Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of copyright infringement claims brought by a monkey over selfies he took on a wildlife photographer's unattended camera. Naruto, a crested macaque, took several photos of himself on the camera, and the photographer and Wildlife Personalities subsequently published the Monkey Selfies in a book. PETA filed suit as next friend to Naruto, alleging copyright infringement. The panel held that the complaint included facts sufficient to establish Article III standing because it alleged that Naruto was the author and owner of the photographs and had suffered concrete and particularized economic harms; the monkey's Article III standing was not dependent on the sufficiency of PETA; but Naruto lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act did not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits. Finally, the panel granted defendants' request for attorneys' fees on appeal. View "Naruto v. Slater" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from a jury's finding that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.'s song "Blurred Lines," the world's bestselling single in 2013, infringed Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III's copyright in Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit song "Got To Give It Up." The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment. The panel held that "Got To Give It Up" was entitled to broad copyright protection because musical compositions were not confined to a narrow range of expression; the panel accepted, without deciding, the merits of the district court's ruling that the scope of defendants' copyright was limited, under the Copyright Act of 1909, to the sheet music deposited with the Copyright Office, and did not extend to sound recordings; the district court's order denying summary judgment was not reviewable after a full trial on the merits; the district court did not err in denying a new trial; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting portions of expert testimony; the verdict was not against the clear weight of the evidence; the awards of actual damages and profits and the district court's running royalty were proper; the district court erred in overturning the jury's general verdict in favor of Harris and the Interscope Parties; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Gayes' motion for attorney's fees; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in apportioning costs among the parties. View "Williams v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment for defendants and its order denying attorneys' fees in a copyright case alleging infringement of pornographic content. The panel held that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor applied to defendants because the material at issue was stored at the direction of the users and defendants did not have actual or apparent knowledge that the clips were infringing. Furthermore, defendants expeditiously removed the infringing material once they received actual or red flag notice of the infringement, they did not receive financial benefit, and they had a policy to exclude repeat infringers. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in not exercising supplemental jurisdiction over a California state law claim, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorneys' fees to defendants. View "Ventura Content, Ltd. v. Motherless, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a copyright infringement action brought by renowned photographer Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike. Rentmeester alleged that Nike infringed a famous photograph he took of Michael Jordan when Nike commissioned its own photograph of Jordan and then used that photo to create the "Jumpman" logo. The panel held that, although Rentmeester plausibly alleged that he owned a valid copyright in his photo and a presumption that the Nike photo was the product of copying rather than independent creation, he failed to plausibly allege that Nike copied enough of the protected expression from his photo to establish unlawful appropriation. The panel explained that Rentmeester was entitled to protection only for the way the pose was expressed in his photograph, a product of not just the pose but also the camera angle, timing, and shutter speed he chose. In this case, Rentmeester's photo was entitled to broad rather than thin protection. Nonetheless, the panel held that the works at issue were as a matter of law not substantially similar, and thus the Jumpman logo was even less similar to Rentmeester's photo than the Nike photo itself. View "Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendant in an action under the Copyright Act, alleging that defendant infringed on plaintiff's pen and ink depiction of two dolphins crossing underwater. The panel applied the objective extrinsic test for substantial similarity and held that the depiction of two dolphins crossing underwater in this case is an idea that is found first in nature and is not a protectable element. The panel explained that when as here, the only areas of commonality are elements first found in nature, expressing ideas that nature has already expressed for all, a court need not permit the case to go to a trier of fact. View "Folkens v. Wyland Worldwide, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for Whole Foods in a trademark infringement action. The panel held that the district court impermissibly resolved disputed questions of material fact in favor of the moving party regarding Whole Foods' affirmative defenses of laches and acquiescence. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's reasonableness finding and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court should reevaluate the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party—i.e., as if ERF delayed filing suit because it was trying to settle its claims against Whole Foods. If the district court determined on remand that ERF delayed unreasonably in filing suit and this delay prejudiced Whole Foods, it must consider the extent and reasonableness of Whole Foods' reliance on ERF's affirmative representations before it reaches a finding on acquiescence. View "Eat Right Foods Ltd. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oracle filed a copyright infringement suit against Rimini, a provider of third-party support for Oracle's enterprise software, and Rimini's CEO. The Ninth Circuit affirmed partial summary judgment and partial judgment after trial on Oracle's claims that Rimini infringed its copyright by copying under the license of one customer for work performed for other existing customers or for unknown or future customers; reversed judgment after trial in regard to Oracle's claims under the California Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAFA), the Nevada Computer Crimes Law (NCCL), and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), because taking data from a website, using a method prohibited by the applicable terms of use, when the taking itself generally was permitted, did not violate the CDAFA or the NCCL; reversed the determination that Rimini violated the UCL; reduced the award of damages based on Rimini's alleged violation of the CDAFA and NCCL; affirmed the award of prejudgment interest on the copyright claims; reversed the permanent injunction based on violations of the CDAFA; vacated the permanent injunction based on copyright infringement; reversed with respect to the CEO's liability for attorneys' fees; vacated the fee award and remanded for reconsideration; reduced the award of taxable costs; and affirmed the award of non-taxable costs. View "Oracle USA v. Rimini Street" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fox and held that Fox's use of the name "Empire" was protected by the First Amendment and was outside the reach of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. At issue was a Fox television show entitled Empire, which portrays a fictional hip hop music label named "Empire Enterprises" that was based in New York. The panel applied a test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to determine whether the Lanham Act applied. The panel held that Fox's expressive work sufficiently satisfied the first prong of the Rogers test where the title Empire supported the themes and geographic setting of the work and the second prong of the Rogers test where the use of the mark "Empire" did not explicitly mislead consumers. View "Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution" on Justia Law

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This petition for writ of mandamus arose in the context of a contested trademark action initiated by San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) against petitioners, over the use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The Ninth Circuit granted the petition and vacated the district court's orders directing petitioners to prominently post on their social medial outlets its order prohibiting comments about the litigation on social media, dubbing this posting a "disclaimer." The panel held that the orders at issue were unconstitutional prior restraints on speech because they prohibit speech that poses neither a clear and present danger nor a serious and imminent threat to SDCC's interest in a fair trial. The panel explained that the well-established doctrines on jury selection and the court's inherent management powers provide an alternative, less restrictive, means of ensuring a fair trial. View "Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a copyright infringement action. The panel held that DRK, a stock photography agency that markets and licenses images created by others to publishing entities, is a nonexclusive licensing agent for the photographs at issue and has failed to demonstrate any adequate ownership interest in the copyrights to confer standing. The panel also held that DRK lacked standing as a beneficial owner of the copyrights. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of DRK's motion to modify the scheduling order for leave to amend its complaint. View "DRK Photo v. McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law