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Famous Copyright Infringement Cases

By now, everyone should know that you can’t just steal artistic or intellectual properties that you don’t hold the rights to and use them however you like. The laws against doing so are strict. Although sometimes law enforcement doesn’t always uphold those laws routinely, the blow can be disastrous when and if that hammer falls upon you. Copyright is a serious issue, and because IP is becoming more difficult to manage, laws and regulations are adapting quickly. These are some famous copyright infringement cases that might make you think twice about using something that necessarily doesn’t belong to you.

Ann Kirsten Kennis worked as a model in the 1980s. Decades later, she had transitioned into motherhood. Her daughter sauntered into the house with a Vampire Weekend album called Contra. That album’s cover had a blatantly pilfered picture of Kennis from when she was a model, and so a whopping $2 million lawsuit resulted. Because cases like these are often settled behind closed doors, the settlement amount remains undisclosed and we’ll probably never know how much Kennis got for this serious copyright infraction.

Somehow, people are still realizing that you can’t use music in advertisements without permission to do so. When Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys passed away, he left specific instructions that the music was not to be used in such a fashion. That didn’t stop a San Francisco startup called GoldieBlox from putting together a creative YouTube video in order to advertise its toys using the song. Ironically, it was GoldieBlox that sued the Beastie Boys upon hearing of copyright infringement allegations, arguing that parody use of artistic endeavors is protected (that’s why shows like South Park and Family Guy don’t have to worry about lawsuits when they mimic content or potentially defame celebrities and everyone else). GoldieBlox lost their suit.

Speaking of parody, it’s always been a hot topic of fair use laws. When artist Jeff Koons created a sculpture based on a photo entitled “Puppies” taken by Art Rogers, Koons argued that his sculpture was a parody. A jury disagreed since the sculpture provided no direct commentary on Rogers’s photograph or its contents. People often realize their best defense with this type of case is parody, but that does not often do the trick in a court of law.

“Blurred Lines” made a lot of money for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, but its obvious resemblance to a 1977 song by Marvin Gaye led to claims of copyright infringement. Once again, it was the accused that preemptively struck with a lawsuit claiming that the Gaye family was arguing copyright for the genre of music as a whole. The Gaye family won, but is currently seeking more monies.

At the end of the day, it’s better to base your artistic endeavours on your own imagination rather than take the chance of ending up in a courtroom for a ridiculous amount of money.

How Do You Cancel A Trademark?

You can make your mark in your trade with a registered trademark.

However, if you are not careful, your mark could be erased by someone else. That precious trademark is not in permanent marker.

It is possible that your trademark, as brilliantly clever as it is, may well be challenged by what is called a trademark cancellation petition, which can be filed by a third party such as a lawyer for some specified reason.

What is a Trademark Cancellation Petition?

When an entity (firm or individual) has grounds to challenge a trademark, the entity can file a petition to cancel a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The petition is what it implies – it is a legal document requesting an administrative hearing in front of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).

Why Could a Such a Petition be Filed?

A petition to cancel a trademark is specifically meant to be something other than a weapon of revenge or jealousy against another person who might have a successful trademark.

There are only a limited number of grounds to bring a petition to cancel a trademark before the TTAB. These are:

  • The mark is too generic (like a company called “Balloon”);
  • The mark has not been used for at least three years, with no apparent intent to re-use;
  • The mark was achieved fraudulently; or
  • What is called “priority,” where the mark interferes with the ability to do business or the mark was used by another party before it was registered.

Is There a Time Limit to File a Petition?

Generally speaking, a petitioner has up to five years after the registration date in order to file a petition to cancel, though a petition filed after five years may be heard under very strict circumstances.

What is a Trademark Cancellation Proceeding Like?

This is a legal proceeding in an administrative setting, which is in some ways similar to a civil court case. It is an adversarial proceeding, which means that the registrant and petitioner may cross-examine each other and scrutinize each other’s evidence and testimony in the case. Because of this, it is not advisable for a party to represent himself for herself in the proceeding, but instead, have a knowledgeable patent law attorney represent your interests.

What is the Result of This Proceeding?

Unlike a civil proceeding, an administrative proceeding like a trademark cancellation does not have monetary damages as a result of the hearing. Should the petitioner win, the trademark would be canceled. Should the registrant win the hearing, the trademark registration remain would intact. The parties may negotiate a settlement outside of the hearing, though.

The Bottom Line

It is understandable to protect your business assets by looking to establish a trademark for your company or your product. But make sure you do your research and check out the legal history of trademark applications to ensure there are no possible grounds for a petition. After that, follow all the rules regarding trademark registration to protect against claims of fraud.

Parodies, The 1st Amendment & Copyrights

The Simpsons. Saturday Night Live. Family Guy. South Park.

At different times, many of us enjoy parodies of various cultural icons and public figures. Many of these shows garnered headlines for some of the parody work they had presented, where they poked fun at various parts of society or culture, whether they be religious symbols, trends, presidents, legislators and even entire groups of people.

Many of us laughed at these parodies. Some of us did not have a sense of humor and got angry. But parody has been part of comedy, entertainment and the fabric of America from the start of the Republic.

Despite their prevalence in our culture, are parodies actually a form of copyright infringement?

Parody is on a razor’s edge, walking the tightrope between a First Amendment right to expression and infringing on a copyright. Sometimes you hear about a lawsuit in support of the original idea which was parodied, claiming infringement, but those who do parodies have a couple different defenses which courts have recognized as exemptions in copyright law.

Copyright law prohibits significant use of any creative work without consent of the copyright owner. And as parody is inherently based on mocking an original “work” of some kind, so there are some legal guidelines that will allow parodies without copyright owner permission.

One defense for a parody can be First Amendment expression, of which the courts have granted pretty wide latitude. One key exception is when the parody is deemed to be created with a profit motive in an attempt to usurp the copyrighted work in the public. Another issue is to not use a significant amount of the work in a parody – and courts have been all over the place in defining “significant.” One guide could be to do a parody of Wal-Mart shoppers but don’t use the Wal-Mart name or familiar colors, as an example.

Another exception from copyright law can be the “fair use” defense, which is often used in many parodies. There are a number of factors that go into determining a parody as a legitimate use of “fair use.” They are:

  • Whether the “new work” (parody) has a different purpose or “character” as the original work;
  • The “nature” of the original – does it require more protection than some other work (historical significance, for example)?
  • The amount of the original work that was used in the parody – and is the parody based wholly on that portion?
  • How would the parody impact the market value of the original?

As mentioned before, parody is prevalent in the media and in social media, and there is some deference to artistic expression with parodies, but the key is to have just enough different so as to not make an obvious connection to the work being parodied. Playing a mental game where some people can mentally conclude the parody while others may not reasonably notice, is where the line is drawn. But as so many minds are different, that line continues to be fuzzily defined.

What is SOPA and PIPA Legislation?

Regulation of the Internet is something that has never come easily for the U.S. and it remains controversial decades after the online playground went mainstream and gained huge popularity and importance. The two main political parties–Democrats and Republicans–often feel differently on how it should be run. Republicans are for regulation that would cater more toward business, while Democrats believe that the Internet should remain free and open for the everyday individual. The latter is necessary for online creativity to continue and prosper as it has for so long, but new laws are currently being written to change that.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) was a House bill meant to help law enforcement crack down on Internet theft of intellectual property. In other words, if you download TV shows or music through the Internet without paying the people who created those intellectual properties, then you could continue to be held accountable with huge fines or even jail time. Even though that sounds good on paper, the bill’s opponents believe it went way too far in what it tried to do.

SOPA would have barred search engines from showing popular piracy websites in their search results or providing those websites with revenue through advertisement space. Court orders could be provided to block those websites, while monetary penalties and prison sentences would have gotten stiffer for those that visit them.

Even though the goal was just, the outcome would have created an undeniable injustice, barring free speech and creativity that the Internet is known for. Efforts to enact SOPA didn’t stop after the bill finally failed in congress.

The Protect IP Act (or PIPA) was a senate bill drafted months earlier and with a similar promise. Proponents thought that it would limit the theft of intellectual properties and protect businesses who create them, while opponents said it would crush online free speech. When it was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (or CBO) that the bill would cost taxpayers $47 million in five years in new federal employees and enforcement, there was a public outcry and the bill was squashed.

SOPA and PIPA were bills drafted in direct response to yet another failed bill, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). These bills would have been in direct conflict with newly implemented Obama-era net neutrality laws aimed at preventing Internet service providers from blocking access to certain websites because of their content.

The war against laws that could limit free speech and online creativity is ongoing, even after Trump has voiced his support for such laws and attempted to implement his own. While the road to enacting these kinds of laws won’t be easy, Republicans currently hold all the power after Democrats have failed to pass meaningful protective legislation of their own when they did. Resistance may well be futile, but you never know until it’s over.

Food Network Sued For Copyright Infringement

If you run a food network, you should make absolutely sure that the recipes you use during your daily broadcasts on TV or the Internet are pure originals or properly licensed. It turns out the Food Network may not have done that, as blogger Elizabeth LaBau from Sandy, Utah is suing for the copyright infringement of one of her popular dessert concoction in a California federal court. That dessert was the aptly-named snow globe cupcake.

While it might not be a big deal for the Food Network, cooking is a full-time promise of employment for LaBau and something she takes very seriously. It’s not okay to take something from her blog without providing due credit, especially when the recipe in question tripled her website’s income.

Copyright infringement is a complex issue when it comes to food. If the Food Network had merely posted a laundry list of ingredients used in LaBau’s recipe, it would not be considered copyright infringement. The lawsuit says that the Food Network’s rundown of how to cook the recipe is a near-exact replica of her own, an act of theft that is most definitely copyright infringement. If the network really did use her own artistic expression of the recipe on its own broadcast, then it is liable for stealing the recipe.

Although for now the lawsuit remains in the realm of mere allegation, it is worth noting that the video was added only three weeks after LaBau updated her own website with the tasty recipe.

One might initially believe that the snow globe cupcake recipe could have been accidentally duplicated, but that certainly isn’t the case once you see how the dessert is made. The snow globe portion of the cupcake is literally a dome that hangs over the cake-like portion, but everything is edible. The dome itself is made of a hardened gelatin.

Because the recipe is so unique, its popularity left her website down for a short period of time. She had a whopping 740,000 shares on Facebook alone–no easy feat.

LaBau says that it is that real-life competition that makes the job so difficult and time-consuming, and it was a major blow when such a major network pilfered her work. Her blog has won several awards in the years since the recipe was posted, but LaBau says it suffered substantially when the Food Network posted such a blatant rip-off of her snow globe dessert. Not only that, but when she contacted the network to discuss how they could choose to either remove their video or provide her with due credit, they ignored her request. It was only then that she moved forward with what turned out to be a $150,000 lawsuit.

Whether or not that lawsuit will fall in her favor is of course up for debate. We’ll know soon enough.

What Qualifies As Due Diligence In Regards To Licensing Agreements?

If you want to enter into a licensing agreement with someone, both parties are going to have to exercise due diligence. However, not everyone understands how due diligence applies to licensing. Here’s what you need to know.

Due Diligence For Licensors

If you are the one licensing something, then you need to take a closer look at the person or company that is obtaining the license from you. You may want to conduct some sort of background check.

It is your job to make sure that the licensor doesn’t handle any competing products. You should also make sure that they have a solid reputation. It’s your job to protect your license. Make sure that your licensing agreement won’t damage the license in any way.

Due Diligence For Licensees

A licensor isn’t the only party that has to exercise due diligence. Licensees also need to practice this. What do they need to be doing? To start, they need to make sure that the person they are obtaining the licensing from actually owns the license. If you’re licensing a product, for example, the inventor of that product may not be authorized to license it to you.

There are a number of other things you’ll want to look into as well. You should find out what kind of protection the license has. You should see if the product you are licensing is unique enough to justify the cost of a license. You may want to work with a lawyer. They’ll be able to help you get everything sorted out.

It’s vitally important to exercise due diligence when you are licensing something. If you fail to do this, you could have big problems later on. When is doubt hire one of 361 lawyers to make sure you are handling all aspects of your business correctly.

Some Famous Phrases That Are Copyrighted

A lot of famous and common phrases that we use on a regular basis are copyrighted. Copyright law is unusual; a lot of people are surprised when they learn that certain things are copyrighted. A lot of people use these phrases without ever realizing that someone holds the copyright.

Here are a few surprising phrases that are copyrighted.

“Let’s Get Ready To Rumble”

If you’ve ever watched a sporting event, you have probably heard someone say the words “Let’s get ready to rumble.” This isn’t just a catchy phrase that gets people fired up. It’s a phrase that was copyrighted by Michael Buffer, a sports announcer. He has come to licensing agreements that allow other people to use this phrase.

“It Takes Two”

“It takes two” is a phrase that people say all of the time. However, this particular phrase is also copyrighted. The copyright exists because of the song of the same name. While not every song title is copyrighted, this phrase definitely has a copyright behind it. You won’t see this phrase used as a slogan in an ad anytime soon.

“Super Bowl”

People watch the Super Bowl every year, and the phrase “Super Bowl” is used on a regular basis. However, a lot of people are surprised to learn that this phrase actually is trademarked. This is why so many ads about the Super Bowl say “Super Sunday,” “the big game,” or other phrases. The NFL has had to put a lot of effort into protecting this copyright.

Now that you’re more familiar with the famous phrases that are copyrighted, you have a better understanding of what can be copyrighted. People have been able to copyright all kinds of things, from phrases to words. It isn’t always easy to copyright something, but there are many different things that can be copyrighted.

How Do You Avoid Product Liability?

If you are a business that manufactures or supplies products or certain components of products, you are bound by the law to ensure the safety of the clients who use them. The United States has an organization by the name of FTC or Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers from any fault, damage, or injury that may occur as a result of using the product or product component. There are many other laws that are enforced to protect the general public from faulty products and product components on the market. This article provides information on how do you avoid product liability claims and have insurance for your new product.

Product liability refers to defective products that result due to various design defects, manufacturer defects, or marketing defects. The failure to provide adequate warning against the risk is also considered a defect. Although it is not a physical defect, it can also result in a product liability claim. Product liability claims fall into millions of dollars in damages. The cost of such injuries is estimated at $12 billion annually. In fact, a product liability claim can cripple your business, especially if you operate a small business. Here are important things to consider in order to avoid product liability issues.

Thorough product testing is essential to avoid such claims over time. This will alert the manufacturer of possible defects in their products or product components. You should be able to prove that you have taken reasonable steps to avoid product defects. Providing appropriate warnings dangerous goods in another important step that you can take in this regard. Taking out a product liability insurance is another step to avoid liability issues in the long run. These are important steps that you need to take.

When Does A Patent Become Public Information In The US

Generally, patent applications are published and made available to the public for viewing and search after eighteen months after their earliest priority date. The applications are published regardless of whether a patent has been awarded.

However, an exception to the above rule also exists. Applications that are accompanied by non-publication requests are not automatically published after the expiration of this period.

It is also worth mentioning that provisional applications are never published by the US Patent and Trademarks Office. They only remain at the USPTO for 12 months after which they are abandoned. In some cases however these applications may be made available to the public.

Let’s now look at when patent applications are made available to the public.

Publishing At 3-4 Months

Some patent applications are usually published by the USPTO after a period of three to four months. These applications are those that refer to continuations-in-part or divisional applications. These are published as soon as they are processed by the USPTO system.

Publishing At 6 Months

Next in line are the patents that are published after six months after the application is made. This publishing date comes earlier than the standard eighteen months only for applications whose priority date was 12 months before the application date.

Publishing At 18 Months

As previously stated, all new patent applications in the US are automatically published 18 months after the application date, provided that no non-publication request is made.

Publishing Beyond 18 Months

In some cases, patent applications are made after the standard 18 month period is over. This mainly relates to international patent applications. These are applications filed with WIPO at first and then later with the USPTO. The USPTO then uses the earlier filing date with WIPO as the priority date.

From the above, you will have an idea of just when a certain patent application will be made available to the public by the USPTO.

Is Making A Parody Considered Copyright Infringement

When you are listening to some of the music that is being played on the radio, you may hear some parodies coming into the radio at times. When you hear these they tend to make you laugh quite a bit, but they also tend to make you wonder what the original artist thinks of what has been done to their song. Here is where you may also start to ask yourself if this is going to be considered a type of copyright infringement since so many artists work hard on the songs they are producing and only get to see them made fun of can be upsetting at times.

The short answer is this is not a copyright infringement because it is going to be something that is considered the fair usage laws. Now this does not mean that people are going to end up getting sued because of the use of the music and making the parody of the songs, but they are typically going to be a little bit easier to defend because of the way the courts have ruled in the past on the fair usage of the songs to be made into parodies and this allows people to have a better time in knowing they are able to use the songs in the form of a parody.

Being able to make a parody of a song can be a good thing, but it can also be daunting as well because people may be concerned about getting sued on copyright infringement laws. This is when people should know more about how making a parody tends to fall under the fair use laws. By knowing about these laws it will be very easy for people to make a parody of their favorite songs and make sure they are able to keep people entertained on the level they never expected before.

I mean who doesn’t love Weird Al?