Category Archives: November 2016

Trademark Basics for Media Companies, Part One: What Trademarks Are and Why They Matter

(L-R): Kelly Donohue and Radhika “Ronnie” Raju,

By: Kelly Donohue and Radhika “Ronnie” Raju, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

In today’s digital economy, trademarks are often the most valuable assets that a business owns. For example, in 2015, Google’s trademark portfolio was estimated to be worth $76 billion, which constituted almost one third of the entire value of the company. Microsoft clocked in at $67 billion, with Verizon close behind at almost $60 billion. While you may not hit 11-digit figures like these intellectual property behemoths, a smart trademark strategy can put you on the right course. This blog is the first of a five-part series that will help you understand trademarks and how they function, so that you can maximize the value of your own trademark portfolio. We’ll run the other four articles in the weeks to come. So keep reading!

So, what is a trademark? A trademark identifies products or services as coming from a particular source. Although a trademark is usually a word, a phrase or a design, it can also consist of or incorporate features such as color, smell, taste, shape (product configuration), touch, motion and sound. But not all trademarks are created equal. A strong mark can preclude the use by others of somewhat similar marks for goods and services that may not be directly competitive. In contrast, a weak mark may only be entitled to protection against the use of an identical mark for the same goods and services. How do you select a trademark that will most effectively help you build your brand?

The equation is simple: the more distinctive the mark as applied to a type of goods or services, the stronger it is and the easier it is to register and protect. There are five categories in which trademarks can be classified, listed below from strongest to weakest:

  • Fanciful or coined marks are terms that are made up and have no meaning other than as a trademark. These are the strongest kind of mark and offer the broadest scope of protection. Examples of fanciful marks include KODAK for film, EXXON for gasoline and VIACOM for broadcasting services. The disadvantage to a fanciful mark is that it takes more marketing resources to help consumers remember and associate the mark with a particular company and create brand awareness.
  • Arbitrary marks are common words that are found in the dictionary, but do not have any connection with the goods or services that they brand. Famous arbitrary marks include APPLE for computers, LOTUS for software and FOX for television broadcasting services. As with fanciful or coined marks, arbitrary marks receive a broad scope of protection.
  • Suggestive marks suggest some feature or advantage of a particular product or service, but do not immediately describe the goods or services. It requires some thought or imagination for the consumer to reach a conclusion as to the goods or services. Examples include COPPERTONE for suntan lotion and GREYHOUND for providing transportation by bus.
  • Descriptive marks immediately convey some aspect of the goods or services. Examples include PARK N’FLY for airport parking lot services and YOUR #1 ROCK STATION for radio broadcasting services. Descriptive marks are entitled to no protection unless the owner of the mark can show “acquired distinctiveness,” which we wrote about here in connection with questions as to whether the podcast SERIAL could trademark its name. This showing can be made in a number of ways, such as a consumer survey, establishing exclusive use of the mark for at least five years and detailing the extensive advertising efforts that have been undertaken to create brand awareness among consumers.
  • Generic terms are words that are the common name of a particular category of goods or services, such as APPLE for apples or NEWS STATION for broadcasting services. Generic terms are incapable of functioning as trademarks and can neither be registered nor appropriated to the use of one owner. Sometimes previously strong trademarks become generic due to an inadequate protection strategy of the owner. If consumers come to understand the trademark to be the name of the product itself as opposed to identifying an exclusive source of the products, the mark essentially dies. Examples of this include aspirin for acetylsalicylic acid and escalator for a moving staircase.

Now that you have a better understanding of what trademarks are, why are they so important? In today’s world, where attention spans are reduced to the size of a Twitter feed, companies now more than ever need the ability to catch the consumer’s eye and cut through the crowded marketplace. A good branding strategy can help you convey a range of information, from price point to target audience to the types of goods and services you are offering. Likewise, it can help boost your online presence – having a consistent, thoughtful branding strategy across your media platforms and social media feeds can help your customers find you quickly. Finally, a good brand can lead to new licensing opportunities and revenue streams.

So, when you are choosing a mark, make sure that it is distinctive and strong, or otherwise be prepared to spend time and money convincing the Trademark Office or a court that it is protectable (and potentially fending off potential third-party uses of the mark; after all, if it is descriptive, others may feel that they can use it freely!). Consider how you use the mark online, on your website, social media, etc. to make sure you are branding across all of your online properties consistently. And finally, make sure you are keeping track of your trademarks, as these are valuable assets that can grow in value over time (like real property, they can be bought, sold, licensed, used as collateral, etc.). Also, make sure to have a trademark attorney conduct a clearance search before you start using the mark, to ensure that no third parties are already using and/or have already registered the mark. The last thing you want is do is to spend valuable time and money plastering your new mark all over your media outlets (commercials, websites, flyers, etc.) only to find that someone else had first dibs on the mark, forcing you to re-brand and go back to Square One. We will help you avoid this pitfall in our next installment, Trademark Basics, Part Two: How Trademark Searches Can Keep You Out of Legal Hot Water.

Reprinted  by permission.


Symson to Succeed Boehne at E.W. Scripps

(L-R): Rich Boehne and Adam Symson, E.W. Scripps Company

E.W. Scripps Company has announced that Rich Boehne will retire from his role as president and CEO during the second half of 2017, and the company has appointed Chief Digital Officer Adam Symson to the new position of chief operating officer.

As COO, Symson will report to Boehne and oversee day-to-day operations of the company’s broadcast TV, digital media and radio divisions. He is expected to move into the chief executive role when Boehne retires.

E.W. Scripps is the licensee of three television stations in Michigan: WXYZ-TV/WMYD-TV (Detroit) and WSYM-TV (Lansing).

Boehne, 60, has been president and CEO since 2008 and was elected chairman of the board in 2013. The board anticipates Boehne will continue as its chairman following the transition later next year. Symson, 41, joined the Scripps TV division in 2002 and has held a variety of roles before taking over the company’s digital operations in 2011. In that role, he has run Scripps’ local digital businesses in 27 markets as well as national digital content companies Midroll, Newsy and Cracked. Scripps’ digital portfolio includes web, mobile and over-the-top businesses, and Symson has led the strategy and execution of product development, content, revenue and marketing for that portfolio. He also has led the company’s efforts to develop new businesses in emerging media through investment and acquisition.

“Adam has demonstrated the leadership and entrepreneurial skills critical for the continued long-term success of the Scripps enterprise,” Boehne said. “In this media environment, where opportunities and challenges develop at an ever-accelerating pace, he has shown his ability to build successful media brands.

“Having spent more than half of his career in broadcast television, including as an investigative journalist and a news strategist for Scripps, Adam is driven by our company’s mission and our vision of creating a better-informed world. His deep experience as a broadcaster, a builder of digital media brands and a discerning leader will serve our employees, our customers and our owners exceptionally well.”

Prior to 2011, Symson ran operations, content and revenue for the TV division’s interactive businesses. He also spent a year as director of content and marketing for the Scripps Interactive media division, which was spun off into Scripps Networks Interactive in 2008. He has served as director of investigations and special projects and director of news strategy and operations for the Scripps corporate television group. He joined Scripps as executive producer of investigations and special projects for Scripps affiliate KNXV in Phoenix in 2002. He also has worked for CBS stations WBBM in Chicago and KCBS in Los Angeles and as an independent producer for CBS News and NBC News.

Symson has a bachelor’s in communication from the University of California, Los Angeles. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Cincinnati and serves on the boards of Cincinnati Public Radio, Adath Israel Congregation and Scripps Howard Foundation.


Engineering Spotlight: Gerry Heyn

Nominate an engineer you know!  Email Dan Kelley at [email protected].

wbup_700Gerald H. (Gerry) Heyn is Chief Engineer for Lake Superior Community Broadcasting Corporation stations, WBUP/WBKP-TV in Ishpeming.  He’s been there since 2005.

Gerry writes that “it’s been a very interesting and challenging job moving the studio from the Marquette Mall to the Miracle Mall in Ishpeming during the digital transition and most recently moving the antenna and transmitter from a rented tower to the new station owned tower in Humboldt.”

Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume.
Gerry: I’ve had a long career in electronics and broadcasting. 23 years at WNMU-TV and Radio where I received most of my broadcast experience. Previous to that, I worked for Communications System Co. repairing CCTV cameras used for mining, paper and pulp industries and power companies and installing commercial sound systems including Muzak.

Before that, I served in the USAF for 21 years and with 15 of those years in electronics. The last 10 of those years in the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) as calibration technician.

A lot of my training came from doing correspondence courses in radio and TV FCC licenses (GROL) prep courses during overseas tours. When I was stationed in North Dakota, my supervisor wanted some broadcast endorsements on his FCC license before he retired and went to a local radio station to work during his off-duty time. He became so busy, he asked me to fill in part of the time because they needed an engineer with first phone because it was a directional AM station so I worked at night part-time, sign-off at 1:00 AM for a few months. That was my first job in broadcasting back in 1968.

I’m also a CET (certified electronics technician) with the International Society of Certified Electronic Technicians (ISCET) and Certification Administrator and administered the CET and FCC exams from 1986 to 2005. However, there is not much call for it anymore.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself that very few people know.
Gerry:  Very few people know I sailed on the Great Lakes as a coal-passer for a few months before going into the U.S. Air Force. Knowing what I learned there kept me from enlisting in the Navy. Back then there was the draft and I had three older brothers drafted and I didn’t think I wanted that after hearing their stories.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Gerry:  I guess the best advice I ever got was being told, “get into electronics, that’s where the future is” and it worked for me.

Broadcast Excellence Awards Entry System Guidelines and FAQ’s

bea2016_275By now your station should have received a reference guide in the mail for the 2016 Broadcast Excellence Awards. The entry portal is now open so please begin to submit your entries as soon as possible! Start by logging in HERE.

If you created an account in the past two years, please log in using the same account information, if you are creating a new account, please follow the instructions that are listed in your reference guide or online at

Awards Ceremony
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The Lansing Center, Lansing, MI

Entry Fees
MAB or MAPB Member: $45 per entry
Non-Members: $90 per entry

For questions, contact Alisha Clack at 517-484-7444 or email us at [email protected].

Here are some FAQ’s about the Broadcast Excellence Awards to help your entry process go smoothly!

1.  All Divisions and Categories:
Q:  Is there a minimum or maximum time for each entry?

A:  Yes. Each entry, unless otherwise specified in the category description, should be no longer than 1-hour in length. For full category descriptions please click here.

2. All Divisions and Categories:
Q:  What if my corporate check does not arrive in time for the payment deadline?

A:  All payments are due by Friday, January 13, 2017. If it appears that your payment will not make the deadline, please contact Alisha Clack at 517-484-7444 to discuss your options.

3. All Divisions and Categories:
Q:  Can I submit an entry that was produced in 2016, but will air after December 31, 2016?

A: No. All entries must be produced and aired between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. See rule #5 here.

More questions?  Email us at [email protected].

2016 Post Election Update

The Washington, D.C. law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP created a report on a number of issues that will be faced by the new President and Congress in the upcoming year. The full report, titled Pillsbury 2016 Post Election Update, is available here.

The report is organized by a number of practice sections and discusses what will likely happen across a number of industries, including communications, in the next four years.

On the subject of communication policy and regulation, the report states that a Republican-controlled FCC can be expected to either roll back or choose not to enforce the numerous regulatory mandates that have been adopted by Tom Wheeler. “These could include: repeal of net neutrality, loosening restrictions on ownership of radio and television stations; and increased funding for Universal Service programs.”

Leonard, Singh Named Next Caucus Leaders

(L-R) Rep. Tom Leonard (R-93); Rep. Sam Singh (D-69)

House Republicans chose Rep. Tom Leonard (R-93) on Thursday as their new House speaker for the 2017-2018 legislative session. The caucus also elected Representative Dan Lauwers (R-81) as the majority floor leader. Other member appointments include State Representative Lee Chatfiled (R-107) as speaker pro-tempore, Representative Robert VerHeulen (R-74) as the caucus whip and Representative Eric Leutheuser (R-58) as caucus chair.

The Democrats voted to elect House Minority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-69) as their caucus leader. State Representative Christine Greig (D-37) will serve as minority floor leader.

Photo chart of 2017-2018 House of Representatives is available here.

MAB Board Profile: Rob David

rob-david_275MAB News Briefs is pleased to bring you profiles of your MAB Board of Directors.

This week’s profile is Rob David.   Rob is President/General Manager of Handyman Productions, a radio program syndicator, which produces and distributes the award-winning Handyman Show with Glenn Haege. The show is heard on over 20 stations in Michigan and more than 140 stations across the country.

He founded Handyman Productions after an extensive radio broadcasting sales and management career at WGMZ-FM in Flint; and at WXYT-AM (WXYZ-AM) / WMXD-FM in Detroit.

Rob is a long serving board member and former chairperson of the MAB Foundation Board and was the inaugural recipient of the MAB ‘Associate of the Year’ award.

He is a proud graduate and supporter of Michigan State University and was presented with the ‘MSU Alumni Service Award’ and named an ‘Outstanding Alumnus’ by the Eli Broad College of Business.

Outside of broadcasting, he is a recent graduate of the FBI Citizen’s Academy and serves on various community organization and boards. In addition, he is a distinguished member of the Consular Corps as the Honorary Consul for Grenada.

The Honorable Robert David and his wife, Marcia, reside in Novi.

Looking at the Election Results and the Future of Washington Policy For Broadcasters

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

This post was written on November 9, 2016

Before the November 8 election, in some of the legal journals that circulate in Washington, there was much speculation as to potential appointees to various government positions after the election. For positions such as the chairman of the FCC, many of these publications listed familiar DC names as likely appointees if, as expected by most pundits, Hillary Clinton was elected president. On the Trump side of the leger, speculation was much vaguer, as few had any real insight into how his administration would implement the broad but, in many cases, imprecise policies that Mr. Trump expounded during the election. Given the results of the election, those speculations are sure to ramp up as everyone tries to guess what will happen with broadcast policy in a Trump administration.

At this point, we can only speculate as to what that election will mean for broadcast policy – particularly at the FCC. One would certainly expect a lessening of the regulatory burden on broadcasters – as lessening burdensome regulations on businesses was a clear plank of the Trump agenda. The make-up of the FCC will likely facilitate such changes, as Republicans will no longer be in the minority at the FCC. A third Republican will join Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly on the FCC. These two Republicans dissented on many issues of importance to broadcasters – including the recently concluded Quadrennial Review of the Ownership Rules. Thus, a third Republican vote could have changed the decisions on many issues.

At this point, it would be speculation as to who will be appointed Chairman, essentially controlling the agenda of the FCC. But, at times like these, speculation is what people in Washington do. One name that has central to a Trump FCC is Jeffrey Eisenach, a visiting scholar and Director, Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative “think tank” in Washington, who has been associated with the Trump transition teams planning for the possible transition of power. One of the existing Republican Commissioners will likely become Acting and potentially permanent Chair, and new names for FCC vacancies will likely arise in the near term.

Planning for a Republican administration may well change the thinking about how to proceed on many of the issues now on the table for broadcasters. The fight over the Ownership Rules, for instance, might be subject to reconsideration, asking the new Commission to reverse the decision that was handed down in August. That could replace the current strategy of an appeal to the Courts which, even if successful, would likely result in a remand to the FCC to adopt rules in line with the Court’s order. The appeal that the NAB has announced that it is pursuing could be abandoned if there was an indication that a new FCC would see things differently than the old one. Of course, the President-Elect Trump’s expressed hostility to big media companies is a wild card in this calculation. Other paperwork requirements, from EEO rules to public file obligations, could also be reviewed under a new administration.

FCC reform generally has been a signature issue of the Republican Congress, so such reform could advance under a government where Congress and the Administration are all under Republican control. Signature issues under such reform proposals have included more transparency in decision making, more rapid decision making, and requiring more economic analysis of the effects of any new regulation on those being regulated to make sure that the regulation is justified.

Question marks for broadcasters include antitrust policy, where candidate Trump has indicated some concern with businesses, including those in the media space, from getting bigger. Reform of libel laws (about which we wrote earlier this week) so that public figures have more avenues to pursue defamation actions, have also been advanced by the President-Elect.

Obviously, we are one day into a new reality, so this is still very much a developing story. We’ll be watching, and broadcasters need to be watching too.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline.  Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your membership.

Your MAB Membership Gives you Access to these Upcoming FREE Webinars!

Check out these upcoming online training sessions in November, all of which are FREE to MAB member stations! Make sure to put them on your calendar and register today!

mab-wbkTrademark Basics for Media Companies: What you Need to Know

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
1:00 p.m. EST
Presented by Mitchell Stabbe & Kelly Donohue, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

MAB Member cost: FREE!!!
Non-Member cost: $150

Register here.

This FREE webinar* on Trademark Basics for Media Companies will teach you what you need to know about trademark law and provide helpful tips on how to strengthen your company’s trademark portfolio. You’ll also learn how to avoid infringing on the intellectual property of others.

Topics to be covered include:

    • Building your brand and protecting your rights.
    • Understanding different types of trademarks and levels of protection.
    • Avoiding unauthorized use of intellectual property.

Your marketing and digital media teams will not want to miss out on this opportunity to learn more about this important area of law.

*This webinar is a FREE MAB member benefit and is being recorded and archived for our subscribers.

mab-lytleHow to “Talk Advertising” with your Prospects and Customers NOW!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
1:00 p.m. EST
Presented by Chris Lytle, Instant Sales Training

MAB Member cost: FREE!!!
Non-Member cost: $150

Register here.

“You don’t motivate salespeople to be successful. You get them to be successful so they become motivated.” -Chris Lytle

Further develop your successful sales team by having them attend the Instant Sales Training Webinar.  Invite your copywriters and production people, too.

Here’s why this program is important:  Everybody has an opinion about advertising. But, people who sell broadcast advertising need a philosophy of advertising.

Not just an opinion.

Face it.  Most of your salespeople don’t have degrees in advertising or marketing.

That’s troublesome.

This Webinar bridges that learning gap quickly. It’s a fast-paced, highly-detailed session.

Here are a few of the takeaways:

  • Why salespeople need to “talk advertising” and not just rates and ratings.
  • Two of the best advertising “zingers” to share right away.
  • What you say when a client says, “Nobody mentioned my ad.”
  • How to get consumers to mention their ads.
  • Five uplifting concepts to share with your customers.
  • What you need to learn from these seven “old school” advertising masters.

Chris Lytle is a best-selling author and well-travelled professional speaker.

His promise to you is a bold one: His programs contain more usable information per minute than any other learning event.

Save the date. Let him prove it.

Interlochen Names New President

Photo credit: Mark Lyons

Interlochen Center for the Arts has chosen a new President. Trey Devey will leave the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra next year to come to northern Michigan. Devey has been president of the symphony orchestra since 2009 and led it out of a severe financial crisis.

Interlochen Public Radio is owned and governed by the Interlochen Center for the Arts and its Board of Trustees.

Devey, age 45, has vacationed near Traverse City his entire life. He has a masters degree from The Wharton School of Business, and he studied music and played trombone at Northern Illinois University.