Judge Recused In University Of Kentucky V. Kentucky Mist Moonshine Case Because He's A Kentucky Grad

from the getting-out-of-hand dept

We were just discussing the University of Kentucky's asshat-ish bullying attempts concerning Kentucky Mist Moonshine's gall in selling hats and t-shirts featuring the distillery's name and logo. The whole episode has been entirely silly from the outset, with the school essentially declaring itself the sole owner of the name of its home state for the purposes of its use on apparel. This attempt to throw aside even the question of actual customer confusion made the whole thing a strange power-play against a distillery, with some questioning how a trademark over a state's name could be granted in the first place. Kentucky Mist itself filed a lawsuit against the school, requesting that the trademark it has chosen to flaunt so brazenly be either declared invalid entirely or reformed to protect the school only against any attempts to actually be associated with the school as opposed to the state of Kentucky.

Again: none of this should be happening. If the University of Kentucky had simply kept its nose out of an unrelated business' business, no suit would have been filed. But now, as the silliness continues, we get news that the judge originally assigned to preside over the case has recused himself. Why? Because he's a graduate of UK.

Jim Francis, Kentucky Mist's attorney, had on Monday filed the motion for recusal, citing [Judge] Hood's status as a graduate of UK and its college of law. In addition, Francis said in his motion, Hood is a university donor designated as a UK Fellow and a member of the UK Alumni Association.
I can understand why Kentucky Mist would want the most impartial judge possible for its case, especially when Judge Hood was in some way affiliated with a school that has proven to be a complete bully on the very question the court was to decide. Still, I keep coming back to the fact that we shouldn't even be here. The fallout from the USPTO's unwillingness to cast a critical eye when it comes to trademark registrations is what's impacting all of this. If, instead of granting UK a trademark on the state-name "Kentucky" for apparel back in 1997, it had instead applied some critical thinking and understood what a massive problem such general and common-word trademarks might present, no recusal would have been necessary.

Instead, another judge will be assigned, and we might get the outcome, through the challenge of the trademark, that should have occurred back in the nineties.

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Filed Under: joe hood, kentucky, moonshine, trademark
Companies: kentucky mist, university of kentucky


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 5:31am

    Too bad he needed to be told

    The judge did the right thing. It would have been the *best* thing if he didn't need to be told that this was the right thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 12 Nov 2015 @ 12:53pm

      Re: Too bad he needed to be told

      I disagree.
      He did the OK thing. The right thing would have been to laugh this case out of court the minute it landed on his desk.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 5:34am

    Role Models

    Where else would Kentucky get their judges from, Ohio?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 11:36am

      Re: Role Models

      ...Where else would Kentucky get their judges from, Ohio?...

      This actually happens once in a while. It's called "change of venue" and can be petitioned by either side of a case. Most often such case is going to a jury trial and the court cannot produce (or lacks confidence in producing) an impartial jury.

      And no the new judge does not come to the case's location; all parties of the case have to go to where the judge is located.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 6:09am

    The problem is, if you do manage to find a judge that DIDN'T go to UK, (s)he probably went to UL and the UK attorneys will get him (her) recused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 6:30am

    If only more judges had the integrity to recuse themselves from court cases where the conflict of interest can look bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 6:58am

    I have to agree that the judge did the right thing. There can't be any appearance of impropriety by any judge involved in hearing a case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Go Kitty Cats, 12 Nov 2015 @ 8:45am

    Being a former employee of UK and an alum, I know that they're constantly trying to turn a larger profit... inflating tuition and paying more adjuncts bullshit wages simply isn't enough, apparently! Nor is being a top basketball presence in college sports, nor is getting tons of subsidies and 'gifts' from coal companies.

    Part of the issue is the lack of funding for secondary education from government. But the other part is that these universities now run themselves like corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 5:04pm

      Re:

      "Part of the issue is the lack of funding for secondary education from government. But the other part is that these universities now run themselves like corporations."

      And therein lies one major problem with post secondary education. They should never be 'for profit'. Sustainment is understandable, with public auditing. Their function should be developing new contributors to society. Teaching them how to research in their chosen field of study. How to fund that should not include payments to financial institutions. Oh, and training should not be out of bounds, they do it in medical fields.

      I understand that lotteries were targeted to fund education, and that with that new funding other funding was then dropped. I also understand that those funding's were targeted at K-12 education, not post secondary. What a shame our legislators rained upon themselves.

      Universities and colleges are acting like they are subject to Wall Street machinations. They aren't. So what are they up to?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TRX (profile), 12 Nov 2015 @ 9:31am

    To the best of my knowledge the USPTO doesn't make any attempt to determine the validity of a trade mark application. They just collect the money and let the courts deal with any problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2015 @ 5:39pm

    "If... [the USPTO] had instead applied some critical thinking and understood what a massive problem such general and common-word trademarks might present, no recusal would have been necessary."

    Free use of the language shouldn't be trumped by a poxy company's landgrab for chunks of the lexicon.

    You want to name your company or product using verbs, nouns or other words in a language in regular use? Go for it, just don't expect to be able to corner the market (any market) on the use of that word, it's common sub-parts, or similar looking or sounding ones of either. If you go ahead anyway, don't then whinge that people are using "your" word(s) - you made a poor decision, that's on you.

    As for "face", "book", "apple" or "alphabet"? Those words are beyond common, they are foundational material for learning English and for the skill of reading.

    Maybe the Trademark Office could employ reading-age and high-frequency word lists as tests for eligibility. As in, candidate trademarks must not contain words featuring in reading-age word lists suitable through to age 12.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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