For Monday’s Class (3/31)

Hello Everyone!  Next week, we will begin our discussion on Intellectual Property laws, which includes Patents, Trademarks and Copyright.  Please read Hopkins Chapter 13, and be prepared to present the following cases in class:

Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service (1991)

Eldred v. Ashcroft (2003)

Golan v. Holder (2012)

Community for Creative Nonviolence v. Reid (1989)

Harper & Row v. National Enterprises (1985)

Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music (1994)

Cambridge University Press v. Becker 

White Smith Music Publishing Company vs. Apollo Company (1908)

Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (1984)

MGM v. Grokster (2005)

Additionally, I’ve added several legal news items to the blog, pertaining to patent, trademark and copyright cases.  I am grading your Exam #2, and will return those to you next week.  Any questions – send me an email.  See you Monday!


LEGAL NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on “Raging Bull” Copyright Case

Article By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, 1/21/2014

U.S. Supreme Court justices sparred on Tuesday over how to resolve a copyright dispute concerning an early screenplay for what became the iconic boxing movie “Raging Bull.”

Lawyers on both sides failed to deliver a knockout blow during the hour-long oral argument concerning the critically acclaimed movie about the life of champion boxer Jake LaMotta, nicknamed Raging Bull.

The court is hearing a claim brought by Paula Petrella, daughter of deceased screenwriter Frank Petrella. She says MGM Holdings Inc and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment owe her money for infringing the copyright of a 1963 screenplay upon which she alleges the movie was based. Fox, a subsidiary of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc is a defendant because it has the rights to distribute MGM movies on DVD.

The 1980 movie, starring Robert DeNiro and directed by Martin Scorsese, won two Academy Awards in 1981, including the best actor award for DeNiro.

The legal question is whether MGM can argue in its defense that Petrella, who sued in 2009, waited too long to assert her claim.

The Motion Picture Association of America and other industry groups say a ruling for Petrella could discourage studios, publishers and distributors from reissuing old movies because unexpected copyright claims years after an original release could lead to years of litigation.

Groups representing authors, including Authors Guild Inc, have filed court papers in support of Petrella.

During the dense legal argument, few of the nine justices indicated how they would vote, although several indicated some sympathy for MGM’s position.  Justice Antonin Scalia told Petrella’s lawyer, Stephanos Bibas, that MGM had acted in good faith.  “They invested substantial amounts of money, and then, when that money starts to pay off, you file suit and you get three years’ worth of their profits,” he said.  In an exchange with MGM’s lawyer, Mark Perry, Justice Sonia Sotomayor voiced some support for Petrella.  Perry said that by seeking damages at such a late date, Petrella was trying to “skin the cream” after MGM had invested a considerable amount of money.  “What’s so bad about that?” Sotomayor said.

Petrella, who inherited rights to the screenplay upon her father’s death in 1981, sued when MGM was marketing the movie on DVD, including a new Blu-ray edition. MGM says it spent almost $8.5 million on the re-release.

A federal district court judge in the Central District of California and the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of MGM.

A ruling is expected by the end of June. The case is Petrella v. MGM, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1315.

Legal News: Will Starbucks Take “Dumb Starbucks” To Court?

Article By Emily Greenhouse, The New Yorker, 2/15/2014

Last weekend, a pop-up shop called Dumb Starbucks appeared in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, five miles east of the Hollywood Hills. It seemed like any other Starbucks store, but it gave away “dumb” versions of items sold by the Seattle-based coffee giant: Dumb Iced Vanilla Latte and Dumb Blonde Roast. For full effect, there were compact discs with names like “Dumb Jazz Standards,” “Dumb Taste of Cuba,” and “Dumb Nora (sic) Jones” by the registers. Californians waited in line for hours for the “horrible coffee,” while Starbucks grew flustered at the use of its “protected trademark.” Before the caffeine buzz could wear off, the loud voices of the social-media sphere started wondering: Who put up Dumb Starbucks? And was it a legitimate political statement about consumerism—perhaps an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street—or a well-executed viral marketing stunt?

Article By Jolie Lee, USA Today, 2/11/2014

UPDATE: Late Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Health Department shut down Dumb Starbucks shortly after Comedy Central comedian Nathan Fielder revealed he was behind the parody Starbucks store. 

Starbucks said it is considering how to proceed in response to a parody coffee shop called Dumb Starbucks.  The Dumb Starbucks store in Los Angeles is very similar to Starbucks except it has the word “dumb” in front of it.  In an email to USA TODAY Network on Monday, Starbucks said Dumb Starbucks is not affiliated with Starbucks.  “We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark,” according to Starbuck’s email.  The majority of trademark disputes are “handled informally,” according to Starbucks spokeswoman Laurel Harper in an email to the Associated Press.  

The parody store says it is able to use the Starbucks name and logo because it is technically “making fun” of Starbucks and is considered “a work of parody art,” according to a Dumb Starbucks letter.

The question is whether the word “dumb” sufficiently makes clear that the store is making fun of Starbucks and is not associated with Starbucks, said Mark McKenna, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in trademark law.  “My gut tells me a court would be bothered by how much of the Starbucks trademark was used. It’s not just the word but they also made the store look just like it,” McKenna said in an interview with USA TODAY Network.

[UPDATE] Nathan Fielder appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live, to explain Dumb Starbucks and Parody Law

Legal News: Atlanta Wig Designer Sues Nicki Minaj in $30M Intellectual Property Suit

Article By Marcus Garner, AJC, 2/21/2014

An Atlanta wig designer is suing hip hop superstar Nicki Minaj for $30 million, claiming intellectual property infringement.

In the civil complaint filed Friday morning in federal court, Terrence Davidson claims he and Minaj, his former client, struck a deal to form a wig-making business.

But Davidson claims Minaj, whose real name is Onika Maraj, started the business without his consent or knowledge, turning it into a multi-million dollar business selling his designs.

“I actually hand-made these wigs,” Davidson said. “For me to see them in stores and not getting credit for them is upsetting.”

But he said there was nothing in writing between Maraj and himself promising a business agreement.

Neither Minaj nor her representatives could be reached for comment.

Davidson said he worked for Minaj for three years, and the two discussed going into business to market the signature wig designs Minaj became known for wearing.

“She would always say, ‘I got you,’ ” he said. “So I thought I was going to be taken care of. I trusted her. I felt like what we were about to do we were going to do together.”

But roughly a year ago, Davidson said he was surprised to see his designs in stores under the name Pink Personality. Pink Personality, Minaj’s company, is also being sued.

“When I found out,” he said, “I cried.”

Davidson’s attorney Christopher Chestnut accused Maraj of theft and cheating, saying Davidson put other potential business opportunities on hold with the anticipation of working with her.

“She’s stealing his intellectual property,” Chestnut said. “He’s entitled to compensation.”

Legal News: Candy Crush Gamers Abandon “Candy” Trademark Application

Article by Sam Oliver, Apple Insider, 2/25/2014


King, the company behind popular iOS game Candy Crush, has abandoned its controversial pursuit of ownership of the term “candy” in the U.S., and has officially withdrawn its trademark application.

The pulling of the application was first revealed on Tuesday by Kotaku, which also received an official statement from King. The developer confirmed that the trademark filing was withdrawn after it obtained the rights to the name “Candy Crusher.”

“Each market that King operates in is different with regard to IP,” the company said. “We feel that having the rights to Candy Crusher is the best option for protecting Candy Crush in the U.S. market. This does not affect our E.U. trademark for Candy and we continue to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP.”

The popularity of Candy Crush and the perceived genericness of King’s pursuit of the trademark for word “candy” gained considerable attention earlier this year, with some expressing concern. King’s filing sought ownership of the word “candy” as it would relate to digital puzzle games, and not necessarily other titles, such as the board game “Candy Land.”

But following its purchase of the trademark for the word “candy” in Europe, King began sending cease-and-desist letters to smartphone game developers with apps using the word “candy,” as well as the word “saga,” which the company also own the rights to. Among those who received a letter was the developer of the game Banner Saga, a popular viking themed role playing game.

In protest, independent game developers held a “game jam” creating candy-related games to bring attention to their concerns over King’s efforts. The so-called “candy jam” was held with the belief that “trademarking common words is ridiculous.”

Announcement: Term Paper Grades on D2L

Hello Everyone!  I have finished grading your first Term Paper assignment, and those grades are now available for your viewing pleasure on D2L.  I will return your papers on Monday 3/24, and we’ll discuss them as a class.  Also, I’ve graded all extra credit papers submitted thus far.  Enjoy the rest of your break!

LEGAL NEWS: Don’t Mess With the Judge

Judge Judy files suit against Connecticut lawyer

The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — Television’s Judge Judy filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Connecticut personal-injury lawyer, alleging that he used her image without authorization in advertisements that falsely suggested she had endorsed his firm.

The lawsuit filed in federal court seeks more than $75,000 in damages from Hartford attorney John Haymond and his firm.

Judith Sheindlin, a retired Family Court judge who has starred in “Judge Judy” for 18 years, said this is the first time she has filed a lawsuit against anyone. She said the unauthorized use of her name and image is “outrageous” and requires action.

“Mr. Haymond is a lawyer and should know better,” Sheindlin said in a written statement.

Haymond’s office said he was away on vacation and not immediately available to comment.

The lawsuit said that without Sheindlin’s permission, Haymond’s firm aired television advertisements combining footage from “Judge Judy” along with clips showing Haymond and his daughters. It said the advertisements aired in Connecticut and Massachusetts during broadcasts of her show, and continued even after Sheindlin’s producer told the firm in March 2013 that use of her image was not permitted.

“By trading, without consent or authorization, on Sheindlin’s well-known persona, the Haymond Defendants have irreparably harmed and damaged Sheindlin’s hard-earned professional and artistic reputation, dignity, and prestige,” the lawsuit says.

Sheindlin said in her statement that any money she wins through the lawsuit will go toward college scholarships through the Her Honor Mentoring Program.

Copyright The Associated Press