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December 2018
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Monster Energy Loses Trademark Opposition Against UK Drink Company, But May Have Bullied It To Death Anyway

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A review of our stories about Monster Energy's trademark bullying ways might leave some scratching their heads as to why the company continues along these lines at all. After all, any review of those stories will leave one with the impression that Monster Energy seems to lose these trademark oppositions at nearly every turn. So, if that's the case, why continue with this losing streak?Well, as we've explained previously, winning an opposition or lawsuit is only one of the real goals in trademark bullying. Other goals include making the opposition so painful and expensive so as to either push the victim into unreasonable changes or to simply drain the victim of cash and assets as they attempt to defend themselves. Likewise, such bullying serves as public notice to anyone else that might consider similar actions that would draw the bully's ire, chilling their willingness to do so. In this, Monster Energy's trademark bullying is often quite successful.An example of this can be found in UK beverage company Thirsty Beasts, which recently won its case against Monster Energy's opposition to its trademark for the second time on appeal.

Dan Smith, from Newbury, created healthy drinks company Thirsty Beasts in 2018, and the US firm filed a legal challenge against him.It claimed customers would confuse both Mr Smith's slogan - "Rehab the beast" - with its "Unleash the beast" line. The case, which was dismissed, cost Mr Smith more than £30,000 in legal fees. He said he and his wife had ploughed every penny they had into launching the business. After registering his first trademark in the UK in 2016, Mr Smith then filed the Thirsty Beasts logo. Billion-dollar company Monster Energy objected to his application, claiming Mr Smith's slogan was too similar to its own.The UK Trademark Office ruled in favour of Thirsty Beasts, but Monster Energy appealed the decision.
And Thirsty Beasts won that appeal. The Trademark Office once again reviewed the material provided by the two companies, including the branding, company names, and logos, and rightly decided that there was no customer confusion to be had here. You can read the entire timeline of events for yourself on the company's website, but ultimately this story has a happy ending, right?Well, again, winning the opposition isn't the only, or perhaps even primary goal, of the trademark bully.
"Financially it has crippled the company," Mr Smith said. He added: "We had savings set aside to boost the product, to do the marketing, to get that one drink out. Now we've burnt all of that, that and more trying to win this. We are two years behind where we want to be."The entrepreneur now needs to raise £28,000 for a limited launch of the product in spring 2019.
Maybe the Smith family will be able to do that, maybe they won't. And that's the real harm of large corporate trademark bullies like Monster Energy. Even in losing, it might still ultimately win if its victim can't survive in business because of its bullying. And, again, Monster Energy can point to such an outcome should anybody else out there want to take similar innocuous actions.Trademark bullying works. And on more than one front.

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posted at: 12:10am on 05-Dec-2018
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Tennessee Legislators Can't Stand Up To Cops; Keep Federal Loophole Open For Nashville Law Enforcement

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Earlier this year, the Tennessee legislature passed some very minimal asset forfeiture reforms. The bill, signed into law in May, does nothing more than require periodic reporting on use of forfeiture funds and the occasional audit.What it doesn't do is require convictions. It also doesn't close the federal loophole, which allows Tennessee law enforcement to bypass state laws if they feel they're too restrictive. Given that state law doesn't really do anything to curb forfeiture abuse, the federal adoption lifeline isn't used quite as often in Tennessee as it is by law enforcement agencies in others states with laws that are actually worth a damn.But local cops really really really want the federal loophole open. They've been applying pressure to Nashville legislators and it has had the expected effect. (h/t Daniel Horwitz)

Nashville on Tuesday renewed its participation in a controversial 1980s-era federal program that's allowed the police department to keep proceeds from seized assets taken from people suspected of crimes involving drugs.After spirited debate, the Metro Council voted 25-5 with two abstentions to renew Metro's participation in the "equitable sharing program" with the U.S. Department of Justice and federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
The loophole Nashville law enforcement barely needs will remain open. And it will remain open because… well, budgets are tight and we can't keep asking state taxpayers to make up the difference.
Councilwoman Jacobia Dowell, who also voted for renewing the agreement, said not renewing the program would leave a hole in the city's budget."I have zero confidence in this council body to find $150,000," Dowell said, noting the city's budget struggles this past year.
So, instead of all taxpayers, Councilwoman Dowell wants to have just a few taxpayers pitch in to help cops -- taxpayers who happen to have property law enforcement thinks they didn't acquire legally.Or not even taxpayers! Why even trouble those who reside in the state to give law enforcement some extra cash. Why not just take money from people leaving the state? That's the way Tennessee's "drug interdiction" teams work. According to law enforcement, they want to stop the flow of drugs into the state. That doesn't really explain their actions:
While drugs generally come from Mexico on the eastbound side of Interstate 40 and the drug money goes back on the westbound side, the investigation discovered police making 10 times as many stops on the so-called "money side."
Law enforcement doesn't seem to mind the drugs coming in, but it's certainly not going to let the cash head back out. Councilwoman Dowell thinks if cops can't lift money from drug dealers, they won't be able to buy the stuff they need to continue to allow drugs to flow into the state.What Dowell absolutely doesn't want to see is her poorest constituents asked to dig even deeper to keep the drug interdiction units in business.
She said [the budget shortfall] would end up coming from Nashville's "most distressed and the impoverished communities."
Bless her heart. Oh wait.
Although civil asset forfeiture affects people of every economic status and race, a growing array of studies indicates that low-income individuals and communities of color are hit hardest. The seizing of cash, vehicles, and homes from low-income individuals and people of color not only calls law enforcement practices into question, but also exacerbates the economic struggles that already plague those communities.
None of the rationale makes sense. The drug teams that don't actually catch drugs need money to keep doing the job they're not doing and they need to take it from someone since the state's not going to help them out. The people who are going to help them out are either people leaving the state or low-income residents.The problem is that when you say someone's going to have to come up with $150,000, someone will have to come up with it. And when that number increases -- and it will -- the shortfall comes directly from residents and other US citizens who have their belongings taken from them without even being accused of a crime.$150,000 is only the cut from federal sharing. That's Nashville law enforcement's manageable money habit. There's more to it than the federal slush fund. Nashville law enforcement has created a drug enforcement ecosystem that can't be sustained without the seizure of millions of dollars every year. Even prosecutors recognize the problem.
[Nashville County District Attorney Glenn] Funk stated that on his first day as Nashville’s District Attorney, he was told that $1.7 million to $2 million would be needed to be brought in through seizures in order to keep the drug task force in operation. He also expressed concern that individuals were indicted or subject to forfeiture proceedings who would not otherwise have been if civil asset forfeiture were not a “cash cow.” He stated that officers sometimes target people with high-value cars so they can forfeit them and put the cars into service. General Funk provided these as examples of problems that arise “when we don’t have legislative oversight over the funds and assets . . . that are being seized.”
If you want to start fixing forfeiture abuse, start with the federal loophole. Agencies will realize it's not impossible to live without this money. And from there, you can start cutting them off from the main supply by eliminating civil asset forfeiture altogether by adding a conviction requirement. But if you can't even make this small move, you're not serious about fixing the problem. That's Nashville's problem -- one that harms citizens while keeping law enforcement flush with funds they really didn't earn.

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posted at: 12:10am on 05-Dec-2018
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