not mean that people will rush out and buy it. The article says that he has received multiple investment offers but it sounds like they may not be large enough for him to bite. Secondly, the article states that he paid roughly $7,000 in legal fees. That statistic is impressive because he reportedly covered the bill with his own money. But I bring it up because, not to brag, I could have saved him a good chunk of money if he would have called me up instead. Whatever. No big deal. I'm already over it. Finally, and most importantly, I have no idea why he is using the Nebraska logo on the prototype for his invention.

In the legal sense, this is problematic because now that he is a big time inventor he should be getting permission to use other intellectual property. It is even more concerning because putting that "N" on his chair means that no one will ever want to buy it. Now that I think about it, he can probably use the "N" without getting permission because even if Nebraska comes after him his attorney will bring up the fact that their intellectual property is worthless. Enjoy the Big 10, Nebraska. Go Mizzou! (Okay, now I will go back to being objective).Source: The Kansas City Star