For several years, I have started students off not with a case but with a real registration problem, partly to show them what the nuts and bolts of trademark practice often look like but mostly — as with the water bottles (something that I do later, with product configuration marks) — to get them thinking about how trademark lawyers think. I use the record from efforts to register a mark in “Pantherade” for sports drinks. It’s a real file. And it’s fun because one of the opposers was/is my own school, the University of Pittsburgh. The story (which I eventually share with the students, because it’s not clear from the file itself) gets better: Pantherade is one of a family of proposed registrations. There’s also Buckeyeade. Wolverineade. Badgerade. Etc., etc. (there are several dozen in all). Sports fans, even casual sports fans, get the point. And the applicant is … Franco Harris, d/b/a Super Bakery, a Pittsburgh-based contract food producer. THE Franco Harris, Penn State and Pittsburgh Steelers superstar, from whom I learned the tale of the Pantherade mark at a cocktail party about 4 years ago.
Anyway, getting students to talk through Pitt’s arguments and Franco’s arguments is a good way to get them “in the mood,” as it were, and I always find it fun to tie IP questions to Pittsburgh-area culture, particularly because in Pittsburgh, people generally assume that IP means patents.
In addition, for the first day I will assign the first (background) chapter of Mary LaFrance’s Understanding Trademark Law *and* the case that Graeme and Mark use in their book: Elvis Presley Enterprises v Capece. That’s also a fun case, and it gets students thinking about the issues that came up in Pantherade but of course in a different context.
I’ve just posted my syllabus online, by the way. You can see it at http://madisonian.net/home/?page_id=1625. It’s a 3-credit course that meets twice a week.