Trademark Protection for Keywords

In class we discussed how competitors can advertise on search results of other’s trademarked terms (i.e. it would be akin to searching for Nike running shoes with the top result being a suggested link for Addidas shoes. It would be a paid ad by Adidas). We discussed how it is not illegal to do this and as such trademarks for keywords do not exist. However, my IP Survey class discussed this issue with a case called Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v Netscape Communications Corp.. In it, a competitor adult site paid for ads in search results for trademark protected keywords “playboy” and “playmate”. This meant when someone searched these terms on Netscape, their banner ads would appear. Playboy sued claiming trademark infringement for initial interest confusion. The court found that, “‘Keying’ constitutes initial interest confusion (trademark infringement) where the search engine uses trademarks in the keying lists to generate banner advertisements and such banner advertisements are not labeled or identified.” Thus, when ads are based on the “keying” of a competitor’s term, it is not legal unless the ad is sufficiently labelled as a competitor as to not confuse the customer. I found this interesting as it solves several of the “keying” issues with trademark that the class expressed concerns about.

As a personal test, I attempted to find an example of getting a competitor’s ad while keying a trademarked term of a rival product. On Google I was unable to do so. As such, the fears raised over being unable to protect trademark with keywords may be overstated.

The case can be found here:

Spotify Beefs Up Its Free Tier

Finally, Spotify has answered to its consumers. Users used to be restricted to shuffle and would have to pay premium to listen on demand. Spotify’s new version allows users to listen to certain playlists on demand. In total, that’s around 750 tracks that Spotify is serving up to users for on-demand listening. Perhaps other streaming services will follow Spotify’s lead.

Spotify beefs up its free tier

Wearing Your Food

This article talks about the rise of “food merch”

Remember when everyone though it was cool to wear your favorite cartoon on a graphic tee?  Traditionally a practice of fast fashion giants (Forever21 and H&M) high end retailers now want a piece of the pie.  However, that infatuation has shifted to food and to items of clothing that aren’t just t-shirts.

Designers like Kanye West and Collette, have been inspired by anything from grocery stores in LA (he called it “grocery store drip”) to McDonalds to trendy eateries that are not nationally well known. And the public is eating it up. The collaborations with the food industry have sparked a emergence of “rep your favorite food”. Honestly, it’s no different than wearing a t-shirt showcasing your favorite band or favorite place in the world–now it;s your favorite food.

This is a great trend for restaurants, because they rely heavily on branding and marketing. It’s a chance for the brand and restaurant to show a sense of familiarity either in their ethics or the customer experience. Whoever realized that the graphic tee/logo craze could shift to restaurants is brilliant. It’s a form of marketing that caters to the fashionable individual and food lovers .

Would you buy these? (collaboration with sauconyxdunkin donuts)


Image result for Saucony x Dunkin Kinvara 9's






Environmental Innovation is Thriving in Corporate America!

The author of this article certainly believes this to be true. First, who knew that Walmart hosts an annual Sustainability Milestone Summit? Not me. At the summit, Walmart announced Project Gigatron, a “collaborative effort to reduce a billion tons of emissions from the global supply chain over the next 15 years.” A survey of business leaders found that “[m]any felt that data analytics and measurement technologies have as much potential to affect business’ environmental impact as certain environmental policies and regulations.” The article goes on to outline four initiatives, started by major companies, to scale technological innovations in an effort to meet mounting environmental concerns. Through Automation & DematerializationSharing Technologies & Data Analysis, and Blockchain Technology companies are beginning to address sustainability with increased vigor and results.

New Type of VC Funding

A recent article by the tech publication Recode shared that the venerable Andreessen Horowitz venture capital franchise has begun to raise money for a “crypto fund”. This fund will direct fundraising to companies looking to experiment with cryptocurrency and related blockchain advances. Traditionally, entrepreneurs have had to raise money from individual angel investors and large venture capital firms, both of which historically have pushed for heavy control over the operation of startups.  The pioneering advances of cryptocurrency and “initial coin offerings” have enabled entrepreneurs to crowdsource funding with limited restrictions on founder control. The decision by Andreessen Horowitz to create this new crypto fund perhaps is the inception of a new era that weaves together traditional control-focused VC firms with new fundraising mechanisms such as initial coin offerings. This fusion will be interesting to watch for entrepreneurs looking for creative financing structures.

Dr. Christensen, Technology, and Higher Ed Transformation

I came across this article while looking into recent news involving Clayton Christensen. The author, Reed Sheard, is the Vice President and CIO at Westmont College. He provides commentary on a recent article posted by Clayton Christensen stating that within the next 10 years, up to 50% of all higher education institutions will either merge or close. Reed thinks this is a negative prospect for the education system and points to a need for innovation in the “business of higher education” as a means of addressing rising costs of eduction. I agree with some of his points, but think he oversimplifies the allure of online education. It’s not just the cost savings that attract people to online eduction. They are also attracted to time freedom, pace freedom, location freedom, and work freedom (yeah, a lot of freedom). For many people (maybe most), higher education sin’t necessary and doesn’t make sense, but modern society has made it a right of passage. Very interesting times ahead for higher education. What are your thoughts?

Follow up on Hiring Ex-Cons

Here is a link to the company, Homeboy Industries that we mentioned in class. They run various integration programs for ex-cons, particularly through their bakery (Homeboy bakery) and recently through their solar certification training.

I have met and worked with some graduates of the Homeboy solar training and they were able to become licensed electricians either through or because of the program. A lot of them were convicted of gang and/or possession charges, and this program gave them a second chance while preserving their dignity.

Recap of Build/Measure/Learn

Found this blog article that does a great job of explaining the build/measure/learn loop and why the minimum viable product (“MVP”) is so important. It goes into a good amount of detail concerning why it is so important to have an MVP, “If your MVP fails to resonate with [your customers], they don’t turn into testers and patiently deliver you feedback on how to improve your product…they simply leave- a lot like your low retention users. You are then left guessing why things aren’t working which kicks off the search for the mythical killer feature- the one that always feels like it’s just around the corner.” The article went on to describe how to develop the MVP in the first place, which, as we talked about in class, begins by focusing on issues in society, before thinking about solutions. In sum, reading this was a nice way to recap the concepts that we learned about in the beginning of the course.

Devil’s Lettuce in New York

I saw this first on twitter….

A medical marijuana dispensary company, Med Men, is extending its roots to New York City. It is one of three dispensaries that has moved into the Big Apple. But it is more of a statement than anything, because marijuana has not been legalized in New York–yet.

Currently, there are only 51,000 certified for medical marijuana in New York City. That is not necessarily enough to sustain the large commercial space. But the target audience is not for those using marijuana for medical purposes. The move to NYC is seen as proactive to enhance visibility of the company for non-medical marijuana users.

I think this is a great move, and the medical marijuana users are the test market to see if they beat out their competition in New York.