In today’s [fast-paced/competitive/global/hard-charging/ever-changing/pick your euphemism] business world, brand protection and promotion are of increasingly vital importance to business owners. As this blog has previously observed, even drug dealers understand the tremendous economic power of good branding. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s perspective), not all drug dealers understand the increasingly vital importance of not making harebrained business decisions with regard to their brands.
Case in point: the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced this week that one “David Ryan Burchard, 38, of Merced, was arrested late Monday, charged in a criminal complaint with distribution of marijuana and cocaine on dark-web marketplaces, including the Silk Road.” According to the criminal complaint and affidavit, one of the clues leading to Burchard’s arrest was his attempt to federally register his online drug dealer alias CALI CONNECT as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Burchard’s head-slapping and apparently self-filed application No. 86317958 was submitted June 23, 2014, seeking registration for shirts, A-shirts, graphic T-shirts, and hooded sweat shirts. Mercifully, while the application listed the aforesaid swag apparel in Class 25, it did not attempt to cover any actual pharmaceutical goods in Class 5.
Aside from its comedic value, this sorry incident provides an illustration of why one should always consult a trademark attorney when dealing with issues of branding. In addition to providing valuable strategic advice and helping to navigate the murky legal waters of trademark protection, a trademark attorney could have provided to Burchard the critical insights that (1) vanity is a deadly sin; (2) U.S. trademark applications are publicly-accessible documents; (3) putting your actual legal name and address on a trademark application for your secret online drug dealer alias might not be the best recipe for avoiding criminal liability; (4) crime sometimes does pay, but your dollars are probably better spent on bribery and private security than trademark enforcement efforts; and (5) dude, seriously? T-shirts? You’re going to jail because you couldn’t resist vanitizing your secret drug dealer alias on t-shirts? Read the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release here, the criminal complaint and affidavit here, and the CALI CONNECT trademark application here.