Hot off the presses, this week’s #CryptoSmartEsq News-Issue 4 (4/22/2018)

By Professor Tonya M. Evans

Welcome to this week’s CryptoSmartEsq News, my carefully curated list of current legal issues and events in blockchain and crypto. 

If you’re new to this exciting, fast-developing space, check out the introductory video in the first CryptoSmartEsq news post. Follow me on Twitter at @CryptoSmartEsq (my blockchain and crypto-focused feed) and @IPProfEvans (my intellectual property-focused feed) and #EvansontheBlock for daily legal bits & bytes. Affiliate links noted with $.

Tweet me your news items.

Top Story

New York Attorney General sends inquiry to 13 major cryptocurrency exchanges requesting disclosure on their operations, use of bots, conflicts of interest, outages, and more. The list of exchanges includes some of the most popular and notable: Coinbase [$], Gemini [$],  bitFlyer, Bitfinex, Bitstamp [$], Payward, Kraken, Bittrex, Poloniex, Binance and itBit. At least one exchange pushes back, says no.

Intellectual Property

CognateCM is an interesting blockchain-based service that creates a permanent, time-stamped record of common law trademark use. Called “CM Certification”, the record may be used to establish use and priority in federal trademark registration or to assert priority against junior trademark use. Cognate claims to be the world’s first trademark use recordal service powered by blockchain technology.

It is important to note that Cognate certification does not constitute trademark registration as a matter of law with, for example, the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Nor do they claim that it does. The benefit of Cognate certification, however, lies in creating an immutable, verifiable record of use on a public blockchain and in monitoring other use once certified.

Law & Government

The Promise of Blockchain Law (LawPracticeToday.org)

Though speculation about the future of blockchain continues, it is gaining momentum and deserves attention from law firms, courts, and legal technology providers. Large enterprises are gearing up for a blockchain revolution. Corporate clients are actively pursuing it. According to a recent Forbes report, there were nearly 1,500 blockchain-related mentions in SEC filings, transcripts, and company press releases in the first nine months of 2017. This represents an increase of more than 65% over the prior full year. Growth in interest and investment ballooned after investors began shifting their focus from cryptocurrencies to the underlying blockchain technology.

A few law firms with blockchain + crypto specialties (attorneys with expertise in technology):

Your guide to cryptocurrency regulations around the world and where they are headed (CNBC.com)

As demand for cryptocurrency grows, global regulators are divided on how to keep up. Most digital currencies are not backed by any central government, meaning each country has different standards.

Cases

Eurasian Association Of Blockchain To Sue Social Media Giants For Banning Crypto Ads [Cointelegraph.com]

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain associations in Russia, China, and South Korea are planning to file a joint lawsuit in May against Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Yandex for not allowing crypto-related advertising, local news outlet TASS reported yesterday, March 27.

Education

When it comes to the power of the Internet, higher education is seeing just how disruptive of a force it can be. And, leaders are dealing with the weighty impacts — not only in the way digital technologies are altering the nature of teaching, but also in how it’s questioning the value of a bricks-and-mortar classroom setting.

For many blockchain startups, education sectors don’t seem to be a fertile ground for the implementation of their blockchain technology initiatives. Most often, their interests are in finance, security exchanges and many others. However, there is some slow indulgence in education that is emerging. As is common knowledge, universities are a breeding grounds for new innovations hence some blockchains have started collaborating with numerous universities to pioneer in this space.

… as public sector blockchain fever continues to grow – even amid reported instances of vendors trying to sell ‘blockchain solutions’ that aren’t actually blockchain to naive agency IT procurement managers, a need has emerged for a roadmap and how-to manual designed to help practitioners better understand the technology’s potential, cut through hype and jargon and ultimately deliver better value for taxpayers.

Events


|Signup for Coinbase to receive $10 in $BTC after you buy or sell $100 worth of $BTC.|

[last issue of CryptoSmartEsq News]

Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP

© 2018 Tonya M. Evans

Attribution-NoDerivs
CC BY-ND

Recently, I delivered two presentations in Bangkok, Thailand about the intellectual property implications of blockchain technology. The first was an internal preso for the prominent Southeast Asian law firm of Tilleke & Gibbins, and the second was for the Licensing Executives Society-Thailand Conference.

In each preso, I engaged attendees (live and via video conference) in a macro-level exploration of blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts to clarify what this relatively new disruptive, empowering ecosystem is, what it means for our collective future as attorneys, corporate leaders, startup founders and entrepreneurs, and its implications in intellectual property law.

Recently, Darts-IP.com published an article I wrote titled IP + Blockchain: A Primer based on some of the information I shared in Bangkok.

I could spend all day every day falling down the proverbial rabbit hole of information about blockchain. There is literally breaking blockchain and cryptocurrency news every minute, if Coindesk’s website and twitter feed are any indication. Each bit and byte of information leads to more information (and misinformation), FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), FOMO (fear of missing out), and speculation about all of the potential pitfalls and opportunities in this new technology frontier. So it’s difficult for most people to figure out where to begin. If this describes you, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place! Read on.

You probably have questions (or you wouldn’t be reading this post). Lots of them. The first may very well be where to begin to get a handle on the power and promise of blockchain. Everyone should have some baseline understanding. But lawyers, in particular, must achieve basic technological competence in this space to be well positioned to help clients solve problems. Given my background and expertise, I am particularly interested in the intellectual property issues triggered by blockchain’s rise in mainstream adoption as research & development use cases transition into full implementation and refinement.

In future posts, I will share trends and current events in the blockchain ecosystem that raise copyright, patent, and trademark issues. Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans for breaking IP-related blockchain and crypto news. Below are some blockchain basics that I cover more substantively in IP + Blockchain: A Primer and some additional resources about blockchain, crypto, and smart contracts.

So … what is Blockchain? [Updated excerpt from IP + Blockchain: A Primer Continue reading “Blockchain, Crypto & Smart Contracts: What they are & what they mean for IP”

Professor Evans travels to Bangkok to discuss IP implications of Blockchain

blockchain-image

Part of a lawyer’s professional competence includes technological competence. Therefore, every lawyer should have a basic understanding of the business and legal implications of the blockchain and its varied and various use cases.

To that end, I will present an overview of blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and smart contracts at the law offices of Tilleke & Gibbins (Bangkok, Thailand) on January 31, 2018 and at the Annual Meeting of Licensing Executives Society (LES)-Thailand on February 1, 2018.  This presentation is intended to introduce attorneys of all practice areas to the essential information every lawyer should know about this emerging, global technology.

Ready? Set? Disrupt!

Blockchain technology is poised to disrupt law and business on a global scale in ways neither rivaled nor contemplated since the advent of the Internet. This talk will include definitions of key terminology, an explanation of the two most prominent use cases within this ecosystem (cryptocurrency and smart contracts), as well as intellectual property issues, current events, and likely blockchain trends in 2018.

Prof. Evans to moderate NBA IP Law Review CLE webinar Wed 6/8

I invite you to register for Wednesday’s webinar, hosted by the NBA IP Law Section. Registration is free for all IP Section members, and $30 for non-members.

IP Law Review – A Survey of Recent Developments in Patent, Trademark, and Trade Secret Law.

Date: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Time: 1:00pm to 2:30pm EDT

Follow live tweet at #NBAIPLaw

Presenters:

  • Tonya Evans (Widener University Commonwealth Law School) – Moderator
  • Darrell Mottley (Banner Witcoff)
  • Shontavia Johnson (Drake University Law School)
  • Kevin Jordan (JP Morgan Chase)

Summary – Our panelists will discuss a variety of hot topics and recent developments in patent, trademark, and trade secret law, including:

  • The internet of things as an emerging technology/industry, and related IP and regulatory issues
  • Intersection between the First Amendment and Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act regarding registration of immoral, scandalous, or disparaging trademarks, including the impact of trademark cases
  • Overview of trade secret law and its viability as an alternative means of IP protection

CLE Info: The NBA IP Law Section is looking into obtaining CLE accreditation in the following jurisdictions: CA, GA, IL, NY, TX, and VA. For questions regarding CLE accreditation, please contact Bill Barrow (wbarrow[at]mayerbrown.com).

Cost: This webinar is free for NBA IP Law Section members and costs $30 (plus processing fees) for non-members.

Register at:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nba-ip-law-section-intellectual-property-law-review-registration-25483682380

Iconic high-end leisure wear co. Vineyard Vines sues Rehoboth tshirt shop to protect whale Logo

Source of this excerpt: DelawareOnline.com (Maureen Milford)

vineyardvines-trademark-Whales-4x3_delonline
[The News Journal]
The Connecticut brothers who built a successful clothing company that embodies the prepster lifestyle of Martha’s Vineyard have stirred up a nor’easter for a Rehoboth Beach T-shirt shop.

Vineyard Vines LLC, a company started by Ian and Shep Murray in 1998, has sued Rehoboth Lifestyle Clothing Co. for selling tops and sweatshirts that say “rehoboth” and are embroidered with big smiling whales. The jaunty-tailed whales bear a striking resemblance to the iconic trademark seen on the Murrays’ high-end ties, shirts, jackets, dresses and other products, the lawsuit alleges.

The way the Stamford, Connecticut, company sees it, Rehoboth Lifestyle is infringing on its registered trademark and diluting its “famous trademark,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Vineyard Vines clothing, which has been spotted on movie stars and several presidents, is pricey, with a cotton dress shirt selling for $128 on the company’s website. […]

I doubt a court would find that the Vineyard Vines whale, even as popular, well-known and iconic as it may be, is indeed a “famous mark” as that term is defined under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. Bigger ‘fish’ have tried and failed. The short list includes: XEROX, KODAK, COCA-COLA, and REEBOK.  Read more about trademark dilution and famous mark cases. But it seems that Vineyard Vines has a strong case in establishing the “likelihood” of confusion. Actual confusion of consumers is not required.

I was quoted in the article to explain why it is important for trademark owners to police and to protect their marks. The consequences of not doing so could be extremely costly to their brand and business. And the failure to police may also lead to “genericide”, causing the owners to lose their exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the sale of its goods and services. Common examples of well-known companies whose marks became generic

In the article, I also explained the general purposes of trademark law. Read the full article:

Whale war: Vineyard Vines, Rehoboth shop clash over logo

So what do you think? Are consumers likely to be confused, even if initially, by the local t-shirt company’s mirror-image, stylized pink whale? More specifically, is it more likely than not that some consumer might be confused? If so, what’s the harm?

~Prof TE~ Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans

Real Housewives of NY “Pop of Color” Trademark Kerfuffle: Not so fast Kristin, Bethenny’s right. Sort of.

The IP-meets-reality world according to Professor Evans:

So if you’ve ever wondered what intellectual property law professors do after the semester ends and grades are submitted (except for recuperate from hip surgery), this post may clear it up.

We sleep, travel, surf the Interweb, research and write law review articles, blog, review lesson plans and, of course, catch up on guilty pleasure t.v. (one more day until Orange is the New Black!!!!! … but I digress).

Sometimes if we’re lucky, those to-dos (such as they are) converge into a perfect storm. At least that’s what just happened to me.

Case in point. This afternoon, I was flipping through cable news channels and overwhelmed with the horror that is the escaped murderer debacle in New York. I needed something less intense, less serious, less scary, less … real. So I clicked on over to Bravo to catch the “reality” du jour. I landed on one of my fave Real Housewives franchises (yeah, I said it): Real Housewives of New York.

Oh the “Pop of Crazy” RHONY trademark episode. So much went on … where do I begin. Catch the recap here from RealityTea.com.

The main point of this post is to address Skinny Girl® Bethenny Frankel‘s challenge of Kristin Taekman’s statement that she “owns” the trademark to Pop of Color™ for a nail polish line.

To be fair to Kristin, she certainly has filed. But ultimate registration cannot issue until she demonstrates actual use. So, to be fair to Bethenny, Kristin doesn’t own the federal trademark registration. Yet. She remains a work (and trademark registration) in progress.  Continue reading “Real Housewives of NY “Pop of Color” Trademark Kerfuffle: Not so fast Kristin, Bethenny’s right. Sort of.”

Hershey Flexes its trademark muscle, prevents importation of confusingly similar candy packaging

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“In this globalised world, it’s increasingly easy for British expats to buy the creature comforts of home – English tea, Irn-Bru or that most beloved British staple, Cadbury chocolate. But in the United States, consumers will soon have trouble finding the “proper” Cadbury chocolate made with the British recipe.

Chocolate giant Hershey Inc has successfully blocked the import of many British sweets because, it says, it creates “brand confusion” with Hershey’s products.”

Read the complete article and view the video at BBCNews.com