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Copyright suit over 'Soft Kitty' lyrics dismissed

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

If you are a regular viewer of the television sitcom The Big Bang Theory, then you probably are familiar with the loveable quirks of one of the main characters - Sheldon Cooper. One such quirk is Sheldon wanting people to sing the song "Soft Kitty" whenever he is hurt or sick.

In 2015, a claim surfaced that the show's producers, Warner Bros. Entertainment, infringed on the copyright of nursery rhyme writer Edith Newlin. The lawsuit was brought forth by Newlin's two children. 

The work in question appeared in a 1930s songbook which carried a blanket copyright notice in the publisher's name. The publisher renewed its copyright in 1964 but, based on the court's reading of the 1909 Copyright Act that governed the case, there was no renewal effected for the copyright in the song individually held by the plaintiffs' mother. The court therefore found that the song had passed into the public domain, and the copyright infringement case was dismissed

This case clearly illustrates the importance of ensuring you have valid copyright protection for your authored work - whether is it song lyrics, books, films, photographs, designs, computer software, architectural designs or other creations.

The best way to establish copyright is with advice and guidance from an experienced intellectual property lawyer. Your attorney can help you to identify works that need protection and guide you through the registration process.

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