Saturday, June 11, 2016
This story about B-52s frontman Fred Schneinder's trademark battle with Monster energy drink mentions that he's being represented (actually it's his friend who's been threatened with a lawsuit) by a virtual law firm that grew out of an intellectual property incubator clinic at Suffolk U. School of Law in Boston. Mr. Schneider, who had an 80's hit with the song "Monster," licensed his name and likeness to a buddy who's selling "Monster" coffee beans. Well, the energy drink company that goes by the same name didn't take too kindly to that so it sent Mr. coffee beans a cease and desist letter. A few paragraphs down into the story, the reporter mentions that the recipient of the cease and desist letter is being represented by a "virtual" law firm headed up by the former director of Suffolk's Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic, Eve Brown. Not only that, but Ms. Brown has hired a bunch of former Suffolk law grads (and clinic participants) who now work for her as independent contractors. Hence we have a very nice example of an incubator project leading to some pretty great opportunities for the school's recent grads. Ms. Brown explains in the article that her firm charges a flat rate of $100k for trademark litigation through trial and that former Suffolk clinic participants working for her get to keep 80% of what they bill. Sounds like a win-win for all concerned. Here are more details about the lawsuit and Ms. Brown's new virtual law firm from Law.com:
“Monster” is not Fred Schneider’s biggest hit. That would be the B-52s frontman’s dance-floor staple “Love Shack.”
But “Monster,” a catchy tune off his 1984 solo record Fred Schneider and the Shake Society, enjoyed a following on the 1980s club circuit and earned the distinction of being among the first music videos banned from MTV. (Do yourself a favor and watch the video.) All of which is to say that Schneider didn’t anticipate any trademark issues when he partnered with a Florida coffee roasting company to offer Fred Schneider’s Monster Blend. After all, the coffee bears his name and the title of a song he wrote more than 30 years ago.
Then came the April 15 cease and desist letter from lawyers working for Monster Energy Co. to Ric Coven, founder of Breyting Community Roaster and longtime friend of Schneider, arguing that the use of “Monster” in the coffee’s name runs afoul of the energy drink maker’s trademark.
“When Ric told me, I was like, ‘Well they can’t do anything! It’s a common word!’ ” Schneider said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “They can waste all the money they want!”
Coven also laughed the letter off as completely ridiculous, but got serious when a friend tipped him off about Monster’s aggressive trademark practices. (Trademarkia.com named the company the top “trademark bully” of 2014).
Monster’s attorney at Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear did not respond to requests for comment.
Coven’s next step was to reach out to Bricolage Law, a four-month-old, flat-fee virtual law firm co-founded by attorney Eve Brown, who previously faced off against Monster and won when she was directing Suffolk University’s Law School Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic. The clinic represents small businesses and startups in trademark disputes and other business matters, and scored victories before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board against both Monster and apparel giant Nautica Retail USA Inc. in the past year.
“I keep in touch with graduates who went through the clinic and a couple of them were sitting around with me and said, ‘We wish we could do the clinic for the rest of our lives,’ ” Brown said. “And I thought, ‘We can!’ ”
Brown is leaving academia this month to run Bricolage full time from her home with the help of a small group of recent Suffolk Law graduates who work as independent contractors and take home 80 percent of what they bill. The work is appealing, said 2015 Suffolk graduate Kevin Jarvis, as is the flexibility Bricolage provides. “The primary reason I’m trying to build this is that I don’t want to do the standard 80 hours a week in your first year,” he said. “This is a way to make a difference for people and still be able to enjoy my life.”
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Continue reading here.