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Sony Charged With Breaking Bad, Cooking With Artist's Copyright

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.


Artwork Created for Los Pollos Hermanos logo

Visual Image Protection: Mexican artist, Humberto Puentes-Segura, sued Sony for copyright infringement in New Mexico federal court, claiming that the license he granted the "Breaking Bad" studio to use his image was for a prop, set design, and wardrobe purposes only. The image, used as the logo for the fictional fast food restaurant, Los Pollos Hermanos, has since been used by Sony on t-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise.

If the allegation is true that rights were only granted for the limited uses, then it's a fairly straightforward copyright case. Consistent with limits, the license fee was only $700. Sony could argue that the license can be read to grant broader rights, but that usually doesn't work out well for the claimed infringer. In California, for example, Section 988 of the Civil Code says that where a work of visual art is licensed, such as the illustration here, any ambiguity in the license must be interpreted in favor of the artist.

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