• Just in Time for Summer BBQ

    6/8/21 1

    In Brief:   Metchup survives a trademark challenge, but barely.

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  • Bankruptcy Doesn’t “Un-Terminate” a Patent License.

    5/25/21

    In Brief:  Terminating a patent license prior to the filing of a bankruptcy doesn’t result in an avoidable fraudulent transfer.

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  • Copyrighted Flowers Have Only So Many Damages Petals

    5/18/21

    In Brief:  A plaintiff can’t get multiple statutory damages awards for the infringement of one work.

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  • Wrinkly Excuses

    5/11/21

    In Brief:   A trademark adopted in bad faith will not be registered.

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  • Oh, I Was Supposed to Keep it a Secret?

    5/4/21

    In Brief:  The duty to keep a trade secret arises at the time the secret was acquired.

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  • Musical Tushies Means Something More Than You Think

    4/27/21

    JHR Entertainment LLC filed an intent to use application for the trademark “Musical Tushies”. The trademark was going to be used for musical greeting cards that included images of the posteriors of humans and animals. JHR disclaimed the word “Musical” because it was descriptive of a feature of the cards. The Examining Attorney refused registration arguing that “Tushies” is descriptive of a feature of the goods. 

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  • SCOTUS Has Spoken on Fair Use

    4/13/21

    Oracle America, Inc. owns the copyright to the Java computer language. In 2005, Google LLC acquired Android and wanted to build a new software platform for mobile devices. To allow the programmers familiar with Java to help build the platform, Google copied about 11,500 lines of code from the Java program. These lines of code are part of a programming tool called that’s called an “Application Programming Interface (API)”. 

    Oracle sued for copyright infringement.

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  • Fair Use Gets Transformed

    4/6/21

    In a recent blog post, I looked at the meaning of transformative use as it relates to fair use in a suit involving well-known photographer, Lynn Goldsmith, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Lynn had taken some photos of the music artist, Prince. Vanity Fair magazine had licensed one of Lynn’s photos and commissioned Andy Warhol to create paintings from it for an article. Warhol then went a step further and used Lynn’s other photographs as the foundation for series of Prince paintings. Years later, Vanity Fair published an article using Warhol’s paintings. This was when Lynn learned about Warhol’s additional paintings. Lynn threatened to sue for copyright infringement. The Warhol Foundation brought a suit for declaratory judgment that the additional paintings were fair use. The district court held that Warhol’s treatment of Lynn’s photographs was transformative and therefore fair use.

    Andy Warhol’s art was innovative. But it may not have been transformative when it comes to fair use.

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  • Menu Patent is Invalid No Matter How You Slice It

    3/30/21

    Ameranth, Inc. sued numerous pizza chains and delivery companies for patent infringement relating to its patents for menus. But it met its match with Domino’s Pizza Inc.

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  • Goodwill Clucking

    3/23/21

    For the Mother Cluckers trademark saga, we need a little background about goodwill. A trademark establishes a connection between the owner’s goods and services and the consumer. That connection is the goodwill in the trademark. In order to be effective, a trademark assignment requires the assignment of the goodwill attached to it. 

    Assigning goodwill along with the assignment of a trademark isn’t form over substance.

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  • A Lot of Mine and Some of Yours

    3/16/21

    Hiller LLC provides plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical services to residential and commercial customers. Hiller was a member of Success Group International that offers management advice and customer service training. Success Group used licensed copyrighted training manuals owned by its predecessor, Clockwork IP LLC.

    Hiller decided to create its own training materials and hired an independent contractor who conducted a series of workshops and researched Hiller’s business. The end product was an HVAC technicians Guide. The Guide had original illustrations, its own content and its own arrangement of the information. Small portions of the Guide incorporated information that had been contained the Success Group training manuals. The independent contractor assigned the copyright in the Guide to Hiller.

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  • Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Seltzer

    3/9/21

    Molson Coors Beverage Company sells a hard seltzer called Vizzy. Future Proof Brands, LLC sells a hard seltzer called Brizzy. Future Proof sued Coors for trademark infringement alleging that Vizzy is likely to cause confusion with Brizzy.  

    Even when two product names sound similar, a likelihood of confusion isn’t automatic.

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  • Sometimes, It’s What You Don’t Say

    3/2/21

    The US Supreme Court won’t be weighing in on some interesting cases in the world of IP. Here are just a few of them by topic:
    Copy

    • rights in Fictional Characters
    • Right to Challenge Patents
    • Trademarks
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  • A Useful Chalk Holder

    2/23/21

    In Brief:  Copyright does not protect “useful articles” and design patents don’t always protect against infringement.

    Sidewalk chalk has been around a long time. Lanard Toys Ltd. designed chalk holders that looked like No. 2 pencils. Lanard sold the chalk holders to distributors and toy store chains like Toys R Us.  Lanard sought and obtained both a registered copyright and a design patent.

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  • Fruit Bowl Battle

    2/16/21

    Most people are familiar with Apple Inc. and its apple logo. Apple Inc. and its products are ubiquitous and pervasive. At any time, a person can be wearing one of their watches, talking on one of their phones and watching a video on one of their tablets.

    PrePear is a new app that allows the user to save and organize recipes, create meal plans, shop efficiently for food and prepare healthy foods. PrePear adopted a pear logo, which makes sense considering the pun in the name. When PrePear sought to register its pear logo as a trademark, USPTO’s Examining Attorney didn’t see a likelihood of confusion between the pear logo and any other logo. The Examining Attorney cleared the application for publication.

    Then, Apple filed an opposition.

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  • Trade Secret Food Fight

    2/9/21

    In Brief:  Always investigate when a new hire says they own proprietary information.

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  • Oh the Places You Can’t Boldly Go

    1/26/21

    For almost four years, comics’ legend, Ty Templeton, and Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles Episode” writer, David Gerrold and their company, ComicMix, have been in litigation with the Dr. Seuss Estate. ComicMix is trying to publish a graphic comic called “Oh, The Places You'll Boldly Go.” The comic mashed Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” with Star Trek characters. ComicMix said it was fair use. The Dr. Seuss Estate said no.

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  • Copyright Public Domain Class of 2021

    1/19/21

    In 1976, the Copyright Act was completely overhauled. The system of protecting copyrights changed giving longer protection and making it easier to claim a copyright. But pretty much all of the pre-1976 works were going to be treated differently. So the Copyright Act grandfathered in and extended the protection for these pre-1976 works. Originally, works created in 1923 or before were still in the public domain. On January 1, 2021, any works created from 1925 went into the public domain.

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  • That’s the Way the Pocky Crumbles

    1/12/21

    Pocky is a cookie stick that comes in several flavors including chocolate or strawberry. The cookie was first produced in Japan in 1966. Pocky’s manufacturer, Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd. can boast of world-wide popularity for its cookie sticks.

    Lotte International America Co., decided to get into the cookie stick game. It came out with its own version called Pepero. There’s no question that the Pepero cookie stick is identical to the Pocky cookie stick.

    Ezaki Glico sued Lotte International for trade dress infringement in New Jersey district court. 

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  • The 2020 Crippys – The IP Criminals Hall of Fame

    1/5/21

    In past years, we have awarded Crippys to those who achieved infamy by committing Intellectual Property crimes over the last year. Here are the winners of the 2020 Crippys.

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  • Big Girls Don’t Cry Over Fact or Fiction

    12/8/20

    The Jersey Boys is a Broadway musical (the “Play”) about the musical quartet, The Four Seasons (the “Band”). It debuted in 2005 and ran for over 10 years, toured the country repeatedly and was adapted into a movie in 2014.

    In the late 1980s, Band member, Tommy DeVito wrote an autobiographical “tell all" book about the Band. The book was ghost-written by Rex Woodard (“the Work”).  The Work was completed before the Play had been written and produced.

    DeVito’s widow, Donna Corbello, sued Frankie Valli (the Band’s lead singer) and a lot of other people for copyright infringement alleging that the Play was an unauthorized derivative of the Work.

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  • My Blue Ivy is Not the Same as Your Blue Ivy

    12/1/20

    In 2012, Veronica Morales registered the trademark, BLUE IVY, for her event planning company. Four years later, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s company, BGK Trademark Holdings, LLC filed a trademark application to protect, BLUE IVY CARTER, (named after Beyoncé’s daughter) for entertainment services.

    That’s when the fight began.

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  • Zoom Smashes Trade Secrets

    11/17/20

    Discussing confidential or trade secret information through video conferencing platforms can be hazardous to the health of trade secrets. 

    Smash Franchise Partners, LLC and Smash My Trash LLC operate a mobile trash compaction business. Smash’s trucks compact trash in the customer’s dumpster. This allows the customer to fill the dumpster with more trash and save on waste management fees. Smash sells franchises to entrepreneurs who want to run Smash branded franchises.

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  • Everybody Does It Fails as a Defense

    11/10/20

    Some of you may recall the argument you used with your parents that went something like “Everyone else gets to go” or “Everyone else’s parents let them [fill in the blank]”. Chances are that these arguments were unsuccessful.

    Elie Tahari Ltd. learned that “Everybody does it” doesn’t work in a copyright infringement case either.

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  • Copyright Trolling Hasn’t Died

    11/3/20

    In 2017, I awarded the grand prize for IP criminals to the disgraced Prenda Law Firm. This stain on the legal profession had created honey pot porn websites and then sued people who downloaded their content for copyright infringement. The lesson of creating your own porn to entice illegal downloads seems to have resonated. But wholesale copyright infringement cases are still out there.

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