Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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In this trademark infringement suit under the Lanham Act, furniture manufacturer Omnia admitted that it blatantly copied and began selling the same goods branded with the mark of its (now ex) business partner, retail furniture company Stone Creek. The district court granted judgment for Omnia. The panel reversed and held that Omnia's use of Stone Creek's mark was likely to cause confusion where placing an identical mark on identical goods creates a strong likelihood of confusion, especially when the mark was fanciful. Furthermore, Stone Creek also sells in overlapping market channels and other factors heighten the likelihood that consumers will be confused as to the origin of the furniture. The panel rejected Omnia's invocation of a common-law defense—known as the Tea Rose–Rectanus doctrine—that protects use of a mark in a remote geographic area when the use is in good faith. In this case, Omnia's knowledge of Stone Creek's prior use defeated any claim of good faith. Finally, the panel confirmed that a 1999 amendment to the trademark statutes did not sweep away the panel's precedent requiring that a plaintiff prove willfulness to justify an award of the defendant's profits. The panel remanded this issue for the district court to make such a determination. View "Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendants in this trademark infringement suit regarding defendants' use of Marketquest's "All-in-One" and "The Write Choice" trademarks. The panel held that Marketquest's pleading was adequate to support a cause of action for trademark infringement under a reverse confusion theory of likely confusion; consideration of the intent factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis varies with the type of confusion being considered; the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of defendants based upon the fair use defense regarding their use of "All-in-One;" and the district court erred by applying the fair use analysis to defendants' use of "The Write Choice" after determining that Marketquest presented no evidence of likely confusion. View "Marketquest Group, Inc. v. BIC Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against various defendants in the film industry, alleging copyright and state law claims, including breach of implied-in-fact contract and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleged that defendants used his screenplay idea to create "The Purge" films without providing him compensation or credit as a writer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' anti-SLAPP motion to strike the state law claims. In this case, plaintiff's implied-in-fact contract claim did not arise from protected free speech activity because the claim was based on defendants' failure to pay for the use of plaintiff's idea, not the creation, production, distribution, or content of the films. The panel also held that defendants' failure to pay was not conduct in furtherance of the right to free speech. View "Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc." on Justia Law

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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service. Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mavrix filed suit against LiveJournal for posting 20 of its copyrighted photographs online. The district court granted summary judgment for LiveJournal, holding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), safe harbor protected LiveJournal from liability because Mavrix's photographs were posted at the direction of the user. In this case, when users submitted Mavrix's photographs to LiveJournal, LiveJournal posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators led by a LiveJournal employee reviewed and approved them. The court disagreed with the district court and concluded that the common law of agency does apply to this analysis and that there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were LiveJournal's agents. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for trial. The court addressed the remaining issues that the district court addressed because these issues may be contested on remand. On remand, the district court must determine whether LiveJournal met the section 512(c) safe harbor threshold requirement by showing that the photographs were posted at the direction of the user, then LiveJournal must show that it lacked actual or red flag knowledge of the infringements and that it did not financially benefit from infringements that it had the right and ability to control. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former student athletes, filed suit against T3Media, asserting claims for statutory and common law publicity-rights, as well as an unfair competition claim under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that T3Media exploited their likenesses commercially by selling non-exclusive licenses permitting consumers to download photographs from the NCAA's Photo Library for non-commercial art use. The district court held that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., preempted plaintiffs' claims and granted T3Media's special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. In this case, plaintiffs concede that their suit arises from acts in furtherance of T3Media's right to free speech. Therefore, plaintiffs must demonstrate a reasonable probability of prevailing on their challenged claims. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to do so because the federal Copyright Act preempts plaintiffs' claims. The court explained that the subject matter of the state law claims falls within the subject matter of copyright, and the rights plaintiffs assert were equivalent to rights within the general scope of copyright. Because the district court did not err in granting T3Media's special motion to strike, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Maloney v. T3Media, Inc." on Justia Law

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Unicolors filed suit against Urban, alleging copyright infringement of the Subject Design. The district court concluded that defendants were liable for copyright infringement. A jury found that Urban willfully infringed Unicolor's copyright in the Subject Design and awarded damages, as well as fees and costs. The court concluded that a district court may grant summary judgment for plaintiffs on the issue of copying when the works are so overwhelmingly similar that the possibility of independent creation is precluded. The court determined that the works at issue in this case met this standard. The court explained that, because of the decisive objective overlap between the works, no reasonable juror could conclude under the intrinsic test that the works are not substantially similar in total concept and feel. Therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Unicolor. The court also concluded that it is permissible to infer copying in this case, even absent evidence of access; the district court properly held that Unicolors had a valid registration in the Subject Design; and the jury's verdict finding willful infringement is therefore supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Unicolors, Inc. v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of broadcast stations and copyright holders, filed suit against FilmOn X, an operator of a service that uses antennas to capture over-the-air broadcast programming, much of it copyrighted, and then uses the Internet to retransmit such programming to paying subscribers, all without the consent or authorization of the copyright holders. Under section 111 of the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 111(c), a "cable system" is eligible for a so-called compulsory license that allows it to retransmit "a performance or display of a work" that had originally been broadcast by someone else—even if such material is copyrighted—without having to secure the consent of the copyright holder. So long as the cable system pays a statutory fee to the Copyright Office and complies with certain other regulations, it is protected from infringement liability. The district court granted partial summary judgment to FilmOn. The Copyright Office determined that Internet-based retransmission services were not eligible for the compulsory license under section 111. The court deferred to the Office's interpretation because it was persuasive and reasonable. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Aereokiller LLC" on Justia Law

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The court certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: 1) Under section 980(a)(2) of the California Civil Code, do copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings that were sold to the public before 1982 possess an exclusive right of public performance? 2) If not, does California's common law of property or tort otherwise grant copyright owners of pre-1972 sound recordings an exclusive right of public performance? View "Flo & Eddie v. Pandora Media" on Justia Law

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Design Data filed suit alleging that UE infringed the copyright on Design Data's computer aided design (CAD) program by downloading an unauthorized copy of the program and importing and distributing within the United States program output generated by a Chinese contractor using an unauthorized copy of the program. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the copyright protection afforded Design Data's computer program does not, on these facts, extend to the program's output; affirmed the district court's decision to refuse Design Data a further opportunity to amend its complaint; reversed the district court as to its determination on summary judgment that UE's download of Design Data's SDS/2 program was a de minimis copyright violation; and remanded for further proceedings. View "Design Data Corp. v. Unigate Enterprise" on Justia Law