Category Archives: Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Trademark

Native American Groups File Brief in Support of Trademark Office’s Ban on Disparaging Trademarks

On November 16, 2016, Native American organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians, filed a brief of amici curiae in support of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (PTO) ban on offensive and disparaging trademarks. The statute at issue before the Supreme Court is Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), which provides that no trademark will be refused registration because of content unless, inter alia, the trademark “[c]onsists of . . .matter[s] which may disparage . . .…

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Stay Where You Are: Supreme Court Denies Premature Appeal in Redskins Case

On October 3, 2016, the Supreme Court rejected a long-shot appeal from the Washington Redskins, refusing to hear their case prior to the Fourth Circuit’s ruling. The team had attempted the rare “certiorari before judgment” because it wanted its case heard alongside The Slants’ similar case, which was accepted by the court on September 29. Like the Redskins’ case, the band argued that the board’s refusal to trademark the band name “The Slants” violated its right to free speech. Though the Patent and Trademark…

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One of These Things is Not Like The Other: Electronic Arts and Retired NFL Players Argue Over Class Certification in Likeness Suit

On September 22, 2016, Electronic Arts and retired NFL players who claim that “Madden NFL” uses their likeness without permission argued over class certification in a California federal court. At the hearing, the parties debated whether publicity is a property right and the feasibility of ascertaining thousands of players’ avatars. The players’ attorney, Brian Douglas Henri, stated that suit was properly brought under California state law, reasoning that EA’s headquarters are in the Bay Area. Judge Richard Seeborg questioned why state law should apply when…

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Is Selling Cubs Merchandise a Crime?

Stealing bases may be a routine part of baseball, but the Chicago Cubs have made it clear that street vendors stealing merchandise have no part in America’s pastime. On September 22, 2016, Major League Baseball and the Chicago Cubs sued vendors for selling counterfeit merchandise on the streets outside of Wrigley Field. This has been an uplifting season for the Cubs as they are in first place, standing as the top team in all of Major League Baseball. The club’s claim that vendors are “deliberately…

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Under Armour in a TM Dogfight with Puppy Armour

Sports apparel giant, Under Armour (UA), is unhappy with the “Armour marks” on Puppy Armour’s canine clothing. Under Amour is suing S&O Innovations LLC and Silvo Schillen of “slavishly” misappropriating and copying its name and font. The athletic gear maker filed its petition in a Florida federal court, arguing that the dog products are styled to look similar to UA. S&O sells various kinds of dog T-shirts for different breeds. In its complaint, Under Armour argues that the T-shirts are the same color, with…

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“Let’s Get it On” at the Heart of Ed Sheeran’s Hit Song?

Ed Sheeran is facing yet another copyright suit. This time, the heirs of Ed Townsend are claiming that the famous song “Thinking Out Loud” sounded too much like “Let’s Get It On” — co-written by Ed Townsend and sang by Marvin Gaye. The heirs assert that “the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic composition in ‘Thinking’ are not the product of independent creation,” suing the singer, record labels, promoters and everybody associated with “Thinking Out Loud.” The plaintiffs claim that the pop singer “copied the ‘heart’ of…

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Do Monkeys Have the Same Copyright Interests as Humans?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is not backing down in its fight for copyrights for monkeys. This fight began about five years ago when a photographer, David Slater, was in Indonesia taking pictures of monkeys when Naruto, a now famous monkey, grabbed his camera to snap a selfie. Since then, Naruto’s renowned “Monkey Selfie” has appeared on websites and in a book. PETA sued Slater arguing that Naruto has the same rights in his photograph as any human would have in their…

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No Bed of Roses for Trump: Queen Revokes Rights to Signature Anthem

Donald Trump received the Republican Party’s nomination, but it has been no pleasure cruise since then. At Donald Trump, Jr.’s casting of the votes for the New York delegation, Donald Trump received the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The next day, Trump accepted the nomination with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” heralding in the background. Shortly after, Queen took to twitter, declaring the song’s usage “an unauthorised use at the Republican Convention against our wishes.” The band pulled Trump’s rights to play the…

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Late Night Host Stephen Colbert Dances Around IP Issue Over His Own Exaggerated Persona

CBS’s “The Late Show” opted to go live at the conclusion of each day of the Republican National Convention two weeks ago to better respond to the fodder the RNC provides. During one of the shows, host Stephen Colbert brought back his beloved fictional “Colbert” character from his immensely popular “The Colbert Report.” The character was retired after the show ended on Comedy Central and hasn’t been seen for more than a year as the real Stephen Colbert forged his own identity. However, it appears…

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Redskins: Trademark Cancellation Worse than Initial Denial

The Washington Redskins are entangled in a trademark battle over its name and is urging the Supreme Court to hear its case. The football team disagrees about the offensiveness of the name and contests the constitutionality of Section 2 (a) of the Lanham Act which bans trademarks that are “disparaging.” Under the act, the government cancelled the Redskins trademarks after 23 years. The Lanham Act was also the basis for the government’s refusal to register the trademark of the Asian-American rock band the “Slants.” However,…

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