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Intellectual Property Litigation Archives

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.

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.

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.

Part 2: Vigorous disputes over Frida Kahlo intellectual property

In our last post, we talked about disputes over the right to use Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s persona, image and name in 65 years after her untimely death. We introduced the parties involved and the dispute between Kahlo’s surviving relatives and the Frida Kahlo Corporation, or FKC, over ownership of rights to use Frida Kahlo’s image and name in the marketplace.

Part 1: Commercial rights to name and image of artist Frida Kahlo

Her image is unmistakable. Black hair usually pulled away from her face. Dark, thick eyebrows. Serious, unsmiling expression. Iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo lived with disability and controversy throughout her short, but dramatic, life. She died at 47 in 1954, leaving behind a legacy of surrealistic paintings sometimes described as folk art.

Another video game subject of intellectual property lawsuit

We have written in this space before about video games raising issues of intellectual-property ownership. It makes sense. Many video games reproduce aspects of true life in artistic or graphical ways. Sometimes, creative video-game content may intersect with actual images, brands, marks and other original works that are protected such as by trademark or copyright.

Copyright, the First Amendment and the right of publicity

Robert Barbera, who photographs celebrities, has sued pop singer Ariana Grande because she uploaded photographs of herself to Instagram that he had taken and posted online. What could be wrong with posting pictures of yourself, even if someone else created them?

Commercial use of Steve McQueen’s name in dispute again

This time, the dispute is over cardigan sweaters. Last time, it was over luxury cars. In both cases, Chadwick McQueen, the son of deceased actor Steve McQueen, objected to companies using his father’s name to sell their products.

Happy-little-tree painter's right of publicity at issue

We recently told readers about a lawsuit filed by Car-Freshner Corporation -- the owner of the trademark for the iconic tree-shaped car air fresheners -- against Bob Ross Inc., called BRI, and its merchandiser for selling air fresheners for vehicles also in the shape of trees. Bob Ross was the famous landscape painter who taught viewers how to paint on television. He was known for telling viewers to mask mistakes using "happy little trees."

Model's $1.1 million jury award for license violation upheld

We have recently been talking in this space about intellectual property licensing. A California Court of Appeal recently decided Olive v. General Nutrition Centers, Inc., an interesting licensing dispute in which the defendant admitted having engaged in activity that violated a license to use a model's photos.

US high court rejects de Havilland's right of publicity suit

Throughout 2018, we have followed in this space two-time Oscar-winning actor Olivia de Havilland's lawsuit against the creators of FX's docudrama series, Feud: Bette and Joan. On January 7, the U.S. Supreme Court refused without any comment to hear her case, in which the 102-year-old plaintiff sought review of the California Court of Appeal's holding that the series' makers' First Amendment right to expression trumped the actor's right of publicity and claim of defamation.

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