Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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CI owns the registered marks ʺCollective Network,ʺ ʺCollective Video,ʺ and ʺC Collective The Audience Engine,ʺ a stylized mark in which the word ʺCollectiveʺ appears most prominently. CCM operates under the name ʺCollective[i].ʺ This appeal arises from the software companies' dispute over trademarks containing the word "collective." In a series of three orders, the district court granted summary judgment to CCM on virtually all points in dispute and awarded attorneyʹs fees under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq. The court reversed or vacated all contested portions of the March Order, August Order, and December Order because: (1) the unregistered mark ʺcollectiveʺ is suggestive, not descriptive; (2) there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether CI used the unregistered mark ʺcollectiveʺ in commerce before CCM introduced its allegedly infringing marks; (3) the district court prematurely granted summary judgment as to CIʹs counterclaim for infringement of the registered marks, an action that neither party requested and the district court did not explain; and (4) there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether CI abandoned its registered marks ʺCollective Networkʺ and ʺCollective Video.ʺ Accordingly, the court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a copyright infringement suit against MP3tunes and its founder and CEO, alleging that two internet music services created by MP3tunes infringed their copyrights in thousands of sound recordings and musical compositions. The district court granted partial summary judgment to defendants, holding that MP3tunes had a reasonably implemented repeat infringer policy under section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512. A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs, but the district court partially overturned the verdict. The court vacated the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to defendants based on its conclusion that MP3tunes qualified for safe harbor protection under the DMCA because the district court applied too narrow a definition of “repeat infringer”; reversed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to defendants on claims that MP3tunes permitted infringement of plaintiffs’ copyrights in pre‐2007 MP3s and Beatles songs because there was sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that MP3tunes had red‐flag knowledge of, or was willfully blind to, infringing activity involving those categories of protected material; remanded for further proceedings related to claims arising out of the district court's grant of partial summary judgment; and affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "EMI Christian Music Group, Inc. v. MP3tunes, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this copyright infringement suit, plaintiffs challenged the district court's determination that defendants’ verbatim use of a portion of Abbott and Costello’s iconic comedy routine, "Who’s on First?," in the recent Broadway play "Hand to God," qualified as a non‐infringing fair use. The court concluded that defendants’ entitlement to a fair use defense was not so clearly established on the face of the amended complaint and its incorporated exhibits as to support dismissal. In this case, defendants' verbatim use of the routine was not transformative, defendants failed persuasively to justify their use of the routine, defendants' use of some dozen of the routine’s variations of “who’s on first” was excessive in relation to any dramatic purpose, and plaintiffs alleged an active secondary market for the work, which was not considered by the district court. The court concluded, however, that the dismissal is warranted because plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead ownership of a valid copyright. The court found plaintiffs' efforts to do so on theories of assignment, work‐for‐hire, and merger all fail as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the widow of Louis K. Smith, who authored and copyrighted a book entitled "The Hardscrabble Zone," filed suit alleging direct and contributory copyright infringement by Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble, under license, uploads books and book samples to digital “lockers” that it maintains for its individual customers. When the license granted by Smith was terminated, Barnes & Noble did not delete a sample of Smith’s book. The court concluded that, because the agreement does not provide for the license in the sample to terminate after the sample has been distributed, plaintiff cannot sustain her burden to prove that providing cloud‐based access to validly obtained samples is beyond the scope of the license agreement. Therefore, the court concluded that the conduct at issue was authorized by the relevant contracts between the parties and affirmed the judgment. View "Smith v. Barnesandnoble.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a composer and music producer, filed a copyright suit against Sony, Razor Sharp Records, and Dennis Coles, a/k/a Ghostface Killah, to enforce plaintiff's claimed ownership rights in the "Iron Man" theme song. The district court determined that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that Marvel was, in fact, the copyright owner. Therefore, the district court dismissed plaintiff's New York common law claims for copyright infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriation on the basis that those claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. The court held that, although the district court properly determined that defendants had standing to raise a “work for hire” defense to plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim, the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff failed to raise issues of material fact with respect to his ownership of the copyright; the district court properly dismissed plaintiff’s state law claims as preempted by the Copyright Act; the court vacated the district court’s summary judgment ruling with respect to plaintiff’s Copyright Act claim and remanded for further proceedings; and the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's state law claims. View "Urbont v. Sony Music Entm't" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendant fraudulently obtained his federal trademark registration for the PUDGIE’S mark in connection with restaurants that principally serve pizza, pasta, and submarine sandwiches. The district court granted summary judgment to plaintiffs. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that no material issue of fact existed as to whether defendant knowingly made false, material representations in his application where the specimen he included with his application exhibited that the PUDGIE'S mark originally came from another source. The court concluded that no genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether defendant knew that other entities had rights to use the mark in the very manner in which he sought to use the mark, and whether he intended to mislead the PTO by attesting otherwise in his trademark application. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "MPC Franchise, LLC v. Tarntino" on Justia Law

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), establishes a safe harbor which gives qualifying Internet service providers protection from liability for copyright infringement when their users upload infringing material on the service provider’s site and the service provider is unaware of the infringement. Plaintiffs filed suit against Vimeo alleging that Vimeo is liable for copyright infringement by reason of 199 videos posted on the Vimeo website, which contained allegedly infringing musical recordings for which plaintiffs owned the rights. In this interlocutory appeal on certified questions from rulings of the district court interpreting the DMCA, the court concluded that the safe harbor of section 512(c) does apply to pre-1972 sound recordings, and therefore protects service providers against liability for copyright infringement under state law with respect to pre-1972 sound recordings, as well as under the federal copyright law for post-1972 recordings. Therefore, the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs with respect to Vimeo’s entitlement to the safe harbor for infringements of pre-1972 recordings is vacated. The court also concluded that various factual issues that arise in connection with a service provider’s claim of the safe harbor are subject to shifting burdens of proof. Because, on a defendant’s claim of the safe harbor, the burden of showing facts supporting a finding of red flag knowledge shifts to the plaintiff, and the district court appears to have denied Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment as to a number of videos on this issue based on a test that would improperly deny service providers access to the safe harbor, the court vacated the denial of Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment on that issue. The court remanded for reconsideration and further proceedings. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the district court erred in its ruling in Vimeo’s favor as to plaintiffs’ reliance on the doctrine of willful blindness. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Capitol Records, LLC v. Vimeo, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, and other claims on the basis that defendant's trademark logo was confusingly similar to plaintiff's trademark. The district court granted permanent injunctive relief, prohibiting defendant from using its marks within plaintiff’s geographic service area (Guthrie Service Area), but held that defendant may continue to use its marks everywhere outside the Guthrie Service Area, as well as without restriction in Internet transmissions, on defendant’s websites and on social media. The court agreed with the district court’s liability determination that there is a likelihood of confusion between plaintiff’s and defendant’s trademarks. The court concluded, however, that, in restricting the scope of the injunction, the district court misapplied the law, and failed to adequately protect the interests of plaintiff and the public from likely confusion. The court concluded that it is correct that a senior user must prove a probability of confusion in order to win an injunction. But it does not follow that the injunction may extend only into areas for which the senior user has shown probability of confusion. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and expended the scope of the injunction, remanding for further consideration. View "Guthrie Healthcare Sys. v. ContextMedia, Inc." on Justia Law

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ISC filed suit against SU and Sondra Schneider, alleging that SU's use of ISC's certification mark violated the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., and constituted infringement under 15 U.S.C. 1114, false designation of origin and false advertising under 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and trademark dilution under 15 U.S.C. 1125(c), and that SU’s use of the mark constituted unfair competition under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42–110a et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. The court held that nominative fair use is not an affirmative defense to a claim of infringement under the Lanham Act. In cases involving nominative use, in addition to considering the Polaroid factors, courts are to consider (1) whether the use of the plaintiff’s mark is necessary to describe both the plaintiff’s product or service and the defendant’s product or service, that is, whether the product or service is not readily identifiable without use of the mark; (2) whether the defendant uses only so much of the plaintiff’s mark as is necessary to identify the product or service; and whether the defendant did anything that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the plaintiff holder, that is, whether the defendant’s conduct or language reflects the true or accurate relationship between plaintiff’s and defendant’s products or services. When considering these factors, courts must be mindful of the different types of confusion relevant to infringement claims. Because the district court failed to consider the Polaroid factors and because its consideration of the relevant nominative fair use factors was based on incorrect assumptions, the court vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the infringement claims. The court vacated the grant of summary judgment as to the false designation of origin and false advertising claims, and the CUTPA claims. The court affirmed as to the dilution claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Int'l Info. Sys. Sec. Certification Consortium, Inc. v. Security Univ., LLC" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from rival claims to the “Stolichnaya” trademarks. FTE and Cristall alleged that defendants unlawfully misappropriated and commercially exploited the Stolichnaya trademarks related to the sale of vodka and other spirits in the United States. Control over the marks in the United States is currently exercised by defendants as successors in interest to a Soviet state enterprise. In a prior suit, FTE brought claims against SPI under section 32(1) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, and the court dismissed the claims on the grounds that the Russian Federation itself retained too great an interest in the marks for FTE to qualify as an "assign" with standing to sue. FTE's non-section 32(1) claims were either dismissed or dropped during the course of that litigation. At issue principally in this appeal is whether FTE, an agency of the Russian Federation, has been endowed by that government with rights and powers that give it standing to pursue claims under section 32(1) of the Lanham Act. The court concluded that the district court erred in determining whether FTE’s asserted basis for standing was valid under Russian law. However, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed all of FTE's other claims as barred by both res judicata and laches. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Fed. Treasury Enter. Sojuzplodoimport v. Spirits Int’l B.V." on Justia Law