Posts tagged as:

trademarks

“If you say anything remotely critical about the Ecuadorian government, you may face a copyright takedown,” wrote Maira Sutton at EFF in May. A Spanish firm that represents the government of Ecuador, Ares Rights, has sent out many such takedown demands, related to media accounts of surveillance, corruption, and the country’s Lago Agrio legal dispute with Chevron. More recently, following growing scrutiny of its own activities, Ares Rights has aimed takedown demands citing supposed copyright infringement against its own critics, including Adam Steinbaugh. Details: Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Ken at Popehat. It has also represented the government of Argentina.

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The retreat came after Mike Masnick at TechDirt and Joe Mullin at ArsTechnica pointed out some of the reasons the attempt might be problematic, among them that the challenge had been used widely by other charities before it caught on in August in connection with ALS.

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Back to school roundup

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

  • Pending California bill would impose “affirmative consent” requirement on sex between students at colleges that receive state funding [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Dish] “New Startup Connects Students With a Lawyer the Minute They Get In Trouble” [The College Fix] Yale vs. wrongly accused males [KC Johnson/Minding the Campus, related on due process] Provision in proposed “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” (CASA) would incentivize fining colleges by letting Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights keep the proceeds [Hans Bader; more on CASA] Idea that campuses are gripped by “rape culture” having wide-ranging effects, even off campus [Bader, Examiner]
  • Not only that, but the body was missing: “HS student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment” [Summerville, S.C.; WCSC]
  • Is Mayor de Blasio really willing to sacrifice NYC select schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant in the name of equality? [Dennis Saffran, City Journal]
  • Administration trying to hold for-profit colleges to standard few public colleges could meet [WaPo editorial]
  • Progress of a sort: UC San Diego “has determined that most projects by historians and journalists need not be submitted to the IRB [institutional review board].” [Zachary Schrag; related speech]
  • “At Appomattox County [Va.] High School, the staff spent the summer changing its block-letter ‘A’ logo on everything from sticky notes to uniforms after the licensing agency representing the University of Arizona sent the school a cease-and-desist letter claiming potential confusion among consumers.” [Washington Post Magazine]
  • “Fifth Circuit Disobeyed Supreme Court in Allowing Racial Preferences at UT-Austin” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Note that the pile-up of parking signs at a Culver City school is still “towering and confusing” even in the “after” photo following response to complaints [L.A. Times via Virginia Postrel]

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Duking it out

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2014

Duke University and the heirs of the late actor John Wayne have been fighting in court for nearly a decade over trademark/licensing rights to the word “Duke” [Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter]

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Too close to the regulation of speech content, too chancy in its impact on the rule of law [Jonathan Turley, Washington Post]:

Many of us recoil at the reference to skin color as a team identity. The problem is that the Redskins case is just the latest example of a federal agency going beyond its brief to inappropriately insert itself in social or political debates. …

The Supreme Court affirmed in 1983 that the IRS could yank tax exemption whenever it decided that an organization is behaving “contrary to established public policy” — whatever that public policy may be. … There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action. And it goes beyond trademarks and taxes.

Earlier here and here.

Why should trademark law ban “disparagement” in first place? Caleb Brown interviews me on the Washington Redskins case for the Cato Daily Podcast. Earlier here.

David Post has a post at the Volokh Conspiracy laying out the unexpectedly complicated relationship between the federal Lanham Act and state trademark common law. And he presents the First Amendment problem with “disparagement” doctrine head on:

…the constitutional question is also, for me, pretty cut-and-dried; this is precisely the sort of thing the First Amendment prohibits: an agency of the federal government doling out benefits on the basis of whether or not you have used a word or phrase that is ‘disparaging,’ or that “bring into contempt, or disrepute” any “institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” … [Whether my view of the matter is in tune with current doctrine is another question entirely]

WashingtonSenatorsNow that we’ll be canceling trademarks of sports teams with disparaging names, here’s one that got away. [Washington Post]

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  • “The patent had an interesting enforcement clause: that anyone who copied [ship designer] Brunelleschi’s work would have their own designs set on fire” [Jeremy Kolassa, R Street]
  • British government investigates problem of orphan copyright works [U.K. Intellectual Property Office, earlier]
  • Hookah’s design not copyrightable, per Ninth Circuit, O’Scannlain, Garber, Bea [Inhale v. Starbuzz Tobacco]
  • From EFF’s “Copyright Week”: what if the penalty that accompanied a parking ticket varied unknowably and might amount to a year’s salary? [Mitch Stoltz] “Copyright’s not getting its work done” [Cathy Gellis]
  • Nineteenth Century’s sewing machine patent wars resembled today’s smartphone wars, but ended more or less happily [Adam Mossoff, Slate]
  • Universities that post papers by their own scholars hear from Elsevier’s lawyers [ABA Journal]
  • Likelihood of confusion? Underwear maker Hanes cease/desists hummus maker in Saskatoon, Canada with name derived from “Yohannes” (= “John”)[ABC News, Craig Lederhouse, CBC (auto-plays radio)]

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The maker of the hit video game has obtained a trademark on the use of its name in games and clothing. King.com is asserting its legal rights not only against many games whose names include the word “Candy” — it will presumably make an exception for the old-time board game Candy Land — but also against various users of the word “Saga.” “We won’t make a viking saga without the word Saga, and we don’t appreciate anyone telling us we can’t,” said one group working on a game product that consumers are unlikely to confuse with the Candy Crush version. [GameSpot, A.V. Club, Anthony Wing Kosner/Forbes via Slashdot]

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Joe Patrice, Above the Law:

But put aside whether Spin Master can win this infringement claim on the merits, consider what they asked for in their demand letter, as explained on You Rather’s blog:

1. Stop using “You Rather” and any other phrases that are similar to “Would you rather”. This includes one (yes, really) or more of the words “Would”, “You”, or “Rather”.
2. Hand over our yourather.com domain immediately
3. Tell them how much money You Rather has made (presumably to ask for that too)
4. Pay for their lawyers

“One or more of the words ‘Would,’ ‘You,’ or ‘Rather.’” Presumably this is meant to prevent You Rather from just rearranging words, but this is a demand letter, not a contract. There’s no need to get cute and ask the website to agree to abandon any use of the word “you.” This is why people hate lawyers.

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The case against Dillard’s we noted earlier this month, and the one against Saks a while back, are no outliers: “Just in the past seven years, the Hells Angels have brought more than a dozen cases in federal court, alleging infringement on apparel, jewelry, posters and yo-yos.” [New York Times]

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  • Trademark infringement claims as way to silence critics: Jenzabar gets comeuppance in form of court award of more than $500,000 in attorney costs [Paul Alan Levy, earlier and more]
  • Court holds Google Books project to be fair use [Matthew Sag]
  • Questioning the ITC’s patent jurisdiction: “Why should we have a trade agency litigating patent disputes?” [K. William Watson, Cato, more, yet more, related]
  • Courts come down hard on copyright troll Prenda Law [Popehat]
  • Annals of patent trollery: New York Times et al rout Helferich [EFF, Liquid Litigation BLLawg] Monolithic Power Systems v. 02 Micros [IP for the Little Guy] Resistance by Newegg, RackSpace, Hyundai, etc. [WLF]
  • Re: copyright terms, US government shouldn’t endorse view that longer always means better [Simon Lester, Cato]
  • Legal tiff over use of hotel carpet patterns in costumes [Io9]

“Hells Angels is suing 8732 Apparel and Dillard’s Inc. in federal court, claiming trademark infringement of its famous skull-with-wings logo known as the Hells Angels Death Head.” [My San Antonio] The U.S. Department of Justice along with various state law enforcement agencies have deemed the celebrated motorcycle gang to be an organized criminal enterprise.

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on September 9, 2013

  • “It’s Not Illegal to Sell Anti-NSA Shirts Bearing the NSA Logo”
    [Volokh]
  • Can an American national be sued in American courts for working to persuade a foreign government to pass an oppressive law? [BTB on Scott Lively Uganda case]
  • “Court Rejects Religious Discrimination Claim Based on Associated Press’s Rejection of Plaintiff’s Religiously Themed Article” [Volokh]
  • Workings of British hate speech law: police visit clergyman who emailed pair of unwelcome religious tracts [Spectator]
  • “HIV Denialist’s Trademark and Defamation Claims Against Critical Blogger” [Paul Alan Levy]
  • Revisiting the practice of suing publishers of drug information in pharmaceutical liability cases [Beck]
  • “Australia’s Press Regulators Look To Enforce Ideological Conformity” [Tuccille, Reason]

Attorneys for the state, which has a record of zealously guarding its “I [Heart] NY” promotional logo, have sent a threat to a model train company over a discontinued replica model of a real-life train that used the logo [Joe Patrice, Above the Law] [Corrected: state, not city]

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The Underbelly restaurant in Houston offered a “Double Double” burger. When chef Chris Shepherd got a letter from lawyers for the California-based In-N-Out chain, saying it infringed on their similarly named sandwich, he promptly changed the name to “Cease and Desist Burger.” It has sold well, says the restaurant’s marketing manager. [Erica Ho, Time]

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Esther Wrightman, who opposes the construction of wind turbines near her Ontario home, made some YouTube videos taking a dim view of NextEra, a leading wind-power company. Now the company is suing her, alleging among other things that she infringed on its intellectual property rights by publishing satirical altered versions of its logo. [Ezra Levant, Sun; Bayshore Broadcasting]

An international brewing company that uses a red-and-orange “#9″ mark on one of its brands is suing Lexington, Ky. craft brewer West Sixth Brewing Co., which uses a black-and-green “6.” “If it was on a coaster, and the person across the table was colorblind and fairly stupid, I suppose there might be some initial confusion. … there might be a problem if somebody is holding their beer upside down.” [Lowering the Bar; Kentucky.com]

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