Everybody has problems with the Patent and Trademark Office. Even former President Barack Obama has problems with the Patent and Trademark Office. I read an interesting story recently about how the former president and his wife, Michelle are setting up an entertainment production company. In the course of organizing the new venture, Higher Ground Productions, they attempted to register a federal trademark for the name Higher Ground Productions. The Trademark Office refused registration because of an earlier registration for a company known as "Higher Ground Enterprises" owned by Hanisya Massey.
The Trademark Office routinely rejects trademark applications when the examiner believes the marks are too similar and could cause confusion in the marketplace. This can be extremely frustrating to the trademark practitioner because you cannot always predict when the Trademark Office is going to determine that marks are too similar – often their reasoning is unclear. But there is no denying that "Higher Ground Productions" and "Higher Ground Enterprises" are pretty darn similar.
There has been some pretty funny reporting on the saga as the parties attempted to negotiate some kind of settlement. According to the New York Times, at one point Massey requested screen rolls in some of the Obama's forthcoming productions. However, the dispute appears to have become ugly with the Obamas now seeking cancellation of Massey's trademark on technical grounds based on alleged non–use. This can occur when a trademark owner can be shown not to be actively using a mark. However, in my experience there's a pretty low threshold needed in order to prove continued use.
Maybe the Obamas just like the Stevie Wonder song-- but perhaps they should contemplate coming up with a new name…