Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced a bill, The Trademark Law Technical and Conforming Amendment Act Of 2010 (S. 2968), that would make some technical changes to the trademark maintenance system within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and would initiate a mandatory study by the Deparment of Commerce to examine whether large corporations are using trademark law to harrass smaller businessses by exaggerating their scope of their trademark rights.
Here’s the press release.
The impetus behind the portion of the bill requiring the Department of Commerce study comes from the recent dispute between Hansen Beverage Co., the maker of MONSTER energy drinks, and Rock Art Brewery, Vermont microbrewery, regarding Rock Art’s use of the name “VERMONSTER” in connection with a barleywine.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the bill, and whether the Department of Commerce can effectively sort out true cases of “bullying” in way that achieves a balance between the rights of large brand owners, on the one hand, and small businesses, on the other.
In the meantime, the media (both mainstream and social flavors) seem to be doing a good job of keeping large brand owners honest. Here’s what Rock Art’s owner had to say regarding the watchdog function of media:
“It’s phenomenal,” said Matt Nadeau, who owns the Morrisville brewery with his wife. “It happened so fast. That’s what’s just amazing about this new power of traditional media, combined with social media, what tools that we have as Americans to fight against big power.”