Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Be Ready to Face the Consequences, Warner Bros.

Remember Ed Helms’ face tattoo from “The Hangover Part II” movie? Did you notice the resemblance between the tattoo featured in the film and Mike Tyson’s face tattoo? Well, Warner Bros. may not have gotten permission to use that tattoo from artist S. Victor Whitmill who designed Tyson’s famous tattoo.

Before the movie’s release, Whitmill filed a complaint against Warner Bros., alleging that the facial tattoo in the film infringed on Whitmill’s copyright in the tattoo. Whitmill sought a preliminary injunction, which would have halted the film’s release. A preliminary injunction is a pre-trial court order that stops action by the opposing party in a lawsuit.

Warner Bros. and Whitmill settled this case before trial, and Whitmill’s tattoo is featured in the movie on all platforms. This case is still helpful to discuss because many athletes have unique tattoos that companies would want to display in their films or commercials, so the artist should also be able to profit from it.


Photo by Allef Vinicius, licensed
by Unsplash

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My Summer Working on “Secrets” … Trade Secrets!

Stealing, scheming, heroes, villains, action! You might think I’m talking about the new James Bond movie, but I’m actually talking about intellectual property!

When people hear the words “intellectual property” they may think of the traditional patents, copyrights, or trademarks. But most people might not realize that there is another kind of IP – trade secrets. I definitely fell into the “not knowing” category prior to working at an IP firm this past summer.

Although I worked on a multitude of IP matters, the one that stuck out to me the most was a high-stakes trade secret case. It felt just like a James Bond movie! I felt like I was a detective, scanning through documents, finding evidence. Then trying to figure out how many “crimes” the bad guy committed and what he stole from our client!

 

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Classic Copyright Issues

If I played “Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II, you would probably recognize the song immediately. In fact, there are dozens of classical pieces that many of us are probably familiar with, even if we don’t listen to classical music regularly. Copyright for classical music can sometimes cause issues for YouTubers and other internet content creators. For example, a YouTuber might think that they are free to play a song because the composer has been dead for centuries. However, the recording they choose to play in their videos might be protected by copyright law and result in the video being taken down! Two content creators named Ludwig Ahgren and “JSchlatt” took it upon themselves to solve some of their copyright problems once and for all. To understand what they did and how they did it, we should talk about copyright law first.  Specifically, let’s look at the distinction between copyright protection over a musical composition versus a sound recording. Continue reading

Cat Got Your Trademark

We’re all used to seeing the big Caterpillar industrial machines featuring the word CAT. The CAT mark has been easily recognizable at any construction site throughout America for decades. Because of the brand’s popularity, Caterpillar expanded its use of the CAT mark to include apparel, headwear, bags, and other accessories. Caterpillar sells its clothing through its website and prominent retailers such as Amazon, JCPenney, and Sears. Its products have been featured on national television programs, newspaper and magazine articles, online publications, and fashion and lifestyle publications. However, CAT may have some competition.


Photo by Sindy Süßengut, licensed
by Unsplash

A trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of the others.” In other words, the trademark indicates that the goods/services come from a specific source. A valid trademark is used on goods/services in commerce, and it is distinctive in that it identifies the source of the
goods/services.

On October 9, 2012, Puma obtained a federal registration for its mark, PROCAT, which covers clothing, footwear, and headgear. Registering PROCAT grants Puma the right to use the mark in all 50 states and provides public notice that Puma is the mark owner. Because registration proves ownership, if Puma wants to bring a trademark infringement case to federal court, it wouldn’t need further evidence to establish validity.

On October 6, 2017, Caterpillar, Inc. submitted to its petition to cancel Puma’s registration for the mark PROCAT for footwear and headbands. A cancellation petition can be filed at any time. It allows one party to challenge a trademark because a registered mark is likely to be confused with another party’s mark, the registrant could have obtained the mark fraudulently, the mark is generic, or the registrant is no longer using its mark.

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Even a Former President Can Get into Hot Water With the USPTO

Donald Trump, a divisive figure in our current political climate, has faced a massive setback with his new social media network “Truth Social.” On August 2nd, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”)  denied Trump’s application to federally register (which grants federal protection of the trademark) the network’s name as a trademark. This is one of many setbacks that the former President has faced since leaving office. This relatively minor setback could potentially cause major re-branding issues for Truth Social further down the line if his appeal is unsuccessful. If Trump continues using the mark, he may be sued and will eventually have to change the name of his social media network or incur major legal fees.

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Battle of Breweries – Trademark Style

One might think that if a company is well established, its intellectual property would be de facto protected. But that is not the case. Two of America’s most iconic companies, easily recognizable and hard to confuse, are currently in a battle over trademarks. These two companies are none other than Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling, two of America’s oldest breweries. Yuengling was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Anheuser-Busch, on the other hand was founded in the late 1850s, in St. Louis, Missouri.  But recently these two giants of the industry have been warring over trademark rights. Continue reading

What Artists Need to Know About Moral Rights

From the outside the art world seems beautiful and luxurious, creative, and carefree. While this is true, it is also full of tense litigation over rightful ownership, issues of authenticity, and copyright violations. Copyright protection is important to artists. Most people believe that copyright is important because it can prevent others from literally copying the artist’s works without permission. While this is true, there are another reasons why copyright protection is important. Continue reading

Fair Use Flop: Understanding The Second Circuit’s Decision in Warhol v. Goldsmith

On March 26, 2021, the Second Circuit ruled that a decades-old series of prints created by Andy Warhol depicting music legend Prince infringed the copyrighted photograph by Lynn Goldsmith on which the series was based. Warhol’s series of prints takes Goldsmith’s traditional, black and white portrait of the singer and superimposes it with his signature pop art stylization. Goldsmith did not find out that Warhol had used her image until Prince died in 2016. The court’s decision overturned a district court ruling which declared Warhol’s works legal under the fair use doctrine. But what exactly is the fair use doctrine, and why was it so important in this case? Let’s find out.

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