‘Pink Slime’ Manufacturer Fights Back at ABC with Defamation Suit

A manufacturer of beef trimmings launched a $1.2 billion defamation suit against the American Broadcasting Company, ABC reporters Jim Avila and David Kerly, Diane Sawyer and several others in the Circuit Court of South Dakota, First Judicial Circuit on September 13, 2012. In its complaint, the manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc., alleges that ABC’s multi-part documentary attacked BPI’s lean finely textured beef product (the substance less affectionately dubbed “pink slime” by critics in the documentary) causing it to incur a loss of business since the series aired.  The complaint notes that several high profile customers (including McDonald’s Corp. and grocery chains such as Kroger Co.) stopped purchasing LFTB after the negative media attention brought about by the series, causing BPI to incur monthly sales losses in excess of $20 million. BPI ...
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Sinatra’s Estate Prevails in Trademark (Hot)Dog Fight with Food Truck Owner

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board upheld the denial of an attempt to trademark the name “Franks Anatra,” holding that it wrongfully referenced the famous singer Frank Sinatra and was likely to cause confusion or otherwise imply a false association with the iconic American singer. The estate of Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Enterprises LLC led the opposition toMichiganhot dog truck owner Bill Loizon’s application noting that they currently owned the rights to three trademarks which registered the name Frank Sinatra and Sinatra for use in “entertainment services and prepared sauces.”  Additionally, the Trademark Act of 1946 prohibits granting an application for a trademark where it would “falsely suggest a connection with persons living or dead.” Among Loizon’s arguments in favor of his application was ...
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Disney, Sony Face Billion Dollar ‘Sister Act’ Suit filed by Harlem Nun

Harlem nun Delois Blakely is suing Disney and Sony Pictures for allegedly stealing her life story for the plot of the popular movie “Sister Act.”  According to Blakely, she delivered a synopsis of her autobiography, “The Harlem Street Nun” to a Tri Star Pictures producer.  When they expressed interest in the story, producer Scott Rudin took the story to Disney, where they made “Sister Act.” The Disney picture featured Whoopi Goldberg as a Reno singer who is forced to go into hiding in a convent in order to escape her mobster boyfriend.   While in the convent, she teaches the church’s choir to sing unconventional songs.   The film earned two Golden Glob nominations and made $231 million worldwide. In her complaint, Blakely argues that the film, its 1993 sequel, ...
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Appeals Court Rules the NFL Doesn’t Have to Play Nice with Mean Gene Atkins on Disability Claims

On September 11, 2012, a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Nation Football League would not be required to extend “extra retirement disability benefits” to “Mean” Gene Atkins.  While Atkins could receive “inactive” player disability benefits, the ruling prevents him from eligibility for the more generous “football degenerative” disability benefits that the league affords retirees with football related injuries.  The ruling comes despite Atkins’ insistence that his current ailments are a result of injuries suffered during his 10-year NFL career. Atkins’ current battle began in 2010 when he sued the NFL Player Retirement Plan, the NFL Supplemental Disability Plan and the Management Trustees of the NFL Player Retirement Plan in federal court in Austin, Texas, alleging that his shoulder, head, ...
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Former High School Football Player Brings Suit for Disabilities Allegedly Caused by Concussions

A former Texas high school football player has filed suit against his former school district (MarbleFallsIndependentSchool District) and football coach (Cord Woerner) in United States District Court.  Blake Alan Ripple’s Complaint alleges that his current disabilities were caused by a lack of concern or proper care shown by the Defendants in supervising and running the school’s football program. Presently, the 20 year old Ripple claims that his disabilities are so severe that he cannot even enter a rehabilitation program due to non-stop vomiting.  Ripple also alleges he suffers from frequent headaches, upset stomach, and periodic episodes where his right side tremors involuntarily.  His complaint notes that “[a]t one time Ripple was a National Honor Society Student and ‘Academic All-District . . . now he is unable to live independently, let ...
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Usher ‘Caught Up’ in Copyright Infringement Suit Over Single

Usher has been slapped with a copyright lawsuit in Illinois federal court by three individuals who claim that Usher and his record company stole their material for Usher’s hit single “Caught Up.” Musicians Edwards, Moses, and McClean allege that shortly after they played their song “Caught Up” for Michael Barackman, Senior Director of A&R at Arista Records in October 2002, Usher released his hit album “Confessions,” featuring his hit single “Caught Up.”  According to the musicians, Usher and his record companies used the same melody, hook, lyrics, and chorus of their original copyrighted composition. According to the complaint, both songs tell the same story of a man singing about his shock over a woman’s hold on him.  The choruses of both songs have one line, followed by the phrase, “caught ...
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Bounty-Gate Players’ Suspensions Lifted by Arbitration Panel, For Now

The suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players involved in an alleged pay-for-pain bounty program were lifted by a three-member arbitration panel, allowing the players to return to the game – for now.  The arbitration decision allows the players to return to their teams, but it does not permanently void their suspensions. An NFL investigation revealed that Saints coaches and players ran a bounty program from 2009 – 2011 in which players would receive cash payouts for hits that injured opponents.  In the 2009-2010 playoffs, bounties were placed on quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre.  Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive lineman Will Smith, linebacker Scott Fujita, and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove were all suspended after the conduct was discovered. The panel stated that it remains to be determined ...
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Memorabilia Collector Settles Copyright Infringement Suit by Jackson Estate

On September 4, 2012, the estate of Michael Jackson agreed to settle the late singer’s copyrights and misappropriation of likeness claims against a memorabilia collector for $2.5 million.  The case was set to proceed to trial on September 5, 2012. The settlement comes almost a month after U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson granted the estate’s motion for partial summary judgment, which found Howard Mann and Vintage Pop Media Group LLC liable for copyright infringement (and several other claims). The estate’s suit accused Defendants of taking Jackson merchandise purchased from a Jackson family storage unit during a bankruptcy auction and selling it on the websites JacksonSecretVault.com and Mjduets.com.  The suit alleged that Defendants wrongfully tricked the public into thinking that the estate endorsed the creation and sale of the products.  ...
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Shatner Sued by Former Handyman and Housekeeper

Husband and wife Oscar and Delmy Alfaro are suing William Shatner his wife Elizabeth in California Superior Court for wrongful termination, accusing the pair of firing them after Oscar refused to sign a release for an on-the-job injury he sustained in March 2011. The couple, who had worked full-time at the Shatners’ Studio City, California home for 20 years (Oscar as a handyman, Delmy as a housekeeper), accused Mr. Shatner of approaching Oscar with a release after Oscar fell in the driveway and injured his back.  Since the release would not cover Oscar’s medical bills, he refused to sign it.  The Alfaro’s suit accuses the Shatners of harassing them over the incident, and notes “it is a fundamental and substantial policy of the state ofCaliforniato maintain a workplace free of ...
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Disney Suit Seeks to End the Party for Seller of Unlicensed Character Costumes

Recently, Walt Disney Co., Sanrio, Co., Ltd. and DC Comics filed suit in federal district court against Party Animals LLC (a business offering costumes and party entertainment) alleging that Party Animals infringed on various trademarks and copyrights owned by the Plaintiffs by renting character costumes produced without permission in violation of the Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights.   Some of the alleged infringing costumes named by the suit include Winnie the Pooh, Batman, Superman, and Hello Kitty. Party Animals’s website plainly states that it has no licenses in the costumes it produces, but nonetheless asserts that it manufactures only look-alikes, not copyright infringing knock-offs. In addition to seeking monetary damages, Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction barring Party Animals LLC from continuing its alleged copyright/trademark infringing behavior. Akamai, Apple, Disney, Dupont: Intellectual Property
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