Who doesn’t know the difference between a patent and a trademark? USA Today, that’s who.

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Today’s USA Today newspaper roasts a celebrity for getting a patent denied due to poor punctuation.  The article is embarrassingly poorly written.

A moment or two of clicking on the USPTO web site would have permitted the USA Today reporter, Hannah Yasharoff, to get the story right.  The headline says that the celebrity was denied a “patent” when the thing refused is actually a trademark registration (actually, two trademark registrations).

It turns out the celebrity has filed six trademark applications, not just one.  They are:

  1. 87905798
  2. 87905804
  3. 87905806
  4. 87905808
  5. 87905815
  6. 87905820

Applications 2, 3, and 5 are now the target of an opposition.  Application 4 has a Notice of Allowance.

Applications 1 and 6 are the trademark applications that are misidentified by USA Today as a patent application.

The USA Today reporter awkwardly writes the entire article without ever checking original sources.  Over and over again the article talks about how reporters from Entertainment Tonight and People magazine say that the USPTO said this and the USPTO said that.  With just a few mouse clicks the USA Today reporter could have seen what the USPTO actually said.  The USA Today reporter talks about “the letter from USPTO, which ET reports was dated March 15″;  the reporter could just have looked at the USPTO web site to see for herself that indeed the letter (office action) was dated March 15, and could have seen that there are two letters (office actions), one in each of two pending trademark applications.  The USA Today reporter says “according to ET, Giannulli has six months to resubmit her application before the office abandons it.”  The reporter could have seen for herself that indeed the Office Action sets a six-month period.

The applications are being prosecuted by Latham & Watkins.  I imagine it’s a bit embarrassing right now at Latham & Watkins that two of their high-profile trademark applications for this celebrity now stand finally rejected for no better reason than poor punctuation in the identification of goods.

Frankly the readers of USA Today probably would have been better served if Ms. Yasharoff had focused on the three applications that are being opposed, rather than the two applications that will surely get approved for publication as soon as Latham & Watkins gets the punctuation fixed.  The reporter could probably have gotten a good sound bite from the opposer.

8 Replies to “Who doesn’t know the difference between a patent and a trademark? USA Today, that’s who.”

  1. They also seem oblivious to the fact that a trademark attorney filed the applications—they are acting as though Olivia Jade herself filed the apps, when, as you note, it was Latham & Watkins. ?

      1. Love it! I blame the editors of mainstream media. They just don’t seem to care about getting facts right anymore… and/or they love the “sensationalism” of things they don’t care to bother to actually understand, e.g., any science or medical development that any mainstream media reports on. Such articles are always grossly wrong by being woefully overly simplified to lacking basic fundamental information.

  2. Correct answer seems to be 90% or more of mainstream media. IP seems to be a murky pool, and the author can pull out whichever label (“patent”, “trademark”, or “copyright”) they feel is most euphonic for the article at hand.

    More common seems to be confusion between trademark and copyright, where some entity is claimed to be trying to “copyright” a name or advertising slogan.

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