Trademark Bullies, Farm Programs Catching Covid and other legal news to ponder from Cape Law Firm
Bullies show up everywhere, including the halls of justice. Some brand owners – especially big ones – engage in “trademark bullying” by making overly aggressive threats of an expensive litigation war or making demands beyond what trademark law allows. While brand owners have an obligation to police the use of their brands to weed out cheats and copycats, some go way too far. Trademark bullies usually pick on much smaller companies or individuals that don’t have the means to respond to the bully’s threats. The Trademark Office even prepared a report to Congress on bullying tactics by brand owners. Big universities are even getting into the trademark bullying game according to a recent paper by a Duke University law professor (it turns out Duke is among the most aggressive). It is unfortunate that our courts are turned into tools for bullies since courts are where we often seek help, justice, and fair play. There are some ways for the little guy to fight back – some of which are probably more effective than going to court:
- A media campaign that highlight’s the brand owner’s abusive tactics may result in a public backlash.
- Social media campaigns by consumer groups or even the bully’s target can create outrage and negative publicity.
Getting some moderately viral attention in media channels about a bully’s tactics can have exactly the effect the bully’s was hoping to avoid – a bad brand reputation. Nobody likes a bully.
Federal Farm Subsidies at Risk from Covid?
Federal farm program payments which subsidize major row crops have been a staple of American agriculture since the 1930s. Yet, the passage of another massive Covid economic stimulus package has some sounding the alarm about the potential impact on farm subsidies. U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, warned passage of the stimulus bill could trigger federal Pay-As-You-Go rules which automatically cut spending to non-exempt programs. This would including farm programs, potentially reducing them to zero. Even without Pay-As-You-Go rules, the sheer size of the the recent stimulus packages will likely hamper the government’s ability to respond to a shocks in the agricultural system. Let’s hope the weather holds out – for a really long time!
Nebraska considers seed dealer liability for treated seed
Seed treatments – typically some combination of pesticides applied as a coating to seed – has become a favored practice for growers to protect crops at one of their most vulnerable times – germination and emergence. The disposal of left-over treated seed requires precaution due to the pesticides, and unfortunately some don’t always follow the rules. A bill was recently introduced in the Nebraska legislature that would impose liability for damages on commercial seed sellers for the unsafe disposal of treated seed. Given the impact this sort of legislation would have on seed dealers and sellers, it would be smart for dealers to inform customers to dispose of treated seed only in proper channels.
Cape Law Firm’s Frequently (or Randomly) Asked Questions
“What is a Right of Publicity?”
The “Right of Publicity” is a person’s right to control the use of their name, likeness, and personal identity for commercial benefit. It is a form of intellectual property that is akin to trademark law, although there is no federal statute or case law that recognizes the Right of Publicity. However, over half of the States recognize the Right of Publicity and provide legal remedies when someone’s name, likeness, or persona is used for commercial purposes without permission. Right of Publicity issues often involve celebrities or public personalities.