Legal made layman’s

Concerns about our trademark have been addressed a multitude of times, yet persons who offer incorrect information continue to cause confusion.  This post is to make it as clear as possible.  The main points of interest are:

1.  Genericness: We DO federally own Thread Bears®.  In offering the types of products we make, only we are allowed to use these words together.  Some people have claimed that this term can be used if it is in a different font type, or if it is all caps/lowercase, or if it is singular.  That is not the case.  Only WE are allowed to use the term–whether it appears as: THREAD BEAR,  THREAD BEAR, THREAD BEARS, THREAD BEARS,  thread bear, thread bear, Thread Bear, Thread Bear, Thread bear, Thread bear, Thread bears, Thread bears, Thread Bears, Thread Bears, ThReAd BeArs, ThReAd BeArS, ThReAd BeAr, ThReAd BeAr, etc.  This also stands for any font size, color–and if it is underlined or italicized.  If you are using this phrase to describe an item similar to ours, please check any of the above forms of typing it.  If you are in fact using any of these variations of the phrase, you are in violation.  If you would like to verify this Trademark Law yourself, you may do so here: http://www.bitlaw.com/source/37cfr/2_52.html

A competitor had attempted to have our registered trademark revoked on the claims of it being a generic term.  They had submitted letters of protest by many bear artists after encouraging abuse of the phrase.  In doing this, they had convinced a Trademark Administrator that the term was generic.  You may see the Administrators opinion here: http://tdr.uspto.gov/jsp/DocumentViewPage.jsp?78553324/ADR20060124090213/Administrative%20Response/127/24-Jan-2006/sn/false#p=1

This Administrator made her opinion based on only the information the competitor submitted, which was not an unbiased, impartial assumption.  HOWEVER, it is not the job of an Administrator at the Trademark office to make the final decision on a trademark case.  It is the duty of the judge(s)/Board to determine if a term is generic or not.  Basically, just because a lawyer/Administrator says that something is true, doesn’t make it so.  It is only true if the judge(s)/Board say it is.  After the Administrator posted her above opinion, the Board then submitted the final decision on the cancellation of our trademark.  They denied the trademark cancellation and awarded us our trademark–clearly addressing the fact that the Administrator came to a conclusion from her own opinion, and that this is not proof of genericness.  You may see the final decision here (the Board addressing the Administrator’s opinion is on pg. 7): http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=92046025&pty=CAN&eno=25

2.  Disclaimers: Legally, in any trademark application, the person who seeks registration has to file a disclaimer.  This disclaimer guarantees that, if ownership of the term is acquired, they will not consider people who are only using individual parts of the phrase in violation of Trademark Law.  These parts are usually unregistrable.  For example, in the application for Thread Bears®, we had to disclaim the term “bears.”  “Bears” is an item that cannot be registered, since it is a generic word.  So, if someone is just using the word “bears,” or “bear” for that matter, we cannot claim that they are in violation of our trademark.  It would be a violation if it was any form of phrase in its entirety.

We are currently in litigation to acquire another trademark. A so-called “informant” of Trademark Law has taken it upon herself to announce that we had to disclaim “thread teds” and “thread bears” in our registration application to acquire “Thread Teds by Thread Bears.”  She has improperly defined what disclaimers actually are.

The simplest way to explain it is this: the whole term may be registered, though individual parts of it may not be registered.  This does not translate into genericness.  Though some terms may not be registrable because they are generic (such as bears), other terms may not be registered because they are already owned.  In disclaiming “thread bears” in this current application, it simply states that we cannot register the term “thread bears,” since it is already owned–by us.  Trademark law verifies this in saying that NO disclaimer on ANY application voids out any existing registrations.  Our ownership of Thread Bears® still stands.  You may verify this rule here: http://www.bitlaw.com/source/15usc/1056.html

3.  Policing :  There have been statements made recently that we have not been policing our mark.  It is very difficult to run a business, handle litigation issues, and police trademark abuse.  It is especially difficult to police when there is a multitude of misinformation being passed out to the public.  Abuse of our trademark has been overwhelmingly encouraged by others.  We now have an outside source policing our mark.  Take note: we are not required by law to give warning to a person in violation of our trademark.  Consider this a warning–we can have websites/auctions removed if there is anyone misusing our trademark, OR if you are maligning our business or ownership of the trademark, OR if you are spreading misinformation/gossip about our business or trademark on any site.

Recently we have seen people who are not co-owners of our trademark attempting to permit the use of our trademark by other artists who make similar items.  It is not their right to allow use of OUR trademark.  We do not give them authorization to do so.  If anyone has permitted, or is permitting you to use our trademark consider this–why was cancellation of our trademark sought if we, according to them, don’t own rights to the term?  Why would you risk losing your website or having your auction cancelled at the risk of using “thread bears?”  Would you risk it because someone, who is NOT an owner, gives you permission to? Why would anyone need an approval to use it from someone who is not involved in our business?  Each artist needs to weigh their options and risks.  Our outside source will be removing websites/auctions as of now.  If corrections are still not made by the violators, further action WILL BE TAKEN.

The topic of our trademark is not up for discussion.  If anyone has questions regarding trademark law, we encourage them to check here, or ask us directly.  We have had many years of experience on the subject, and after all, it is our trademark.  If you come into contact with anyone on this topic, please refer them here. These posts are available for anyone to verify trademark information.

We would like the bear world to move past this subject.  It has been noted that instead of trying to malign our business and encourage illegal activity, some artists’ time would have been better spent using their talent of making incredible little things.  No person should take on the duty of acting as a lawyer or trademark owner if they do not have the title.

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As a matter of fact

We are taking this opportunity to publicly address some reoccurring issues.  It is now a necessity on our part to set forth the facts. It has continuously come to our attention that misinterpretations of Trademark Law have been given to the general public in regards to our trademark, Thread Bears®.  We would like to make this announcement again–if any person has questions regarding our trademark and the laws behind it, please feel free to contact us.  There is no person authorized to give legal advice or interpretations of trademark law other than a lawyer, or the trademark owner.
Certain people have portrayed themselves as being persons of knowledge of this subject. In most cases, this is not so.  Unless they are a CERTIFIED lawyer, or a co-owner of our trademark, they are not one who should be approached on the subject.  Many years ago while communicating to one of these so-called “informants,” we expressed that they are not entitled, nor obligated to speak on our behalf of the trademark.  One of these “informants” guaranteed that she would refer, to us, anyone that approaches her with trademark questions in regards to our business.  At that time, we had a mutual understanding that this person would not interfere with our business or trademark concerns on our behalf.  However, this person still has not fulfilled their guarantee.  They have handed out free legal advice to the general public in regards to our trademark, and has not referred a single inquiring person to us.  Use of our trademark by artists of similar products have been publicly encouraged.  It has been claimed that it is a generic term that anyone can use.  However, if it was a generic term that the general public could freely use, why was cancellation of our trademark with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board sought?  This cancellation was denied.  The Board concluded that we own the rights to the term.  Why would they have spent all that time, cost, and efforts of taking legal action in court if it is, in fact, a generic term that anyone could use?
Thread Bears® became a term that distinctively described our products.  It set us apart from competitors, it aided in distinguishing our business.  We created this title to set our products apart from the common, such as bears made of thread.  Artists associated this name with our products.  Confusion had arisen from the opinions of the so-called “informants” and continuous abuse.
We have been accused of being jealous of our competitors(without any evidence).  We have continued to conduct ourselves in a businesslike, professional manner.  We have never slandered anyone.  There is absolutely no evidence of this accusation.  Any information presented on our part has all been for clarification–to set the facts straight.

What’s in a name?

We began offering crocheted, miniature, fully-jointed animals to collectors over two decades ago.  We decided that Thread Bears® was a name that suited our business.  It was not a term that any artist used at that time to primarily refer to the products that they made.  The common terms bear and doll artists used to describe their products are: crocheted, miniature, bear, animal, doll, made of thread, made of yarn, etc.
Our federally owned trademark, Thread Bears® (Reg. No. 2146208) has been the subject of many discussions through the years. We acquired the much-earned trademark after a long trial process and attempts of trademark cancellation by competitors.  Artists began using Thread Bears® to describe their products, even if the product they made wasn’t a bear!  What they didn’t realize is that in doing this, they ultimately hurt the chances of some prospects finding their product.  If the artist had titled the item as a “bear”, and the possible customer was searching for “dolls,” they would have never seen the item.
The primary goal for the trademark abusers was to ultimately have our trademark deemed as a generic term.  However, since it was not a term that was primarily used to describe these products, it was decided by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that our federally registered trademark was NOT generic, and that any person (who made items similar to ours) was in violation of Trademark Law.  The decision of the Board can be found here:
http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=92046025&pty=CAN&eno=25
The only people/businesses who can use the term Thread Bears, other than us, is persons who DO NOT make soft sculpted, jointed, crocheted, knitted, felted, sewn bears, dolls, or animals of textiles–such as yarn, thread, fabric, etc.
Any person using our trademark to describe their items similar to ours will be held accountable, since that would be considered as offering counterfeit items–if it is not a Thread Bear®, do not call it one.  Any website featuring our trademark in connection to an item that was not made by us will be removed.  If the person in violation does not make the necessary adjustments, further action will be taken.  This further action could also consist of a financial obligation on part of the violator.
We do not take these measures to hinder any of our competitors.  We do this to protect what we earned–what we have created and fought to keep.