Month: November 2011

Twilight Fashion? Not so fast B.B. Dakota

Summit Entertainment, creators of the Twilight movie series, has prevailed on its motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed in 2010 for copyright and trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution and unfair competition. The action involved B.B. Dakota, a retailer that sought to promote sales of a blue cotton canvas jacket by stating in its advertising copy:  “Bella Swann wears this jacket in Twilight and scores the hottest vampire in high school, and so can you!” (see full decision here) The jacket’s moment in the spotlight wasn’t exactly premeditated. As the story goes, the stylist on the movie originally planned for Bella to wear a brown hoodie in the scene. The director was unhappy with the way the color appeared on camera, prompting the stylist to go on a last-minute shopping run to a local Nordstrom Rack where she purchased the jacket. Two years later, after the movie’s release, B.B. Dakota reintroduced the coat in response to the high demand and marketed it as the “Twilight jacket” The gear received a lot of media attention.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, Esq., Entertainment Weekly ran a story detailing how the jacket got in the movie; WWD featured it in an article on BB Dakota’s attempt to capitalize on the attention by building a line around Twilight. And MTV announced to Twilight fans where they could get “The...

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Seasonal counsel: Lighten up, lawyers

Phew. Let’s hear it for holiday cheer, especially as it just might put down a gnarly period in legal doings, at least as it’s visible online and in some key media outlets: It wouldn’t be cherry-picking too much in the pile of recent legal-related press clippings to think that lawyers can be a pretty unhappy lot. They’re grumbling about what law schools do or don’t teach, and, thus, what Big Law firms must school associates in — to the consternation of cash-strapped clients struggling through the continuing and ugly recession. Some in legal academe are gnawing their nails down about the accuracy of students’ job placements and post-school salaries, while others are fretting about hypothetical scenarios and whether they show that prized J.D. degree adds up in economic terms. Then there are those who are looking at the mounting debt-load of law school grads and seeing what institutions public and private seem to be racking up the most sizable bills due for their prospective alums (click on that link and see why you may be glad not to be a Cal, Bruin or Loyola law student these days, shouldering lots of IOUs). It would be almost criminal, of course, to not want to stare at the published proposals of two law profs that law schools test an unusual means to cull their classes of those less likely to succeed but...

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Expert, inconoclast tackles music industry’s fate

Southwestern’s Music Law Society and Entertainment and Sports Law Society brought to campus expert Bob Lefsetz (shown at left), who offered some blunt, candid thoughts on the future of the music industry. Lefsetz is an industry figure and author of the email newsletter and blog, The Lefsetz Letter.  A graduate of Southwestern, he worked as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and a consultant to major record labels. He started “The Lefsetz Letter” after “getting fired” and he now writes on issues at the core of the music business: downloading, copyright protection, pricing, and the music itself. He says the industry must alter its business model to embrace rather than combat online music services. With Napster as the trailblazer, sites such as iTunes, Spotify and Kickstarter are giving major record labels a run for their money and Lefsetz stands on the side of technology. Lefsetz offered these insights and anecdotes: Labels and publishers as dinosaurs: He says they have done too little to change. Despite the deal with i-Tunes and Rhino Records collaborating with Spotify by putting out play lists, the resistance remains.  The majors cling to an outdated model in which they control releases. Why labels haven’t acted: Leftsetz notes that profits still are key and argues that Rhino “has gotten it right” in dealing with Spotify.com. Labels must realize that consumers will tap technology — streaming and mobile applications...

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Power on! A costumer copyright challenge

In the spirit of Halloween, SCG Power Rangers LLC treated itself to the nifty trick of bringing costumes to the forefront of copyright and trademark law.  THR, Esq. reports that SCG filed a complaint in the Central District of California against Undergo Endeavors, operators of MyPartyShirt.com for copyright and trademark infringement over the website’s sale of Power Ranger costumes.  SCG owns all the intellectual property rights relating to the popular “Power Rangers” television series and controls the licensing and merchandising deals of the Power Rangers brand. After the defendant ignored several cease and desist letters, the plaintiff sued, seeking an injunction and statutory damages. Perhaps the lawsuit already had an impact on the defendant, as searches on their website have failed to produce any Power Rangers costume results. However, does the plaintiff’s copyright and trademark claims have any legal traction? Under the Copyright Act, apparel cannot receive copyright protection because it is considered a “useful article.” Pictorial, graphic and sculptural aspects of a useful article may be copyrighted, if they may be separated from the article, either physically or conceptually.  Clothing rarely has met this test.  Some costume-designers have tried to sneak around this limit by registering the costume as a “soft sculpture,” as in another Halloween case, Whimsicality, Inc. v. Rubie’s Costume Co. Inc.  The Whimsicality court found that the plaintiff had misrepresented itself to the Copyright Office, and, therefore, did...

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