SECONDS & LEFTOVERS AFTER THANKSGIVING: Cleaning Up & Emptying Out The IP Fridge

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is tradition-laden and is celebrated as much for the leftovers after that November Thursday as it is for the turkey on that day, at least according to the US Department of Agriculture.  Indeed, Americans “idolize Thanksgiving left overs,” and the “[t]he overstuffing of America’s fridges has become something of a tradition every November,” as Grist noted. Indeed: Continue Reading

Delhi High Court permits use of the mark ‘FLY HIGHER’ by VISTARA Airlines on the ground of the mark not being used as a trademark

The Delhi High Court (‘Court’) in its judgment (dated October 28, 2022) in the case of Frankfinn Aviation Service Private Limited v. Tata SIA Airlines Limited, [CS(COMM) 54/2022 & I.A. 1795/2022, 3651-52/2022] recently deliberated whether the exclusive rights available to a trademark owner under the Indian Trade Marks Act, 1999 (‘Act’) would restrain a third-party from use of such trademarks in a descriptive or laudatory sense.

The Plaintiff (Frankfinn Aviation Service Private Limited) – a prominent Indian training institute engaged in imparting training services in the hospitality, aviation, and travel management sectors, among others – had filed the instant suit inter-alia claiming infringement and passing-off of its trademark FLY HIGH, due to use of the deceptively similar/identical mark FLY HIGHER by the Defendant (Tata SIA Airlines Limited trading as VISTARA Airlines) in respect of similar services as those of the Plaintiff. Continue Reading

Trademarking a Name and the Right of Publicity

Suppose that you want to register a trademark that incorporates a name of a person to identify the source of goods or services for your business.  Should you register your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)?  What about the right of publicity of the individual?  Can you obtain a registration from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?  The answer may be YES! depending on the specific facts regarding the person. Continue Reading

FTC Staff Report Brings Dark Patterns to Light

Trick or treat? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff is focused on one “trick” this spooky season: Designing user interfaces to trick or manipulate users into taking actions they would not otherwise approve of, or putting obstacles in place to discourage consumers from exercising certain rights. These so-called “dark patterns” are a continued focus of the FTC, as discussed in a prior alert (regarding online subscriptions and e-commerce practices). Dark patterns were also specifically called out in a number of new state privacy laws. A recently released FTC staff report on dark patterns indicates that this focus is only growing, and that dark patterns can encompass a wide range of common marketing practices – from urgency offers to fee disclosures. Continue Reading

SEC Penalizes Kim Kardashian Over $1 Million for Paid Crypto Post

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled with Kim Kardashian over allegations she violated Section 17(b) of the Securities Act (the “Act”) by publishing an Instagram post promoting the crypto-currency, EthereumMax token (EMAX), to her 250 million followers, without adequate disclosures. Kardashian received approximately $250,000 for this post. Continue Reading

Full Of Sound And Query, Signifying Something: Recent Noise Over Acoustic Trademarks

Leo the Lion has been the most regular star of MGM Pictures since it was founded on this day in 1924, and his roar is probably the sound most commonly associated with the studio.

–Kat Eschner, The Story of Hollywood’s Most Famous Lion (2017)

 

There’s no roar quite like a Nittany Lion’s!

–Penn State Football @PennStateFball on 12/7/2020

So, there you go— Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Pennsylvania State University are two different entities each associated with a distinctive roar connected to their institution.  They are marketed through different, yet related, channels of trade (sports and entertainment, which were melded together as ESPN’s original name). The MGM roar and the Nittany Lion roar are certainly not identical, but they might be considered confusingly similar, should one ever need to distinguish or compare them. (I am unaware of any reported comparison, but I did find the latter compared to a toilet flushing and have seen the former’s trademark suffer indignities at times too).  I start with MGM and Penn State, not because MGM’s registered trademark and Penn State’s common law one are at odds, but because they are two well-known acoustic, or sound (or auditory), marks that can help us understand those sounding off recently about such non-traditional trademarks.  That noise includes this one, which is “the sound made by a drinks can being opened, followed by a silence of approximately one second and a fizzing sound lasting approximately nine seconds,” according to Ardagh Metal Beverage Holdings Gmbh & Co. Kg v. European Union Intellectual Property Office, T-668/19.  The uproar also includes numerous articles by diverse scholars and various bloggers expressing a renewed interest in sound marks in many countries. Continue Reading

High Court of Delhi holds that acquired distinctiveness is necessary for obtaining registration of a shape mark

In today’s age, the importance of brands (and in turn trademarks) cannot be undermined. It is through brands that businesses (be it domestic or international) are able to thrive and flourish in various highly competitive sectors. While the brand promotion, protection, and enforcement strategy has been focused for many decades on conventional marks (such as a word mark or a logo mark), businesses have realised the potential of non-conventional trademarks (including colour, shape, or even smell and scent). Amongst these, shape has the unique status of expressly finding its place in the trademark statutes of most developed nations, yet the number of trademark registrations being granted to shapes remains quite low. Continue Reading

Just Humor Them: Jests, Jokes, Satire, and Parody In Infringement and Defamation Cases

Legend has it that shortly after Adam was created, he complained: ‘O, Lord! you have given the lion fierce teeth and claws, and the elephant formidable tusks; you have given the deer swiftness of legs, and the turtle a protective shell; you have given the birds of flight wings, but you have left me altogether defenseless.’  And the Lord said unto Adam:  ‘I shall give you an invisible weapon that will serve you and your children better than any weapons of fight or flight, a power that will save you even from yourself.  I shall give you the sense of humor.'”

[G. Swaminath, “Jokes a Part:  In Defense of Humor,” 48 Indian J Psychiatry 177–180 (2006)]

I thought of that story, and the unique power humor has, literally and legally, to disarm many who might otherwise complain over any number of legal issues and perceived slights. For even though, as one writer noted, some “legal textbook[s like] Gatley on Libel and Slander [are ones where] neither ‘joke’ nor ‘humour’ makes the index” because “[w]ords are defamatory, or they are not” and “intention is irrelevant,” humor remains at the forefront of any codex of responses available to claim of infringement or defamation.  While intent may be irrelevant, meaning, understanding, impact, and setting are not.  We were reminded of this just recently in the case of Roy Moore v. Sasha Baron Cohen, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of a defamation action arising out of a mock comedic interview. Mo[ø]re on that case later (pun perhaps intended). Continue Reading

Copyright Infringement before the Copyright Claims Board?

Suppose you have not registered your copyright in a book with the U.S. Copyright Office until someone has infringed your copyright by copying substantial portions of your book. Let’s also suppose you can prove that the alleged infringer has infringed your work and you can prove that the infringement caused you lost sales, lost opportunities to license, or diminution in the value of the copyright in the amount of $20,000. Can you sue the alleged infringer for actual damages for the copyright infringement without going to federal court? The answer to this question is YES!

The U.S. Congress has established the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (CASE Act) to provide an alternative forum to federal court before the Copyright Office called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) for resolving certain copyright disputes that involve up to $30,000 (called “small claims”). The use of the CCB is voluntary and both parties must agree to participate. The CCB provides advantages over federal court because certain copyright disputes may be resolved before a panel of copyright experts as opposed to a jury or a federal judge. The CCB proceeding is a streamlined proceeding and a less-expensive alternative compared to federal court. Continue Reading

How the New 2022 SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract Affects Performers and Advertisers

A new collective bargaining agreement governing the use of SAG-AFTRA (the Union) performers in commercials has been reached between the Union and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC).

The new 2022 SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract (the 2022 Contract), which is retroactively effective to April 1, 2022, appears to offer certain benefits to advertiser and agency signatories of the Commercials Contract, particularly JPC authorizers, as well as Union member performers.

The 4.88% increase to use fees is the lowest rate hike in more than a decade. The 2022 Contract’s advertiser-friendly editing rules and its simplified approach to categorizing digital media outlets are clearly meant to alleviate advertiser and agency frustrations and make the contract more functional and user-friendly. Additionally, with new protections for talent in the wake of the #MeToo movement and new requirements designed to improve opportunities for performers of color, the Union achieved notable wins for talent. Continue Reading

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