You can’t sell a product without a brand. That’s what Bob Hoke finds most interesting about trademarks. “People don’t buy patents,” he says. “They buy brands.”
Bob sees inventors, entrepreneurs, and brands at all stages of the creation process. “The first thing they do is they create the entity,” he says. “The second thing they do is register their entity name as a brand because almost 90 percent of the most well-known, famous, valuable brands are company names.” He helps clients recognize the value or challenges with the name they’ve selected. Then he helps them understand whether they can or cannot own the name they’ve selected—and determine if it’s worth their time and money to pursue registration.
It all started because he never hesitates to go all out. “In my first career, I was a chemist in Cedar Rapids. I hated it,” Bob says. “Somebody said to me, ‘You should be a patent attorney,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I should,’ without a clue what that meant.”
During a corporate career that elevated him to director level at 3M Corporation, Bob refined his skills protecting brands, evaluating their value, and bringing profitable products to market.
As an Of Counsel in our intellectual property department, he offers clients deep and broad legal experience in U.S. and international trademark law, including oppositions and cancellations before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He regularly counsels clients on the clearance, registration, maintenance, licensing, and enforcement of trademark rights and assists clients in the management of their worldwide trademark portfolios. While with 3M, he visited 69 countries every three years to negotiate intercompany agreements and royalties.
Bob regularly works with trademarks for varied products and services including foods, clothing, electronics, devices, and home products. Throughout his career, Bob has registered patents and worked with trademarks, but a single court decision signaled a shift. “When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its famous Qualitex decision, holding that colors could be registered as trademarks, my career changed forever,” Bob says. “I worked with Art Fry, the inventor of Post-It notes, on the color yellow as a trademark for sticky notes.” He later moved to blue as a trademark for painters tape and purple as a trademark for sandpaper.
“I still see the fruits of my labors in the marketplace,” Bob says. Besides trademarks for 3M Post-It notes, he has registered Scotchgard products and Littmann stethoscopes, for example. “You see those things, and they’re still out there, and they’re still used. They’re valuable.”
Great Plains Super Lawyers
American Bar Association
- Intellectual Property Law Committee, member
- Business Law Section, member
Iowa State Bar Association
Linn County Bar Association
Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association
International Trademark Association
Intellectual Property Group, Vice Chair