Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't Infringe Me, Bro!

Making the rounds today is the story of Stefan Doyno, his registered trademark CHANGE ROCKS. (yes, the period is apparently part of the mark), and the Obama campaign's use of "change rocks" in promoting a series of fund raising events. From

Stefan Doyno picked the name "Change Rocks" about three years ago when he started a business to market his patent-pending invention of rings with interchangeable stones. He's since come out with pendants and is planning a line of T-shirts.

Now 19 and a first-year student at SUNY-Buffalo, Doyno learned by Googling his company's name that Obama's camp used the "Change Rocks" trademark for a concert and campaign fundraiser on Dec. 7 in Chicago.

"I was shocked. I flipped out kind of because I was like, 'Oh no, someone else is using it,' " he said.

He called his lawyers, and they send a letter on Dec. 18 to Obama's national campaign manager, David Plouffe, that points out that the name Change Rocks is a registered U.S. trademark (No. 3,266,236) and that if Obama's campaign sells T-shirts or other campaign memorabilia with the slogan, it could constitute an infringement.

Mr. Doyno's registration is for the use of CHANGE ROCKS. in connection with "jewelry." I haven't seen how the Obama campaign is making use of "change rocks," though I expect its use is not a trademark use. And if it is, I'm not sure how Mr. Doyno intends to enforce use of the mark by a third party on "t-shirts or campaign memorabilia," as neither of those are jewelry (unless campaign memorabilia is far nicer than it used to be). I do note that Mr. Doyno's letter to the Obama campaign contained the qualifier "could constitute an infringement," so perhaps this isn't as urgent a matter as it's being made out to be.

Still, great press for Mr. Doyno. I hope he sells some jewelry as a result.

I'll avoid comment on the use of "Googling" in the story quoted above.

Finally, a big thumbs down to Fox News for its report on the story, which states "Stefan Doyno, 19, took out a patent on the phrase 'Change Rocks' three years ago to market his line of boutique jewelry and stones."



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