Viewing entries tagged
Manufacturing

户外用品生产商:警惕潜在的商标陷阱

户外用品生产商:警惕潜在的商标陷阱

由McCoy Russell LLP 技术专家段韵涵提供翻译

户外和体育用品行业是最新高科技材料(例如特殊面料和塑料等)的重要用户。然而户外和体育用品行业的制造商有时可能会在美国意外地与大型户外运动用品公司发生与此类高科技材料有关的商标侵权和假冒诉讼。

例如,一个工厂可以做广告,宣传可以使用某种特殊类型的面料制作服装,却发现某大型户外运动用品公司拥有一个与该特殊面料名称相同或类似的商标。当此工厂仅仅发现该特殊面料的名称已被注册商标的同时,拥有此商标的大型户外运动用品公司可能已经在美国向该工厂提起侵权诉讼。事实上工厂对此特殊面料名称的使用可能是完全无意或仅仅是描述性的,甚至并不满足真正商标侵权或假冒的条件。

然而,大型品牌持有者往往并不区分真正的假冒者和无辜的使用者。这些商标持有者经常会在一起诉讼中起诉大批工厂,并采用积极手段强迫被告人在某些情况下支付高达每个商标200万美元的和解费。例如,商标持有者可能使用某些手段,比如雇佣卧底买家,从工厂订购少量产品(该产品由此特殊面料制成),之后运回美国,为侵权诉讼提供证明。然后商标持有者会对工厂提起诉讼,并利用法院指令迅速冻结该工厂的PayPal或银行账户。该工厂接到的不会是中文的诉讼文件,而是附有英文诉讼文件的英文电子邮件(例如,http://gbcinternetenforcement.net/16-8232)。他们还有可能收到一封来自PayPal的电子邮件,告知他们的账户已被冻结。由于美国法院系统的截止日期可能不会在邮件中被强调或解释,等到该工厂翻译完法律文件,并且试图进行分析的时候,重要的截止日期可能已经被错过了。某些文件,例如大型户外运动用品公司的被告人名单,还可能被保密“盖章”,以免被告工厂得知还有哪些工厂,比如相邻的工厂,也在同一起诉讼案中被告。这一举措防止了小工厂们团结起来为自己辩护。由于收到的法院传票并不像来自中国法院的文件,一些工厂不会很快意识到此类情况的严重性,或者这些工厂错误的认为他们不能被美国法院起诉。

如果某工厂收到一封电子邮件,声称他们已经在美国受到假冒商标或商标侵权的诉讼,那么立即获得法律帮助将至关重要。被告有权采取行动并向法院提交文件的截止日期是从原告的起诉日开始计算的。未能及时采取行动将可能导致对被告进行不利判决,原告则可以将被告的PayPal或银行账户,甚至包括未来的账户中的所有款项取出。

定期检查工厂网站,以确保没有使用第三方的商标或第三方的其他知识产权产品,是帮助降低被告几率的最佳方法。

Apparel Manufacturing Inventions

Apparel Manufacturing Inventions

Sometimes an inventive aspect in the apparel arts relates to the process of forming the fabric. Since much of the manufacturing is foreign, patent rights to the resulting product can be more beneficial for domestic enforcement. However, a catch to this approach is that the resulting fabric structure needs to be novel and inventive.

To see how this plays out in the real world, a recent appeal by Nextec Applications, Inc. illustrates some of the issue. The application relates to a multi-layer structure to reduce hypothermia using a semi-permeable membrane and very low-absorption fabric. The low-absorption fabric is an encapsulated fabric having fibers and interstices, where the fibers are encapsulated by a polymer using a system having two coating blades. Nextec argued on appeal that a key to their invention was that the encapsulating system applies a force model to the blades based on initial properties of the fabric.

The issue here was that the features cited by Nextec were related to the manufacturing process, not the resulting structure of the fabric. The Patent Office was able to find prior art that showed the same resulting structure. That left Nextec arguing that they were able to achieve improved fabric performance because of their specific process. Whether true or not, this type of approach makes success difficult on appeal.

The reason is that the Patent Office shifts the burden to the Applicant when the argument about a new product degrades to one of differences in process. At this point, the Applicant needs to prove their point, which requires evidence. Many patent prosecution attorneys attempt to rely purely on attorney arguments; however the Board gives little weight to arguments without evidence when the applicant has the burden. This case is no different. The Board affirmed the rejection, as follows:

We agree with the Examiner that the polyester fabric enveloped with a silicon polymer disclosed in Caldwell appears to be the same or substantially the same as the polyester fabric encapsulated with a polymer recited in claim 1, and the burden therefore shifts to Appellants to establish an unobvious difference between the encapsulated fabric recited in claim 1 and Caldwell’s enveloped fabric. In re Marosi, 710 F.2d 799, 803 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (“[where a product-by-process claim is rejected over a prior art product that appears to be identical, although produced by a different process, the burden is upon the applicants to come forward with evidence establishing an unobvious difference between the claimed product and the prior art product.”)

So, if your invention is in a new process, work hard to find a different resulting structure. And if you cannot find something of significance in the structure, make sure you provide evidence of the difference in process and how that different process produces different results than the prior art process. The evidence could take the form of testing, expert analysis, etc.

Protecting before Presenting

Protecting before Presenting

What high fashion is to the Paris Fashion week, outdoor gear is to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market happening this July in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The event is the largest outdoor sports show of its kind, and in 2016, brought together over 6,000 retail buyers.  The Summer Market serves to link outdoor apparel and sports products manufacturers with these retailers, showcasing emerging trends and innovative turns in the industry.  These types of trade shows are always promising for entrepreneurs and companies developing new products, as unveiling a new product brings the lure of favorable publicity, potential investors, and hopefully big sales.