November 2016 Bar Bulletin
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November 2016 Bar Bulletin

Sniffing Out Truly Traceable Data

Innovations in Trademark Law Kick off KCBA’s Business Law Section Meetings

By Rachel Sindorf


Did you know you can trademark a smell!? Our first Business Law Section meeting held under new Chair Nick Franzen focused on learning fundamental trademark law and gave members a glimpse into ways non-traditional trademarks are functioning alongside technology and mobile applications, including scent mark protection.

In September, Ashley Long of Carney Badley Spellman, presented on “Trademark Basics: Issue Spotting and New Developments,” and gave us a crash course in how corporate lawyers can make sure they are staying current on many of the non-traditional marks that are coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

While the marketing industry has long known the power of “scent” on consumer decision making, add trademark and stream-of-commerce issues into the mix, and it’s a whole new “scent-sation,” including problems that global networks and cross-border supply chains encounter with brand owners and market-differentiation. Some attorneys are forecasting apps or new platforms that will be able to utilize advances in smartphones and “enable brands to find new pathways to the nostrils,” and/or the ability to track whether their marketing claims are objectively verifiable.

To build on these ideas, the Business Law Section’s October speaker was Seattle University Professor Margret Chon, who has recently published cutting-edge ideas relating to the role of trademarks and their functionality within a corporate responsibility and regulatory framework. One of Prof. Chon’s innovative suggestions revolves around a new concept called “tracermarks,” where a “consumer would be able to access verifiable data on whether a product is actually what a trademark, or label, claims to be.”

While tracing products is a critical concern for many different industries, this seems to be an interesting suggestion to the regulation problems in Washington’s marijuana business where federal trademark protection is unavailable to marks that are used on illegal goods and services; especially in an industry where there is growing concern over product sourcing and manufacturing. With the help of technology, the face of traditional trademarks and intellectual property is always changing, and we are already seeing the ramifications of major global reforms.

For more ways to stay current on these and future legal trends, make sure to tune in either by webcast or in person every fourth Wednesday of the month at noon, or at
. For questions concerning the Business Law Section or membership, please contact Nick Franzen.

Rachel Sindorf is a legal marketing and client development specialist for Cairncross & Hempelmann, and a part-time law student at Seattle University.


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