Archive for July, 2009

Michael Jackson’s Patent & Trademarks

figure.pngpatents.pngThis month the US Patent and Trademark Office opened an exhibit of Michael Jackson’s patents and trade-marks which is scheduled to run through the summer of 2009. One of Mr. Jackson’s more famous intellectual property assets – besides his songs and brands – is his patented “Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion” (Michael J. Jackson et al, Patent number: 5255452), comprising a special boot (shown at left) used in connection with a device set into the stage.

Calgary – 09:00 MST

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Employer Access to Employee Gripe Site

In the good old days, the boss overheard you complain at the pub after work.  Now, employees have more sophisticated methods of dishing the dirt. And employers must walk a careful line when navigating the issue of employee privacy.  

  • In Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, Docket No. 2:06-cv-05754 (D.N.J. 2008), a US court decided that employees enjoyed a certain amount of privacy over a gripe-page they created on MySpace.  The pages were designed to be accessed by invitation-only, and provided a place for employees of the Houston’s restaurant chain to rant about their employment. Management heard about it, and asked one of the employees for the password to the site. The employer then promptly fired the 2 employees who had established the site.  When the employees sued their former employer, the court found in favour of the employees, on the basis of invasion of privacy and ordered payment of back-pay.
  • While there has been no similar case yet in Canada, the issues were discussed in University of British Columbia (Re), 2007 CanLII 42407 (BC I.P.C.) where the employer secretly installed spyware on an employee’s workplace desktop to monitor his internet use. The Information and Privacy Commissioner investigated and found that the employer was in breach of public-sector privacy rules by surreptitiously monitoring its employee when it had “less intrusive means to manage the complainant’s employment.”

Related reading: Our post on workplace surveillance cases 

Calgary – 15:30 MST

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Trade-mark Protection: LEE vs L.E.I.

Courtesy of LeeL.E.I. for jeans is arguably confusing with both LEVI’S and LEE, making it a perfect candidate for a trade-mark battle.  Lee Canada went to bat to defend its LEE brand in the face of an application for the mark L.E.I. (stylized) for use in association with jeans. Lee Canada opposed the registration – and won – on the grounds of confusion with its registered LEE marks, used in Canada since 1937. (Lee Canada Inc. v. Jones Investment Co., 71 C.P.R. (4th) 112 (T.M.O.B.).)

The owner of the L.E.I. mark also owns associated marks L.E.I. LIFE ENERGY INTELLIGENCE for clothing.  Though the mark LEE is not highly distinctive according to the Trade-marks Opposition Board, Lee Canada was able to establish that its reputation in Canada was entitled to protection.  The application for the mark L.E.I. was refused, but the damage may already be done: the same owner already owns a registered mark for L.E.I. for jeans, registered in 2002, a mark that likely slipped past Lee Canada.  L.E.I.-brand jeans are sold in Walmart, and recently signed-on country star Taylor Swift to endorse the clothing line, so this brand is not one to be ignored.

Calgary – 15:00 MST

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