Brewing Technology At Keurig Green Mountain?

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More than just coffee at Keurig? Could we have known earlier?

More than just coffee at Keurig? Could we have known earlier?

Keurig Green Mountain (formerly Green Mountain Coffee Roasters) made a few headlines this summer when discussing its brand change, plans to broaden its current product offerings, and entering new markets.  A paragraph in an article at The Moltey Fool caught my attention:

Indeed, Green Mountain officials contend that while fiscal 2014 will be a time of focusing on the fundamentals, fiscal 2015 will be about launching new innovations. “It’s one format, (K-Cups), but the brand is actually one that going forward will be getting into other things — water filtration, carbonation. It will all be under the Keurig umbrella,” Riddick said. “The brand going forward must be known by consumers for things other than K-Cups and coffee.”

A brief search on Google Patents shows that GMCR has, in fact, been busy of late, submitting patent applications to the very technologies referenced in the paragraph above.  For example, at least the following applications have all been filed in the U.S. between December 2010 and August 2012:

  1. Method and apparatus for cartridge-based carbonation of beverages
    App. – ‎Filed Aug 2, 2012 – ‎Published May 23, 2013 – ‎Thomas J. Novak – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Systems, methods and cartridges for carbonating or otherwise dissolving gas in a precursor liquid, such as water, to form a beverage. A gas source can be 

  2. Beverage formation apparatus and method using vibratory energy
    App. – ‎Filed Jun 15, 2012 – ‎Published Dec 6, 2012 – ‎Peter Peterson – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Apparatus and method for forming beverages using a beverage cartridge and sonic energy. A cartridge may include a sonic receiver, such as a feature that 

  3. Compositions, systems and methods for portion-packaged soups and meals
    App. – ‎Filed Jun 15, 2012 – ‎Published Dec 20, 2012 – ‎Richard Estabrook – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Methods and systems for producing a food product having a liquid component and an insoluble component, such as soups or stews. A food product assembly 

  4. Method and Apparatus for Cartridge-Based Carbonation of Beverages
    App. – ‎Filed Jan 31, 2011 – ‎Thomas J. Novak – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Systems, methods and cartridges for carbonating a precursor liquid, such as water, 

  5. Beverage Formation Apparatus and Method Using Sonic Energy
    App. – ‎Filed Dec 17, 2010 – ‎Peter Peterson – ‎Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.

    Apparatus and method for forming beverages using a beverage cartridge and sonic energy. A cartridge may include a sonic receiver, such as a feature that 

Additionally, the applications listed above have 7 child applications (most unpublished) and I would imagine there will be more filings as the applications get closer to issuance.

Reviewing these patent portfolio additions, Coca-Cola’s purchase of a significant amount of Keurig stock should strike us as nothing unexpected – Keurig has been planning the expansion into carbonated beverages for many years. What this little analysis also confirms is that stock reports and other typical business information can be supplemented by trend analysis of patent filings (even if the publication information is a delayed representation of the actual patent filings).


Introducing Smart-Bracket Staging

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Eric Kurtz was recently featured in the TV segment below on WCAX, where he discussed his patent pending staging bracket system that saves constructions crews time and energy. He came to us seeking patent assistance and with questions regarding how to engage with potential vendors and suppliers while still protecting his intellectual property. As the WCAX segment makes clear, his ingenuity and foresight have allowed his Smart Bracket to gain traction in the marketplace. Congrats to Eric on all his hard work! For the Smart Bracket website, click here.


Redskins: Impact and fallout

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Reg. Number 0986668

Reg. Number 0986668

As many have heard, the USPTO canceled many of the Washington Redskins’ federal trademarks.  Below, I’ve reposted a good article from fellow Vermonters that lays out the history, the case, and the decision of the USPTO.  I’d also suggest reviewing these two articles:

Prof. McKenna at Patentlyo

Randazza at CNN

In all, these three posts lay out what exactly the Redskins lost, why they lost it, and what the implications are.  To summarize: while the Redskins organization is undoubtedly disappointed the impact of the loss is not extremely significant. The greater impact may be on what role the disparagement limitation to federal registration takes in future challenges to clearly established marks.

[This post was republished from the WebTM blog with the permission of my colleagues, Gordon Troy and Lawrence Stanley]

REDSKINS Marks Cancelled, Found to Disparage Native Americans

On June 18th, the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) granted a petition to cancel six registrations for word and design marks containing the word, REDSKINS for entertainment services. The action, Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh v. Pro-Football, Inc., Cancellation No. 92046185 (June 18, 2014) (“Blackhorse”), was brought by six Native Americans (later narrowed to five), who argued that the word “Redskin” was disparaging to Native Americans. Two of the three judges on the TTAB panel agreed and one dissented.

This was the second cancellation action brought by Native Americans against trademarks owned by the Washington Redskins. In the first, Harjo v. Pro Football, Inc., brought in 1992, the TTAB granted the petition for cancellation, but the federal courts ruled that the petitioners were barred by the doctrine of laches — i.e., they had waited too long after reaching the age of majority to file their action.

The registrations sought to be cancelled in Blackhorse were registered between 1974 and 1990. When the petition was filed in 2006 (shortly after the federal courts dismissed the Harjo petition), each of the petitioners had only recently reached the age of majority. Laches was no longer at issue.

Under 15 USC § 1052 of the Lanham Act, marks that “may disparage” persons or institutions “or bring them into into contempt or disrepute” are forbidden from being registered. Moreover, while the Lanham Act requires many cancellation petitions to be brought within five years of registration of the disputed mark, it provides no statute of limitation for cancellation petitions based on disparagement. Under 15 U.S.C. § 1064(3), such petitions may be brought “[a]t any time.” In the final Harjo appeal, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, 415 F.3d 44 (2005),the Court speculated that Congress “may well have denied companies the benefit of a statute of limitations for potentially disparaging trademarks for the very purpose of discouraging the use of such marks,” citing In re Riverbank Canning Co., 25 C.C.P.A. 1028, 95 F.2d 327, 329 (1938), which noted that the “field is almost limitless from which to select words for use as trademarks, and one who uses debatable marks does so at the peril that his mark may not be entitled to registration.”

Nevertheless, there was no fixed test for determining whether a mark is disparaging until Harjo. As re-stated inBlackhorse, the test is two-fold:

  1. What is the meaning of the matter in question, as it appears in the marks and as those marks are used in connection with the goods and services identified in the registrations?
  2. Is the meaning of the marks one that may disparage Native Americans?

In answer to the first question, the TTAB found that REDSKINS, even when used in connection with the presentation of football games, clearly refers to Native Americans. This is demonstrated by the design marks (visible on Washington Redskins helmets and elsewhere) and by the use of Native American garb and headdresses by the Washington Redskins’ band and cheerleaders (called “Redskinettes”).

In answering the second question, the TTAB noted that in addition to other evidence, it must take into account the views of a “substantial composite,” but not necessarily a majority, of the group which the mark is claimed to disparage. In addition, it had to find that REDSKINS was disparaging in connection with entertainment services (i.e., the presentation of football games) at the time the marks were registered.

Petitioners submitted two types of evidence to prove their case. General evidence as to the meaning of the word REDSKINS consisted of dictionary definitions, reference books and testimony from experts in linquistics. Specific evidence as to the views of Native Americans consisted of personal testimony and letters, newspaper articles and official records, including a 1993 Resolution of the National Congress of American Indians declaring that the REDSKINS trademarks were “offensive and disparaging.” The evidence left no doubt in the minds of the majority that REDSKINS was disparaging at the time the marks were filed. The respondent’s argument, that REDSKINS had acquired a separate meaning as the name of a football team, thereby neutralizing any disparaging effect, was rejected.

The dissent, on the other hand, believed that the petitioners failed to prove that the term was disparaging at the time of registration when used in connection with football. Furthermore, he said, dictionary definitions that labelled REDSKIN as “usually offensive” left open the possibility that it might not be in certain contexts, one of which could be football.

The TTAB ruling does not affect the ability of the Washington Redskins owner to continue using its REDSKINS trademarks. The only issue at stake in the case was whether federal law permitted registration of the mark in the US Patent and Trademark Office, thereby invoking the additional protections that registration provides. There is no question but that the USPTO made the right decision. Indeed, no federal agency should put a stamp of approval on conduct (or a trademark) that plainly disparages a segment of the population on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.