The Face on Your Shirt Says You Can't Wear It

Look at the two shirts above, one has the face of China’s former chairman, Mao Zedong. The other features the likeness failed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Which shirt are you legally allowed to wear? Both and neither. That’s because of a little known part of Intellectual Property Law known as the Right to Publicity, which gives people the right to control how their image and phrases associated with them are used publicly. This right then passes on to the person’s family after their death and lasts for a varying amount of time afterward depending on the state. Now let’s clear one thing up, you’re not in actual trouble if you’re wearing a shirt with a person’s face on it. The company that sold you the shirt without that person’s permission is breaking the law though. However this kind of infringement on a person’s image often goes unchecked and unstopped. So while you’re not in trouble for wearing one of these shirts, you should feel bad that you supported a company that’s in the business of violating people’s rights.

The Government and Secrets of Trade

During May of last year, an act went into effect without much fanfare or notice yet fundamentally changed the landscape of Intellectual Property Law. The act is called the Defend Trade Secrets Act and changes the way trade secrets are handled within the US. Before the act was passed, trade secrets were very different from its cousins; copyright, patent, and trademark. While the three had uniform rules and federal protection, trade secrets didn’t, left alone as a state matter. While most states had similar definitions of trade secrets and procedures to handle them, there were slight differences between the states, allowing for technicalities to interfere with infringement claims. The new federal act brings all the states under one definition and prescribes a uniform method of determining reparation damages to be repaid in infringement claims. In addition the new act also protects corporate whistleblowers from criminal or civil punishment for revealing company secrets. Encouraging people to report wrongdoings and discouraging companies from committing them.

 

 

 

The Slanted Face of Trademark Law

On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court made a momentous ruling regarding the limits of the Lanham Act, the primary law governing trademark law in the United States. As enacted, the Lanham Act bars anybody with a potentially disparaging or scandalous mark from obtaining federal trademark protection. Enter the Asian rock group known as “The Slants.” The term “slant” is traditionally deemed a racial slur for any Asian person, yet the rock group chose to name themselves after the term in order to “reclaim the term and drain it of its denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asian persons” according to the bands lead singer, Simon Tam. When the group attempted to register their mark with the USPTO, they were rejected on the grounds that their mark could potentially offend the Asian-American population. Going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tam won his case with a unanimous 8-0 decision. The Supreme Court ruled that Tam’s mark was protected under the First Amendment and that the Lanham Act’s disparagement clause was unconstitutional. The basis of this decision came for the idea that a trademark is neither government speech nor government-subsidized speech but rather private speech. In prohibiting certain trademarks that might offend people, the Supreme Court ruled that the Lanham Act was discriminating against speech protected under the First Amendment, rendering it unconstitutional. This new development has several major implications. For one, a trademark is now explicitly defined to be private speech and separate from the government despite the USPTO registering and issuing the trademark registrations. Most importantly, under the Supreme Court’s new ruling, almost anything is capable of receiving trademark protection so long as it meets the USPTO’s requirements of being unique and indicative of the origin of a product or service-with some restrictions on name and geography. This new license to trademark opens the door to a brave new world. With the ability to trademark offensive content, it’s not unforeseeable that people will seek to abuse this new interpretation of the Lanham Act towards negative ends, possibly trademarking offensive icons or phrases for the express purpose of shaming groups of people or promoting violence. That answer will likely come in the following months when the USPTO inevitably sees a spike in the number of applications for trademark as people who formerly could not protect their marks rush to get them registered.

Frank Lawrence Jr. Does the Right Thing!

Frank Lawrence Jr., beloved nephew of PLK Law Group President Patrica Lawrence-Kolaras, was recently the focus of a DNAinfo Chicago article. The piece discusses the 19-year-old Morehouse College student's feelings about the message portrayed in the Spike Lee Film "Chi-raq," and how he believes that his story, one of overcoming countless struggles and tragedy in order to become successful, is a more valuable lesson for Chicago's teens and children. The article also mentions a writing by Frank entitled, "The Letter of Transformation," which provides a message of hope to the youth of America, especially the youth ofChicago, and encourages them to achieve and reach their full potential despite the hardships they may face along the way.

Click the link below to read the full DNAinfo Chicago article.

https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20151218/bronzeville/chicago-teen-believes-he-not-spike-lee-is-doing-right-thing

Click the link below to read "The Letter of Transformation" By Frank Lawrence Jr.

http://www.top10auc.com/the-letter-for-transformation

 

Frank Lawrence Jr. (center left) with Spike Lee.

Frank Lawrence Jr. (center left) with Spike Lee.


"Over The Rainbow": Under the Spotlight

Marlowe Scott Productions in connection with the PLK Law Group presents "Over The Rainbow", a modern twist on the classic favorite "The Wizard of Oz." This kids only rock ballet features talented young dancers from all over the State of New Jersey.  

Watch dance transform this breakthrough cast into a modern take on your favorite characters! 

 https://youtu.be/bc-dBWEFmdo

Follow the journey of this production to the main stage via social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/overtherainbow2016

Instagram: OvertheRainbow2016_

Twitter: @MSProd2016


Mr. Cory on CBS!

PLK Law Group Client Mr. Cory was featured on CBS News this morning, with an interview and an article that praised the young entrepreneur as the "Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Jay-Z" you may not have heard of yet.  PLK Law Group is proud of Mr. Cory for his efforts and the deserved attention he is receiving!

You can find the article here, and watch the video above!

Client Spotlight - Mr. Cory

The PLK Law Group is pleased to congratulate PLK client Mr. Cory, of Mr. Cory’s Cookies, who has been receiving national media attention for both his growing cookie business and keen sense of style. Mr. Cory has been featured in the Huffington Post, ABC News, NY Daily News, Buzz Feed and many other media outlets. For more information on Mr. Cory’s Cookies please visit his webpage www.mrcoryscookies.com.

The PLK Law Group, under the direction of Patricia Lawrence Kolaras, Esq., serves a wide variety of clients including entrepreneurs, musicians, authors, entertainers and athletes. To learn more about how PLK Law Group can protect, educate and grow your business, please contact us.

New Website Launch!

The PLK Law Group is pleased to announce the launch of our brand new website. We’ve been working hard for the past few months to rebuild our website from the ground up in order to provide a more streamlined and up-to-date user experience. We hope this website gives visitors and prospective clients new opportunities to learn more about our firm and how we may be of help to you or your business.

We would like to extend a big thanks to our summer associates Chad (homepage design), Phil (structure and content) and Tyler (visuals and design) for their contributions to the making of the website.

We will be constantly updating our website as new information or features become available. Feel free to contact us anytime should you have any questions. 

PLK Law Advocates on behalf of Simone Kelly-Brown in Own Your Power Trademark Lawsuit

 

Simone Kelly-Brown is the owner of the federally registered trademark, “Own Your Power,” one of the notable brands that The PLK Law Group has worked to secure for its clients.   This combination of words was deliberately chosen  and used to identify Simone Kelly-Brown and her company, Own Your Power Communications, Inc., as the source for self-awareness and motivational communication services.  Despite Kelly-Brown’s attempt to prevent confusion by obtaining exclusive ownership of her OYP Trademark from the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”), Kelly-Brown became aware of a confusingly similar misuse of her trademark.

 

Simone Kelly-Brown notified her attorney that her OYP Trademark – designated by an “O” for Own, “Y” for Your, and “P” for Power arranged to create the Own Your Power® word mark – the unique concept that manifests the thought and imagination that anyone can live their best life by believing “anything you want in life is attainable,” and her exclusive rights were being compromised.  The PLK Law Group recognizes that much like your home, car or bank account, intellectual property is an asset that needs protection from misuse and theft.  While intellectual property can bring profit to its owners and add value to any brand or business, its misuse does the exact opposite.  Kelly-Brown’s use of her already registered and OYP Trademark was even mirrored, with the first letter of each word used to identify others as the source for individuals to “live [their] best life” through self-awareness and motivational communication.

 

Parties Oprah Winfrey; Harpo Productions; Harpo, Inc.; Hearst Corporation; Hearst Communications, Inc.; Wells Fargo & Company; Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.; Clinique Laboratories, LLC; and Chico’s FAS, Inc. received a cease and desist letter notifying them of Kelly-Brown’s exclusive rights to the OYP Trademark, timely notification that any infringing use should be stopped.  However, these parties continued to explicitly hold themselves out as operating “in Partnership with” one another in their national, multimedia, cross-promotional campaign of deliberate use of Simone Kelly-Brown’s OYP Trademark.  This use included at a minimum: running an Own Your Power event, repeatedly publicizing the services offered at that event in The Oprah Magazine, on The Oprah Show and on the internet, and offering services online.  Such use has saturated the market such that the public has since become confused, thinking that Simone Kelly-Brown, the owner of the OYP Trademark, is the secondary user or “copycat” of the OYP Trademark.

 

Kelly-Brown thus filed a complaint with the New Jersey District Court on July 28, 2011, alleging, among other things: trademark infringement, reverse confusion, trademark counterfeiting, tortious interference with prospective business and/or economic advantage, as well as vicarious and contributory trademark infringement.  A large amount of media coverage has since ensued while the defendants, named above, were in the process of being served.  A preliminary injunction was likewise filed, asking the Court to enjoin these parties, now defendants in the own your power lawsuit, from such infringing use that is already causing her trademark permanent harm.  The Own Your Power preliminary injunction with exhibits was filed on August 12, 2011.

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The PLK Law Group works with Divine Diamonds to protect its Ah Ring as featured in various magazines and newspapers.