Stupid, needless trademark oppositions achieve a whole lot of things that make me angry. It allows Monster Energy to trot around the globe pretending it has trademark rights that it absolutely does not. It allows people to try to make trouble for businesses just to be pains in the ass. And it allows large, global brands to bully smaller entities under the guise that they must police trademarks or risk losing them.
Still, those that know me best will know that I will not countenance anyone or anything getting in the way of something clever and funny. And that’s now what one trademark opposition may do, as a Cleveland Indians pitcher with a famous last name has had his attempt to trademark the term “Not Justin” opposed.
In August 2019, Shane Bieber applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to register “Not Justin” as a trademark. He wore a special jersey with the phrase on it, humorously referencing his uncommon last name that he shares with the pop star. Shane Bieber plans to use the phrase in standard character on various types of apparel.
On January 8, 2019, however, shoemaker Justin Boots filed an opposition to the PTO regarding registration of the trademark. Justin Boots owns nine federal trademarks and uses them on footwear, apparel, and accessories. The shoemaker argued in its notice of opposition that there was a strong likelihood of consumer confusion. In addition to pointing out similarities in their trademarks and how they will both be used on apparel, the shoemaker claimed that consumers would likely perceive the “Not Justin” apparel as being sponsored by or affiliated with Justin Boots.
This is absurd on more than one level. To start, the idea that the public is going to experience any actual confusion in thinking that an MLB pitcher’s joke apparel, which will be marketed towards his specific fans, somehow is affiliated with a shoe and apparel maker is laughable. I can’t squint hard enough at the accusation to make it seem possible.
And then we can add to that that the mark is for “Not Justin”, the specific assertion that the brand is about not being something related to any Justin. The reference is specifically for Justin Bieber, of course, but Justin Boots would fit the bill as well. The mark-holder is not Justin Bieber and is likewise not Justin Boots. None of this makes much sense and it’s getting in the way of a fairly humorous interaction between fans of the player and fans of the pop star.
The attorney for Shane Bieber in this matter, Darren Heitner, stated that he and his client are “reviewing the notice and discussing internally.” While the application for “Not Justin” was not filed in partnership with Justin Bieber, the two Biebers have engaged in friendly discourse over their shared last name on social media. Justin Bieber even has a custom “Not Shane Bieber” jersey of his own.
Pretty funny, actually. But unfortunately it seems that the joke may need to be un-codified in the halls of the USPTO if it fails to understand that there is no confusion present here.
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