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San Francisco California Intellectual Property Law Blog

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.

Metal band to settle trademark dispute over beer name

According to Reuters, on August 12 the band Guns N' Roses filed notice with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California that it and Oskar Blues, a Colorado brewery, had agreed on July 31 to settle their trademark infringement dispute over the brewer's use of the label "Guns 'N' Rosé" for ale and on merchandise. The band's attorneys are crafting a settlement agreement and will eventually request that the May 9 suit be dismissed, presumably if the settlement is approved.  

We previously wrote in detail about the lawsuit when the band filed it. The band's named partners are original members Axl Rose (vocals), Duff McKagan (bass) and Slash (guitar), according to Rolling Stone.

Jury awards $2.7 million in damages in Katy Perry copyright case

On August 1, a federal jury in Los Angeles calculated that Katy Perry, her label Capitol Records and related co-defendants owe rapper Marcus Gray and his co-writer $2.78 million for copyright infringement for Perry’s 2013 megahit “Dark Horse.” Gray, also known professionally as Flame, alleged in his lawsuit that Perry and her writing and production team copied for “Dark Horse” a basic series of notes used repeatedly in Gray’s popular 2008 Christian rap song “Joyful Noise.”

According to CBS, the jury calculated damages based on their finding that 22.5% of “Dark Horse” profits can be traced to the six-note musical phrase in “Joyful Noise.”

Michael Jackson estate objects to to sell popcorn

At our law firm, we advocate for our clients who may be on either side of lawsuits over domain name ownership as well as those concerning cybersquatting. These legal proceedings, which often involve trademark infringement, are disputes about rightful ownership and use of domain names.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to have the domain name transferred to the rightful owner, to get an injunction in which the court orders an entity wrongfully using a domain name, to get an award of money damages or reimbursement of legal fees.

Kawhi Leonard’s copyright fight with Nike over the “Klaw” logo

When we think of branding, we often think of trademarks, but when a logo is based on creative artwork, it can also involve copyright. This is so in a dispute between basketball great Kawhi Leonard and his former sponsor Nike over a logo based on a drawing by Leonard that he gave to Nike for use as inspiration for a logo it designed and copyrighted.

We can buy technology to record TV shows ... thanks to Justice Stevens

On July 16, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passed away at 99. He served on the high court almost 35 years. He regarded himself as a judicial conservative, but he gained a reputation over time for opinions viewed as liberal.

According to Above the Law, in the world of intellectual property Justice Stevens was well known for his landmark opinion in the 1984 decision in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, which held that Sony did not contribute to copyright infringement when it sold to the public its Betamax VCR for "time-shifting" recording of programs and films broadcast on television for later private viewing in homes.

Collectively scrambling to contain the damage from deepfakes

You may not know the word for it, but you, like many people, probably saw the recently doctored video of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The “deepfake” made it look like she was slurring her words, perhaps implying that she was under the influence of alcohol. The Washington Post reported that it appeared the manipulator slowed down the original video and modified the pitch of the Speaker’s voice.

Songwriters say "Game On" in copyright infringement lawsuit

On June 19, songwriter Heidi Merrill and three other cowriters filed a copyright infringement suit in U.S. District Court in New York against singer Carrie Underwood, the National Football League, NBCUniversal Media, LLC, and several related defendants. The complaint alleges that the defendants used Merrill's sports-themed song "Game On" as the 2018 theme song for "Sunday Night Football" without the writers' permission and without any compensation to them for its use.

Copyright: Court finds Andy Warhol’s use of Prince photo was fair

The New York federal judge in a high-profile copyright infringement lawsuit found on July 1 that painter Andy Warhol did not infringe on Lynn Goldsmith’s copyrighted photograph of Prince when he based a series of portraits on it. The court concluded that Warhol did not infringe because of the “fair use” defense.

Default judgment in Kardashian trademark, right of publicity suit

Kim Kardashian is in the intellectual property news again. We shared information just last week about her controversial choice of the word “kimono” for branding her new line of lingerie.

On July 2, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a default judgment in favor of Kardashian in her lawsuit against the American branch of Missguided, a British fashion retailer, after it did not file an answer in the case. According to The Fashion Law, Kardashian alleged willful trademark infringement because Missguided has repeatedly used her image and name to sell fashion copied without permission from Kardashian’s designs.

Another step in the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ copyright trial

In October, we told readers about the high-profile copyright litigation in which the trustee of a trust containing a deceased musician’s copyright interests had sued the iconic band Led Zeppelin. Trustee Michael Skidmore alleged in U.S. District Court in California that the world-famous opening guitar solo of “Stairway to Heaven” was lifted from an obscure song called “Taurus,” written by Randy Wolfe of the band Spirit.

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