Finnegan's monthly review of essential decisions, key developments, evolving trends in trademark law, and more.
December 2011 / January 2012 Issue



2011 was a year I’d sooner forget.  Not much good happened in the first year of the second decade of the third millennium, aside from Osama Bin Laden’s departure after diabolically sequestering himself where nobody would ever think to look—in plain sight.  In the United States, the job market continued to founder, politicians continued to gird for gridlock, Occupy Wall Street protesters in Berkeley were doused with pepper spray as if they were weeds, Jersey Shore remained on TV, the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the big-market L.A. Angels, and Herman Cain discovered that running for president is far more complex than delivering pizza.  (When he left the race for the Republican nomination, the leader of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan breathed a sigh of relief).

Across the Atlantic, things were hardly rosier.  Greece hovered on the brink of an economic catastrophe that threatened to engulf the entire planet; Italy’s flamboyant and notorious leader, Silvio Berlusconi, finally ran out of luck and was driven from office after years of scandals; France had its own controversies, with the head of the IMF fleeing New York in disgrace and a former president convicted of corruption; and Germany failed for the 500th consecutive year to produce even a single trace of humor.  (Springtime for Hitler does not qualify, having been written in America by Mel Brooks.)

In the Middle East, the Arab Spring began to turn cold as the ouster of Hosni Mubarak failed to bring about rapid democratic reforms, Syria’s repressive regime continued to defy the will of the people and basic human rights, Iran continued to flirt with a dangerous nuclear agenda, the Israeli/Palestinian conundrum appeared no closer to resolution, and the entire region continued to suffer the embarrassment and shame of having allowed Sex and the City 2 to be filmed on location in Abu Dhabi.

In Asia, things were worse.  Japan was struck by a tsunami, causing a nuclear crisis that made Three Mile Island seem like a breezy week of fun.  At the Fukushima nuclear power plant, flood waters crippled the reactors, sparked fears of another Chernobyl, and added fuel to the worldwide economic meltdown.  Not even Homer Simpson could undo the damage.  China, on the other hand, continued to fuel its engine of economic growth, thanks in no small measure to a not-so-healthy disregard of U.S. intellectual property rights.  And speaking of piracy, that age-old scabrous profession seemed alive and well, not merely in Johnny Depp’s Keith-Richard inspired performance in the Disney film franchise, but also on the high seas off Somalia, where neither commercial shipping nor small private sail boats were safe from these lawless predators.  But at least piracy was one domain that remained free from interference by Donald Trump.

So what’s in store for us in 2012?  For intellectual property fans, the new America Invents Act will take wing and may revolutionize patent law as we know it.  For political junkies, the Republican primaries should provide thrills, chills, and spills, leading to a robust campaign for the presidency between Barack Obama and the Last Man or Woman Standing, be it Mitt, Newt, Ron, Rick P, Rick S, or a player to be named later.  The outcome of that race is likely to turn on debates sponsored by The Commission on Presidential Debates®.  Social and economic activists will get to see the mettle of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Will the hordes of disgruntled 99%-ers who for months have railed against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations be dispersed by the cold of winter, the threat of arrest, or the yen for a good caffe latte at Starbucks®?  Will sports fans get to see another championship season by Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers, or will the Pack’s quest for a repeat be derailed by injury, poor officiating, or the inability to resume play after a mesmerizing performance by Madonna at the Bridgestone® Super Bowl halftime extravaganza?  Whoever said trademarks and brand owners don’t have the power to change the world?