American icon, and well respected and loved Macy’s (how many times have we all seen the original or two re-makes of “Miracle on 34th Street”?) made the decision several years ago to nationalize its brand. So it swallowed up a bunch of regional department stores, and converted them to Macy’s. Meanwhile, Macy’s primary competitor in the original “Miracle on 34th Street,” Gimbel’s, is long out of business and the American consciousness.
Back in 1998, comic book legend Stan Lee (brought to current fame and into the American consciousness by “Big Bang Theory”) formed a company called Stan Lee Media to manage the growing list of characters that he was creating. Stan Lee eventually cut ties with the company before it filed for bankruptcy in 2000. In an attempt to revive the company, the new management sued American icon and well respected and loved Disney several times over several years claiming it owned the rights to the superhero characters created by Stan Lee and used by Disney.
The legal system has again locked horns with the Internet. A Florida judge has ordered Uber (newest American icon and fast-growing ride-sharing service, but not widely respected and loved) to tweak search engine results so that when someone in Gainesville, Florida, searches for “Uber Gainesville” or something similar, a local company called “Uber Promotions” isn’t squeezed out by the Uber we all know and either love or detest.
No sooner did Peyton Manning dodge the ball in the Inflategate Scandal (pun intended), than Eli Manning finds himself named in a lawsuit alleging the distribution of fraudulent Giants memorabilia. A U.S. District Court judge in New Jersey ruled that the lawsuit – filed by one Eric Inselberg – may proceed, but in state court. The Giants, Eli and the other defendants had tried to shift the litigation to federal court believing it would be favorable to their side.
As we often point out in this column, we are not attorneys and we do not dispense legal advice. With that in mind, we will explain that parodies are exempt from infringement claims. When Saturday Night Live performs a parody of a person, place or thing – funny or not (and, lately, not) – it is not trade infringement.
Last September, a U.S. District Court judge ordered Bank of China to turn over financial records from several Chinese companies that were accused of selling counterfeit Gucci goods, and then keeping the ill-gained millions in profits in accounts at state-controlled Chinese banks. The bank argued that turning over such records would violate China’s secrecy laws, and just because these Chinese banks have branches in the U.S., that does not give U.S. courts authority over them. The issue has kicked around for the last few months with various motions being filed and argued.
Canadian band Sandman – that specializes in performing Metallica music – was surprised to find a 41-page cease-and-desist order waiting for the band members when they arrived at FitzRay's, a night club in London, Ontario, where they were scheduled to perform. Sandman bills itself as “Canada’s Number One Tribute to Metallica.” It openly performs Metallica music and makes no claims of ownership. In fact, Sandman has been playing Metallica tunes since 2003, and this is the first time they heard from anyone about it.
Victorinox AG, manufacturer of the real Swiss Army knife, and owner of the Swiss Army trademark, won its trademark infringement lawsuit against B&F System Inc., manufacturer of counterfeit products. Victorinox was initially awarded $8 million, and that number was based on treble damages (B&F’s infringement was obviously willful, come on) and for sales going back 30 years and reimbursement of Victorinox’s legal costs. The court also issued an injunction barring sales of the infringing products.
Abbott and Costello – that’s Bud and Lou to those of us old enough to remember their TV show and movies – lost out yet again. A federal judge dismissed a copyright lawsuit filed by the comic duo’s estate against the producers of a popular Broadway play that features Abbott and Costello’s famous "Who's on First?" comedy routine, ruling that its inclusion in the play falls under the fair use doctrine.
Under current federal law, the losing side in a civil lawsuit is permitted to request that it be reimbursed for its legal expenses, and judges will grant such reimbursement if the judge finds that the losing side’s case is substantially without merit. I am not an attorney, but I do play one in this blog column.
TriReme Medical LLC requested $4.7 million in legal fees reimbursement after it won a patent infringement lawsuit filed by competitor AngioScore, Inc. As the judge explained it, AngioScore’s case “wasn’t particularly strong” but it “wasn’t exceptionally weak.”
Music publisher BMG Rights Management could not sue each of the thousands (maybe even millions) of downloaders who infringed the company’s copyrights, so it sued the company that provided the downloads. A jury in DC just ruled that Cox Communications, a regional Internet provider, must pay BMG $25 million for permitting free musical downloads by its subscribers. What really nailed it for the jury was that Cox would cancel the accounts of copyright infringing customers, then promptly reactivate their accounts.
We’ve all seen a watch that was probably not really a Rolex. Or a pocketbook that was probably not really a Coach. Well Network Genesis took counterfeit goods to a new level. The company either bought stolen Cisco products and altered the serial numbers, or rebranded non-Cisco products as the real thing. And got caught.
During the trial, Cuong Cao Dang, the defendant in the case, was found to be using a counterfeit laptop and cell phone in court, and both were confiscated. No, not really. But did anyone check his laptop and cell phone?
Rocky Ouprasith pled guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement, and was sentenced to three years in prison. Ouch! Now before you get too sympathetic, Rocky did not copy a Wikipedia article for a high school term paper. Who hasn’t done that?
Through his RockDizMusic.com website, Rocky reproduced and distributed millions of copyrighted songs! Millions! Do they let inmates listen to music at Club Fed?
GOP Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign has been charged with copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The campaign had played "Eye of the Tiger" at a rally supporting Kim Davis, the County Clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
The Sixth Circuit Court let stand a previous ruling that cheerleader outfits are eligible for copyright protection. The case was brought by Varsity Brands back in 2010 when it claimed that its competitor, Star Athletica, had copied several of its cheerleader uniform designs. Push ‘em back, push ‘em back, waaaay back!
A jury of 12 good persons and true granted Ultratec $5.4 million in damages for infringement of its closed-caption telephone patent. What is interesting is how the jury came up with $5.4 million. In its decision, the jury rejected a one-time lump sum payment to the plaintiff and decided on a per-minute royalty fee of three cents a minute. Royalties can be based on dollar sales, unit sales, or any other measure of volume of sales for the infringing product or service. So, the jury found, for the 181,449,487 infringing minutes, Sorenson Communications, Inc. et al owes Ultratec Inc.
Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z) is a free man after a California federal judge dismissed the copyright infringement lawsuit filed against him for allegedly lifting music from a 1957 ballad, “Khosara,” by Egyptian artist Baligh Hamy for his song “Big Pimpin’”. The case was brought by Mr. Hamdy’s nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy. The judge dismissed the case against Jay Z and his producer, Timbaland, ruling that Mr. Fahmy did not have legal standing to bring the case to trial in the first place!
We have an idea for Jay Z’s next hit: “No Standin’”
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court just ruled that Universal Music should have first considered if the use of its copyrighted music was “fair use” before sending a takedown letter to Stephanie Lenz whose video of her baby dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy” by the artist formerly known as Prince went viral. Eight years ago, Ms. Lenz posted her video to YouTube, and Universal Music demanded that she “take down” the video since the music to which her baby was dancing infringed the music publisher’s copyright.
According to a California Federal District Court Judge, Warner Bros. (“That’s all folks!”) and its Chappell Music business unit do not own a valid copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.” The ruling was the result of a class action lawsuit that, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, puts the world’s most recognizable tune into the public domain. No ruling on who owns “That’s all folks!”
First of all, Chubby Checker is apparently still alive, and we have the court documents to prove it. Ernest Evans (Chubby’s real name) has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Wirkin Stiffs, the manufacturer of a line of Chubby Checker cufflinks, and against Macy's, Nordstrom, Amazon.com and other resellers of the allegedly infringing cufflinks.
Best known for his 60s hit, “The Twist,” Evans/Checker claims that endorsements and royalties on products that use the Chubby Checker trademark are an important part of his livelihood.