Was Missguided Misguided? Kim Kardashian West Obtains $2.7 Million Judgment in Right of Publicity and Trademark Suit

A federal district court in California has awarded a $2.7-million default judgment to Kim Kardashian West in her lawsuit against a fast fashion online retailer that allegedly used her persona and likeness to sell its clothing, in part by repeatedly tagging her on Instagram and linking to the retailer’s e-commerce site.

Kardashian West’s suit is an example of celebrities taking action to combat the improper online use of their identities. Continue Reading

The District of Delaware Holds Patent Description for Bacon Product Indefinite

An indefinite patent description will pass muster when pigs fly.  In HIP, Inc. v. Hormel Foods Corporation et al., C.A. 18-615-CFC (D. Del. June 24, 2019), the United States District Court for the District of Delaware held that a patent failed to meet the requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112 that a patent’s description must not be indefinite.  As a result, the Court held that U.S. Patent Number 9,510,610 (the “#610 patent”) was invalid. Continue Reading

The Role of Artificial Intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the fashion and beauty industries — and the marketing of the same — has steadily gained traction over the last few years and it’s not hard to see why. AI provides a myriad of opportunities and potential applications within the fields of fashion and beauty, but it can also be a double-edged sword presenting several potential legal issues. Continue Reading

TheLegalBay.gr: No Pirates allowed

In the framework of its efforts against online copyright piracy, the Hellenic Copyright Organization (“HCO”, Greek Acronym “OPI”) launched, on August 1st 2019, a new web portal, under the domain name “theLegalBay.gr”. The new website aims to be the place where online users can easily find web platforms available either solely in Greece or worldwide (including in Greece), which provide copyright protected content legally.

TheLegalBay is a member of the “Agorateka” initiative, a European network launched by the European Office of Intellectual Property (EUIPO), which collects in one portal (agorateka.eu) national websites of participating European countries which collect and provide links to platforms with legal digital content. Continue Reading

NEW DOJ ANTITRUST DIVISION POLICY INCENTIVIZES ROBUST CORPORATE ANTITRUST COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS

Last month the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced a landmark new policy to incentivize companies to develop robust antitrust compliance programs. For the first time, the Antitrust Division will now consider a company’s antitrust compliance program as a factor in evaluating whether or not to bring criminal charges against the company and its officers.

Since the early 1990s, the Antitrust Division would only decline to prosecute companies under its stringent Corporate Leniency Program. The Corporate Leniency Program automatically grants amnesty from criminal antitrust prosecution to the first – and only the first – corporation that self-reports its participation in an antitrust crime to the DOJ, ceases its illegal activity, provides incriminating evidence against its co-conspirators, and fully cooperates with the DOJ. If a corporation qualifies for automatic amnesty, then all of its cooperating directors, officers, and employees also receive automatic amnesty. The effect of the Corporate Leniency Program, however, was to create a high stakes “race to leniency” among corporations hoping to avoid criminal charges by self-reporting to the DOJ. It did not incentivize corporate compliance efforts. Continue Reading

What’s Going On? Another Marvin Gaye Lawsuit Tests the Limits of Copyright Protection

Just when you thought it was over, another copyright infringement lawsuit involving a Marvin Gaye song is set for trial. The dust had barely settled on the infamous “Blurred Lines” case when a second suit, this time targeting world-famous pop star Ed Sheeran, took another step closer to trial. Similar to the prior case, the battleground being fought over is the “feel” and “style” of the song — elements that were long presumed to be unprotectable from a copyright standpoint. These recent developments have found many artists and content creators — including marketers and their agencies — concerned that musical ground long considered “safe” may now be off-limits.

The suit against Sheeran claims that his hit “Thinking Out Loud” infringes Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On.” In January 2019, a court ruled that there were enough similarities between the two songs for the case to proceed to a jury trial. The ruling came less than a month after Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay Gaye’s estate $4.9 million as the final step in a years-long saga that reached its crescendo when a jury found “Blurred Lines,” the worldwide hit written by Thicke and Williams, had infringed Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” Continue Reading

United States Licensed Attorney Required for Foreign-Domiciled U.S. Trademarks

Since August 3, 2019, all foreign-domiciled U.S. trademark applicants, registrants and parties to proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board must be represented by an attorney licensed to practice law in the U.S. (as defined in 37 C.F.R. § 11.1). Such U.S. licensed attorneys are required to both affirm that they are members in good standing with the Bar of a state, and provide bar membership information. This new rule also applies to Canadian patent agents who previously represented parties with matters before the USPTO, as well as Canadian trademark attorneys and agents. Canadian patent agents who are reciprocally recognized by the USPTO’s Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) may be appointed as additional practitioners in connection with an application or USPTO proceeding, but must be accompanied by a U.S.-licensed attorney who has separately been appointed to the matter. Continue Reading

Application for the Chinese Translation of a Foreign Trademark as a Trademark with Knowledge of Likelihood of Confusion Considered in Bad Faith

Chinese (Mandarin) is the national language in Taiwan.  To expand the market in Taiwan, many foreign companies will select the Chinese translation or transliteration of their foreign brands as locally used brands (trademarks) so that the consumers in Taiwan may identify more easily.  However, in Chinese language, one character may have multiple pronunciations or meanings.  Given this, one foreign trademark might have multiple alternative ways of Chinese translation or transliteration.

When comparing a foreign trademark with its Chinese translated or transliterated version on their own, there might not be similarity between the two under the traditional standard of trademark similarity.  Accordingly, when the Chinese translated or transliterated version of a foreign trademark was applied or registered as a trademark in bad faith, it has been uncertain whether there is a likelihood of confusion under the current practice in Taiwan.  In a recent administrative case regarding a trademark opposition, the Intellectual Property Court had addressed this issue and held in the instant case that if the applicant maliciously knew the likelihood of confusion and still applied for the Chinese translated or transliterated version of a foreign trademark, the application is considered to be filed in bad faith and should not be accepted. Continue Reading

PATENT TROLL SUITS DOWN, NOT OUT IN 2018

Over the past half-decade, Congress and the courts have made aggressive efforts to curb the worst abuses of the patent system. In 2013, Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA), which established the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to hear patent validity challenges outside of the federal court system. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank (Alice), which led to thousands of software and business method patents being labeled unpatentable “abstract ideas.” And, as we reported in the 2017 edition of Trends in Marketing Communications Law, the Supreme Court issued TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods (TC Heartland), which neutralized the patent-friendly Eastern District of Texas (ED Tex), and narrowed the potential venues for patent suits. Continue Reading

NO LONGER “FUCT” – SCANDALOUS MARK PROVISION STRUCK DOWN BY SUPREME COURT

What constitutes a “scandalous” trademark? The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been grappling with this question since the enactment of the 1905 Trademark Act, later codified in the 1946 Lanham Act, which forbids registration of any mark that “[c]onsists of or comprises immoral . . . or scandalous matter.” Since the creation of this provision, the USPTO has regularly rejected marks for being “scandalous.” Now, after the 6-3 Supreme Court opinion issued on June 24, 2019, the USPTO will no longer be the arbiter of what constitutes a “scandalous” mark.

In 2017, when the Supreme Court issued its historical decision allowing the federal registration of “disparaging” trademarks in Matel v. Tam, many thought the holding would also encompass so-called “scandalous” marks. Just months after the Supreme Court’s ruling on “disparaging” marks, the Federal Circuit struck down the “scandalous” trademark ban on similar grounds, and, in doing, so overruled the Trademark Office’s refusal to register the mark FUCT for an apparel company in In re Brunetti. Continue Reading

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