Supreme Court Grants Cheerleading Apparel Manufacturer’s Request: Uniform’s Decorative Elements are Copyrightable

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a cheerleading uniform’s decorative elements may be protected under copyright law — a ruling aimed at providing some resolution regarding the disagreement over when these types of designs are eligible for protection under U.S. copyright law. As background, in 2010, Varsity Brands, Inc., the country’s largest cheerleading supplier, accused one of its rivals, Star Athletica, of copying the key elements of its uniform’s design, including stripes, chevrons, and other graphic elements that Varsity had registered with the Copyright Office. In response, Star swung back, arguing that the designs were too useful to be afforded copyright protections. In 2014, a federal judge ruled in favor of Star, holding that the design and function of the uniform were integrally intertwined, and thus, could not be separated ...
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Judge Finds Chink in IP Suit Over Iron Man’s Armor

On March 27, 2017, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed in part and granted in part Walt Disney’s Marvel Entertainment’s bid to dismiss a copyright suit by Horizon Comics Productions Inc. over Iron Man’s body armor design. The lawsuit commenced in April 2015 by Horizon’s owners Ben and Ray Lai, who claimed Iron Man’s armor was based upon their 2001 comic book series Radix. In addition, the Lai brothers claimed that Marvel’s promotional poster for Iron Man 3 copied a promotional piece of art for the Radix comic. Judge Oetken agreed with Marvel that Iron Man’s armor was full of “dissimilarities” and “differ in respects” from the armor in Horizon’s Radix comics, but denied Marvel’s motion to dismiss in respect to the posters. Both Horizon’s and Marvel’s promotional posters ...
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Amid Outside Pressure, North Carolina Replaces HB2

The discussions to repeal HB2 heated up last week after it was learned that North Carolina would potentially be excluded from hosting any NCAA events through the spring of 2022 absent a repeal of the law. Coincidentally, only hours before the NCAA deadline, the North Carolina legislature introduced HB142 which would replace HB2. The primary difference between HB2 and HB142 is that the latter exempts schools from state regulation of access to bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms. The law also prevents local governments from enacting or amending any ordinances regulating private employment practice or regulating public accommodations. This provision expires on December 1, 2020. On March 30, 2017, the bill was passed by both the house and the senate and signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper. Despite the political ...
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Back to Full Strength: U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Scores Big in Payment Dispute

In a stunning win for equal pay between genders, the United States Women’s hockey team secured a major victory by coming to an agreement with USA Hockey on a new four-year labor agreement. This result came on the heels of the Women’s team plan to boycott the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship, which began Friday March 31, 2017. The move to boycott drew a large amount of support from athletes to politicians, who reverberated the argument that the women’s team should earn a paycheck equal in amount to what is earned  by the Men’s team. In a letter sent by twenty United States Senators on March 27, politicians pleaded with executives at USA Hockey to provide “equitable treatment” to both the Men’s and Women’s programs. In highlighting many of ...
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Judge Preliminarily Approves NCAA’s $209 Million Antitrust Settlement

A U.S. District judge has granted preliminary approval for a $208.7 million settlement in the antitrust lawsuit between student-athletes and the NCAA/eleven athletic conferences. The approval came after revisions were added to exclude claims in other athletes’ suits and to modify class definitions. As background, the student-athletes’ original complaint, filed in 2014, challenged the NCAA’s rules prohibiting universities from paying students a larger sum than a full grant-in-aid — which covers the up to the full cost of university attendance. Not only did the student-athletes sue the NCAA, but also eleven conferences: Pac-12, The Big Ten, The Big 12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American Athletic, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic. When the NCAA originally agreed to the proposed deal in February, it stated that it ...
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Costco Teeing Up IP Suit with Golf Ball Maker Titleist

Costco Corporation has filed suit in Washington federal court, seeking a declaration that its discount golf ball, the Kirkland Signature (KS) ball, does not violate any patents held by golf brand Titleist’s parent, Acushnet Co. Costco initiated this declaratory action when Acushnet allegedly sent “a threatening letter” accusing it of patent infringement and false advertising. Acushnet, a Massachusetts company, manufactures one of the top golf performance equipment brands, Titleist. The patents at issue, in pertinent part, relate to the hardness of the golf ball’s outer core; the inner core’s surface hardness; the first three layers of the golf ball’s “coefficient of restitution;” and the KS ball’s percentage of “dimples.” Notably, a 12-pack of Titleist “Pro V1” golf balls retails for around $50, while the same quantity of KS golf balls ...
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Former NFL Stars Who Opted Out of the NFL Concussion Litigation Rejoin Class

Two former NFL stars, Joe Horn and Chris McAlister, became the latest players to reinstate themselves in the NFL’s uncapped concussion litigation, after initially opting out of the class action. As background, the settlement established a bottomless fund over a 65-year span — with a potential payout of over $1 billion — to compensate a class of over 20,000 former NFL players now suffering from serious degenerative conditions linked to traumatic brain injuries, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Under the settlement, each player will receive payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million. McAlister, a former cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens, had opted out of the concussion settlement — which was approved in 2015. Also, Horn, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, initially opted out ...
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Game Developer Agrees to Cease Usage of “April Madness” and “Final 3” in 2017

Game developer Kizzang LLC, accused by the NCAA of infringing on the Association’s “March Madness” Trademark, has agreed to cease use of similar marks for any of its basketball-themed games during 2017 — while the infringement suit proceeds in Indiana federal court. As background, the NCAA — an avid defender of its “March Madness” mark — filed suit against Kizzang and its owner, Robert Alexander, less than a week before the annual commencement of its men’s basketball tournament. As previously reported, the NCAA’s complaint accused Kizzang’s online fantasy game “April Madness” of violating its mark. Also, the NCAA alleged Kizzang’s “Final 3” online bracket-predicting game infringed the NCAA’s “Final Four” trademark. The NCAA’s complaint stated that it “partners with a select group of businesses committed to supporting the mission and ...
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Wideman’s 10-Game Suspension Stands Despite NHL’s Insistence that Arbitrator Overstepped his Bounds

A New York federal judge recently confirmed the decision of James Oldham, an arbitrator, to reduce Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman’s suspension for hitting a referee. As background, in January, 2016 Wideman was hit by another player while on the ice, which caused him to suffer a concussion. As he was skating to his bench, Wideman — looking dazed and confused — collided with a referee, Henderson. Henderson hit the ground and suffered from a concussion. The commissioner suspended Wideman for the minimum amount of time for a hit to an official meant to cause harm. Subsequently, the NHL Players’ Association moved for arbitration, and in June, the NHL sought to reinstate the full suspension. Notably, Oldham reduced Wideman’s suspension from 20 games to only ten. The NHL argued that ...
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Are Millennials’ TV Watching Habits Jeopardizing the Future of Sports?

Millennial sports fans are moving away from cable television and traditional sports towards online video game tournaments and other “eSports.” A study conducted by LEK Consulting revealed a “sharp generational divide” among sports fans. This divide is marked by a change in TV viewing habits between millennials (those between 18-25 years old) and those above 35. The report stipulated that millennials are spending less time watching traditional cable television, and thus, losing interest in traditional sports. As background, LEK conducted a survey of 1,500 U.S. sports fans, which showed that millennial sports fans with any interest in eSports significantly prefer their favorite eSport to traditional sports. Non-millennial sports fans reported spending 41 percent of their media time on TV, but only 9 percent of it on online TV. However, millennial ...
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