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Attorney Wayne
Attorney Wayne, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Practicing Law Since 2000
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Basic facts: I play golf. My last name is Lo. I sent in

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Basic facts: I play golf. My last name is Lo. I sent in two golf clubs (about one year apart each, one putter and one wedge) to a certain company to customize uniquely (i.e. color of the club, club grip, any letter stamping). I instructed them to stamp the words "Go Lo" on each of the two clubs. I did this because my last name is XXXXX XXXXX the lower the score, the better in golf, thereby resulting in "Go Lo".

One year after sending in the second club, the club maker announces a new product line of putters called "Go Lo". Spelled the exact same way. His other putter lines are all named after places that were important to him growing up, (i.e. Newport, California, etc.)

Do I have any case whatsoever? I just want him to acknowledge that he got the idea from the putters I instructed them to customize in a very specific way.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 10 months ago.
PLEASE DO NOT use the rating system until satisfied. Instead, please click REPLY TO EXPERT to continue our conversation.

Hello. Thanks for contacting us.

You raise an interesting question -- how to protect clever ideas. The two pieces of intellectual property law that apply would be copyright and trademark.

As a base rule, copyright protects only the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. It also requires, with expression involving words, that the idea not lock up expression of an idea. Because two words will often amount to a lock on expressing an idea, they usually don't qualify for copyright protection. The design of a logo that uses those words would get copyright as a visual or graphic expression, but not the words. There may be longshot arguments that one could spend a lot of time or legal fees researching -- but it would be longshot to succeed.

Trademark functions differently. It can actually cover anything, as long as a consumer understands that a product or service is connected with a certain expression. Sometimes these take time to develop -- as in the use of a color for certain products. Words usually work better -- but it is necessary to show that the name was used in "actual commerce" to have any chance at a trademark claim. The reason is the focus is on consumers in a particular market and geography.

In a sport, if a particular player is known (even by a small coterie of fans, followers or contacts), then those tings involving his or her name can arguably be trademarked. But if someone simply had clubs inscribed with certain words and was not somehow involved in some way with a commercialization that involved potential customers associating a product with the name, then it is very hard to prevail on a two word claim, especially when one of the words, like go, is a generic cheer or chant in support of a team of player.

I am sorry that I don't have more favorable information to share -- but I can tell you are an educated person and would rather have the information straight rather than sugar-coated.

I wish you every success for many matches under par!
Attorney Wayne, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 1506
Experience: Practicing Law Since 2000
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