WWE and Take-Two Interactive Move to Dismiss Tattoo Artist Copyright Infringement

On July 9, 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (Take-Two) moved to dismiss the suit brought by Catherine Alexander, a tattoo artist for professional WWE wrestler Randy Orton. As we have previously reported, Alexander, sued WWE and Take-Two claiming that several video games in the WWE 2K series illegally copied Alexander’s copyrighted tattoos in the Randy Orton game avatar. Between 2003 and 2008, Alexander created several tattoos for Orton, including tattoos on his upper back, forearms, upper arms, and…
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University of Arkansas Files Suit Against Counterfeit Retailers

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, the University of Arkansas’ Board of Trustees filed a suit seeking to stop a “massive network” of counterfeit websites selling fake or unregistered Razorback merchandise. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, in the Northern District of Illinois. Defendants are not named, but are described as retailers “residing in China” or “other foreign jurisdictions”, operating “without any authorizations or licenses”. These phony retailers are extremely successful, as the complaint alleges that they receive tens of millions of visits per…
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Precedent Setting Copyright Case Finally Comes to an End

The precedent setting case Varsity Brands, Inc. v. Star Athletica, LLC, was decided by the United States Supreme Court in March 2017. As we have previously covered, the decision held that a cheerleading uniform’s decorative elements may be protected under copyright law. The ruling provided some resolution regarding the disagreement over when these types of designs are eligible for protection under U.S. copyright law. However, after the decision, the court asked the parties to prepare a joint report setting forth a suggested path…
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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…
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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…
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NCAA Players’ Likeness Suit Attempts to Gain New Life

On February 17, 2017, two former Catholic University basketball players from the 2001 Division III national championship team pleaded for the Ninth Circuit to revive their class action against a website, T3Media, which sold official NCAA photographs from their championship season. The suit commenced in 2012, but was dismissed in 2015 as a District Court judge found that the website did not exceed its copyright and, therefore, was preempted by the Copyright Act. In response to the court’s dismissal, members of professional player unions in…
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Sudanese Refugees’ Copyright Suit Against Movie Makers Survives Motion to Dismiss

In 2015, 54 Sudanese refugees and their foundation, Foundation for Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, Inc., (the Lost Boys) filed suit against the producers and writer of the movie The Good LieThe Good Lie was a 2014 movie starring Reese Witherspoon about the Lost Boys fleeing genocidal activity during the Second Sudanese Civil War and being granted asylum and residency in the US. The writer had interviewed the Lost Boys about their life stories in order to make the movie. Despite promises…
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Quit Monkeying Around! Judge Dismisses PETA’s Copyright Suit in Monkey Selfie Case

If Congress intended to give animals standing in the Copyright Act, “they would have done so plainly,” said California U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick III. In 2015, photographer David Slater published a photo in which a monkey — a crested macaque, to be exact — took a picture of itself with Slater’s camera. PETA sued Slater and his publisher under the Copyright Act, arguing the primate should be “declared the author and owner of his photograph.” However, in a preliminary ruling on January…
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Pro Athletes File Amicus Brief Supporting NCAA Players’ Likeness Suit

On December 7, 2015 , professional athletes filed an amicus brief in support of a likeness suit brought by two former NCAA basketball players against a media company that sold game-time photographs of the ex-college athletes. Patrick Maloney and Tim Judge — both former members of the Catholic University 2001 NCAA Championship basketball team — initially brought the likeness suit in relation to a deal the NCAA made with media company T3Media in 2012 to host and license the league’s photo library. Through this deal,…
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