Once again David wins over Goliath.

The “David” in this case scored a victory in a California trademark infringement lawsuit over beauty products.

Sally Beauty Supply recently agreed to pay Mixed Chicks, a small hair care company catering to mixed-race individuals, over $8 million.

Mixed Chicks is a $5 million company with less than 15 employees.  Sally operates more than 3,000 stores and generates revenue of $3 billion. Despite its small size, Mixed Chicks was able to carve out a successful niche in the hair care market and even secure the endorsement of Halle Berry.  The company approached by Sally to sell Mixed Chicks products on Sally’s website and in retail locations. However, the two sides never reached an agreement.

Sometime later, Mixed Chick’s discovered that Sally was selling its own line of hair products marketed to mixed-race individuals, called Mixed Silk.  Mixed Chicks filed a trademark infringement lawsuit alleging that the “imitation” line infringed Mixed Chicks trademark as well as the overall appearance of the hair care products.

According to the complaint, Sally used marks that were confusingly similar to Mixed Chick’s registered marks and mimicked the color, scent, and general appearance of its product. The complaint also alleged that Sally programed the search feature on its website so that when a consumer searched for “mixed chicks,” it only returned results for Sally’s competing “mixed silk” product line. Mixed Chicks alleged that this was intended to “cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive as to the origin of the Mixed Silk hair care products with the intent to benefit from Mixed Chicks’ reputation and goodwill.”

A California jury awarded Mixed Chicks $839,535 in actual damages and $7.27 million in punitive damages, after finding that Sally acted willfully and with malice, oppression, or fraud. Sally subsequently agreed to settle the case for $8.5 million in anticipation of a request for attorney’s fees and disgorgement enhancements. Sally has also agreed to stop selling the infringing product.

As this case highlights, David can defeat Goliath in the intellectual property world.  So it can be worthwhile for small businesses to pursue trademark litigation all the way to trial.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need help with any Intellectual Property issue, from filing a patent, to trademark litigation, or just advice on  how to protect your ideas and your brand, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +


Picture Day!

It had to happen sometime.  Today was the day that we are taking new photos for the firm’s web site.  I’ll post the new one once the photographer has photshopped me into greatness!  Well, maybe not greatness, just handsome like Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher, or Channing Tatum.  Personally, I don’t think there are enough presets in to world to make that happen.  So, to assist my makeover the lovely Renee Garafano from Glendale SalonSpa worked on me for what seemed like hours, but was actually only a couple of minute.  She is really good, so you might want to go to her spa for some special treatment.

And so it begins!

A nose job.

What have I gotten myself into!  Like Picasso preparing to paint, Renee prepares to apply…I don’t actually know what is being applied.

A break in the action while Renee refilled the make case.  I’m sure she didn’t expect to have to cover THIS much real estate.

Finishing touches, then: Lights, Camera, Action!

If you need help determining how best to protect your ideas, or know someone that can use my help (with or without makeup!), please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

I’m a Radio Star!

Well, not quite yet.  I will be on the Adrenaline Radio Show on May 9th between 3:00 and 4:00pm to answer all your pressing intellectual property questions.  If you are not in the local area you can listen on the Internet at AdviceRadio.com.  So tell all your friends with questions to listen and call in.

If you have any patent, copyright or trademark questions and would like a free 30 minute consultation,  please contact me to set up an appointment.

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End of the App Lock-In?

As I was perusing my favorite technology blogs regarding, various smartphones, I was interested in the new Windows Phone 7 (WP7) Nokia Lumia 900 reviews.  I noticed that every article mentioned how fast it was on a single core device.  The constant reference to the single core brought out the attorney in me, so I did a little investigating.  It seems that there is no multitasking for applications in WP7.  Not a terrible limitation by any means.  However, I personally have looked at the Nokia and other WP7 phones along with Windows 8 and have no desire to have a Duplo/Lego phone that does more to annoy me than accomplish my work.  Your mileage and preferences may vary so don’t hate me because I don’t like your phone.

That being said, it dawned on me that if the new processors in phone and tablets were powerful enough, there is the opportunity to provide virtualization.  Virtualization on a phone or tablet would allow you to run multiple operating systems.  With the right set of hardware and software, a smartphone or tablet could run all the different segregated Apps.  This would mean a user would be able to run iOS , Android, Blackberry, WP7 apps on a single platform.

Just think one OS to rule all them all.

Is this the wave of the future, buy one, run all?  Or is this just a pipe dream.  Cast your vote in my poll.

If you have any software, hardware or Internet questions, please contact me for a free consultation.

Messier Marathon – The Results

Well, once again Mother Nature has thwarted another attempt by me to complete a full photographic marathon.  Actually, this time she had help.  I had started to test my equipment on Thursday night and everything was working so well that I actually had 50 Messier objects photographed by midnight.  However, I had an important client teleconference in the morning, so I decided that work needed to get done (solely to support my telescope habit) and stopped.  Looking back now, I should have stayed up all night, done the marathon and teleconference, then slept the rest of the day.  Alas, the clouds came rolling in and wiped out the seeing for the weekend.  I will try again next year.  I will process some of my images that I did manage to take and post them in the next few days.  The featured image was taken by Daniel Perry an RAS member.  You can check out more of his outstanding photos at http://www.californiastars.net.

– Ex astris, scientia –

One Step Closer!

The Los Angeles County Bar Executive committee unanimously voted this last week to approved the Armed Services committee for permanent status.  The motion now goes before the full board and hopefully I will be able to report shortly that all the hard work of the committee to draft a report citing the need for this committee on  a permanent basis will come to fruition.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, I was more than happy to make a small contribution to this effort.  However, there are many others one the committee that deserve credit for making this happen.  With 25% of the homeless population of Los Angeles being veterans, we could not stand by without doing something.  A recent survey citing the 3 top needs of these veterans as being help with legal issues, we jumped at the chance to act.  A special thanks goes out to Adam Siegler of Greenberg Traurig, LLP for spearheading this group.  Although he is in the Army Reserve JAG Corps, I can’t hold that against him.  Especial after we keep beating them in football (sorry Adam ;-}, Go Navy! Beat Army!).

Although the work at getting the committee formed is almost completed, the real work is yet to begin.  To all the veterans, active duty, reserve and their families, we will do our best to provide you with the help you need.

I cannot express my gratitude enough to the committee members who made this happen, but even more to those that have, and are now serving this county.

I am personally working with others in Riverside county to try and expand this program and others to assist those who defend freedom.


Kodak Files for Bankruptcy

In what may be a tragedy for amateur astronomers and astrophotographers world-wide, the 130 year old Eastman Kodak company filed for bankruptcy today.  Although this move wasn’t unexpected, it is still a little disheartening.  Yet, there still may be hope.  The company filed for Chapter 11 protection which will allow it to reorganize its business to eliminate debt and keep operating.  If they are successful, the company can come out from court supervision and continue in business.  However, in order to eliminate the accumulated debt, Kodak is going to sell off most of its patent portfolio. I will be keeping a close eye on this story as a large percentage of the astronomy cameras produced in the world today use Kodak chips.


As always – Ex astris, scientia

Where Have I Been?

I just started searching For topics related to astronomy and the law. I was amazed at the amount of information that I’ve been missing out on. Evidently there was this thing called the space race, you may have heard about it.  Evidently, it started back sometime around 1960. Obviously since I wasn’t born until 1962, I missed the entire thing. Actually, I have very vivid memories of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the moon. I can remember sitting in front of our then massive 19 inch Zenith color console TV with tubes watching those black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong taking his 1st steps on the surface of the moon. Just the year before my aunt had taken me to see a remarkable movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I can still remember sitting in the Cooper theater in downtown Grand Junction Colorado and being absolutely captivated by the images that were perpetrated on screen. I have to I’ve my aunt credit for starting me down the path of astronomy geekdom.   These days, the special effects that so enthralled me as a young boy would not impress any of today’s current  generation. Even the next  greatest science fiction film, in my opinion, Star Wars, is unimpressive to the current  generation. To be young and full of imagination and hope and the skies the limit once again.   But now I have to concern myself with the practical matters that all those during men in their flying machines accomplished.

What is to become of space. Obviously it’s still massively expensive to explore space, but lately there are many endeavors to make viable for commercial exploitation. Although the US is a signatory to many treaties regarding the use of space, how will this translate when corporations are flying the heavens. It seems that space may fall under the influence of corporate greed and disregard for anything that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line. So I find myself contemplating brushing up on title 51 of the United States code which deals directly with how the US treats space. Being an attorney, I know the laws slow to evolve, and when it does sometimes it  does it completely  wrong. So hopefully, I can add my voice to others already in the community to help shape, guide and mold future uses of the space above our heads.

So I have to go now, to start reading, studying  and catching up on more than 60 years of space law.

Let me know what you think about the commercialization of space.