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Ronald David Coleman

Ronald Coleman’s Answers

67 total


  • Registered a domain and used actively since 1999. Can a trademark filed in 2009 force me to give up my domain?

    I registered a domain in 1999 called The[word1][word2][word3].com. In 2009 a company registered a trademark of [word1] [word2] [word3]. He now is threatening me with trademark infringement. His company didn't even exist until 2004 when they took t...

    Ronald’s Answer

    Your defense sounds strong. Your success will, unfortunately, depend on whether you can spend the money needed to make your case.

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  • Unfair competion based on trade name infringement.

    I just started a small online business (badger mining products) selling recreational gold prospecting equipment. www.badgermining.com. Got a letter today from the lawyers of badger mining corp www.badgerminingcorp.com demanding I cease use of t...

    Ronald’s Answer

    I see this was posted quite a while ago, and, oddly enough, was left unanswered after all this time. But for general public consumption, as I am sure you know by now, a situation such as the one you describe must be brought to the attention of a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.

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  • Is it infringement to use a company's logo on a sample product?

    We have an invention that will eventually sell with a company's logo or advertisement on it. We want to produce samples that have prospective company names on the product, to show potential customers. Is is legal to produce these samples without p...

    Ronald’s Answer

    It may very well be infringement, because you are describing a "use in commerce" of the trademark, even though you are not selling the samples. This is especially dangerous if you intend to let anyone keep the samples: Once these samples are out of your hands, you have no idea what will be done with them, and anyone looking at them can be expected to assume that the logos are authorized to be used on these products. Even if you only use these mockups in sales presentations, confusion is still possible -- maybe even "likely." Without knowing more, you would probably not want to proceed with this approach without sitting down with an attorney who could advise you regarding the specifics.

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  • Does a federal trademark supercede a California state trademark?

    Who will get the rights to use a name in California?

    Ronald’s Answer

    Messrs. Wahab and Ballard did a great job with this question. I would only add that state trademark registrations are particularly misleading because they frequently will be issued based on a much lower standard than that required by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In some states registration is merely a matter of filing the paper. Thus it is entirely possible for someone to have a state "trademark registration" for a trademark that would have have been recognized at all under federal law -- or, indeed, in some cases even for that state's own common law "unfair competition" or trademark law! It is also possible that a state trademark registration may be on file for would-be trademark that has failed to maintain its eligibility for trademark protection, even if it was legitimate when filed.

    To be fair to the states, they could hardly institute a state-level model of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The cost is absolutely prohibitive. For that reason no state even comes close to trying.

    I am not admitted in California, but from the information I see online I can tell that California's process is someone more meaningful than that one, but it is worth noting that the page linked below from the California Secretary of State says, "The applicant is required to state whether they [sic] previously sought to register the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and, if registration was refused, to disclose the reasons why it was refused at the federal level." You can infer from this that there are applications that have been rejected at the federal level but which California would at least considering registering. That is a pretty good hint about the relative strengths of the California registration.

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  • Is it a copyright or trademark infringement to use images of generic versions of dolls (dam trolls, kiddles, etc) in a book?

    I would like to illustrate a book using images of generic versions of dolls such as Dam trolls, Liddle Kiddles, Barbie-type dolls, etc. What are the copyright and trademark infringement ramifications for this type of use? By generic, I mean doll...

    Ronald’s Answer

    This is a very fact-specific inquiry. The answer will be, as said above, dependent on how you intend to use the images, what you mean by "images" and "generic," what rights may be protected in the respective dolls, and a host of other factors. You will need to talk to a lawyer and lay out both your concept and, in all probability, arrange to have the publication vetted (reviewed in advance) to protect yourself, as well as to persuade any publisher to even consider getting near the book. Good luck!

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  • Infringement issue?

    Can one handpaint (no transfers/copies) an image of popular cartoon characters on a craft item and sell it?

    Ronald’s Answer

    One can, but one risks being sued, or being threatened with a lawsuit and perhaps having to pay a settlement, for doing so. It is almost certainly a copyright infringement to do so.

    It is frustrating to hear that answer, because you see this done all the time -- think of all the depictions of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbs that you see around -- yet the creator of that strip refuses to do any licensing at all. Yet the fact that people do it does not make it permissible, and it does not constitute a defense to the one who is "chosen" to get the attention of the rights holder.

    All things considered, building a business on such a "model" is not a good idea.

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  • I want to morph two logos into one and do some additional editing...Legal or not?

    My HS mascot is being changed. We will now be known as the Red Wolf. I am looking to take the NHL Florida Panther Logo and place the head of Arkansas State University's Wolf over the Panther's face. I plan to blend in the head, change colors and s...

    Ronald’s Answer

    As usual, my colleagues here have spoken well. There is nothing new under the sun. Every logo, ever new word, every brand is based on bits and pieces of other associations that are out there in the world. The only thing that matters in trademark law is whether there would be a likelihood of confusion between your new logo and either of the ones you are basing it on -- or, as Pamela Koslyn aptly points out, whether you risk "diluting" either of them either.

    These are basically questions only experienced trademark lawyers can answer with any degree of confidence -- which is not to say they are guaranteed to give the "correct" answer, only their best professional advice.

    And, after all, you asked "could I be sued," not "should you be sued." Unfortunately, big companies (such as sports franchises) often push their true trademark rights further than a court would recognize, realizing that most defendants cannot afford to get an ultimate ruling from the courts. So you could be sued even if you ought not be sued, and an experienced trademark lawyer will be able to help you understand the risks of that happening.

    There's a flip side to this too: You may very possibly not be sued even if your new logo is indeed so close to the legal line, or even over it, that suing would be fair and reasonable. Most high school logos don't come to the attention of the NHL! Again: Your lawyer will help you understand how to factor all this into your actions.

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  • I want to design t shirts to sell , with shorts quotes from different songs is this copyrigt infridgement.

    example , If I ruled the world. Imagine that! song from Nas or She she lick me like a lollypop. song from Lil Wayne

    Ronald’s Answer

    If the question is whether you can do this without risk of exposure to a copyright infringement claim, the answer is no, you cannot.

    Not only this, but regardless of how good a copyright lawyer you get and how good his or her advice is, you may regret relying on such a business model anyway because you would likely be served with a cease and desist letter or sued, or both, by the copyright holders if you come onto their radar -- even if, based on the advice of sage counsel, you are acting within your rights. Unfortunately, being right does not always matter if you can't afford the justice to which you are entitled.

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  • If a business name is trademarked in the US but i have the european trademark can i trade in the eu without infringement.

    I am setting up a new company with my business partner however we have come across a company trading in the US with the same business name. They have this name trademarked in the US only and are in a similar industry to us,theres being purely clo...

    Ronald’s Answer

    This is simply not a question, unfortunately, that can be answered without the assistance of a lawyer who can evaluate the scope of rights protected by the U.S. trademark, which European countries are involved, and the precise nature of the goods, services and channels of trade.

    Having said that, and without knowing anything besides what you have said, you probably risk a lot by proceeding with use of the mark in sales channels, such as the Internet, that could implicate the U.S. market -- without even knowing whether the U.S. registration implicates and formal European rights or whether there are other, related, risks.

    You must make the investment in consultation with an experienced U.S. commercial and trademark attorney who has the sophistication to advise you regarding this combination of legal and factual issues.

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  • Am I violating a federally registered trademark?

    My company name - and website - uses one word of another company's two word name - and website - that is registered as a trademark. Both companies offer the same services, using the same products, and the word refers to the type of service. We a...

    Ronald’s Answer

    You may very well be infringing the trademark, yes.

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