Author: Davina Dawson

In latest twist in ad suit, Jordan tastes defeat

As the San Antonio Spurs and Manny Pacquiao could well advise basketball legend Michael Jordan, even champions don’t win every contest. Jordan himself discovered this off the hard courts and in a court of law recently, when a federal judge in Chicago, dealing with matters from a case remanded to him by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, rejected the superstar’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit over a grocery ad that seemed to salute him. Jordan’s case against Jewel Food Stores in Chicago isn’t as complicated, say, as basketball coach Phil Jackson’s famed triangle offense. It is worth diagramming a little history in the dispute, which began when Jewel took out a full-page ad in Sports Illustrated congratulating Jordan on his 2009 induction into basketball’s Hall of Fame. The magazine swapped with Jewel the ad space for display space in its stores for the special commemorative edition about Jordan. Federal issues But Jordan sued Jewel for misappropriating his identity, claiming violations of the federal Lanham trademark act and the Illinois Right of Publicity Act. Jewel got the case moved to federal jurisdiction, citing the trademark issue, and the grocer won when U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman decided the magazine ad was a protected First Amendment exercise. When Jordan appealed, the higher court overruled and found the ad was commercial speech designed to enhance Jewel’s brand.  This meant that...

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Judge KOs one of many ‘Manny’ skirmishes

While Manny Pacquiao will show this weekend if his often-unerring fists can win a fight with a total payday estimated at north of $400 million, a federal court in Miami recently told the legendary pugilist’s documentary film makers to pull the punches they planned to throw at unidentified parties they accuse of copyright infringement. The proposed high-tech hay-makers legally were off target, the court said (with thanks to Digital Music News for posting the ruling), even as the multiple lawsuits nationwide have started to trouble online observers. Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches life was the subject of Manny, a documentary with middling  critical reviews by Manny Film LLC that lists Hollywood stars like Mark Wahlberg, Liam Neeson, and Jimmy Kimmel in its cast and credits. The documentarians’ lawyers have filed many lawsuits in several states, including Florida, accusing parties of infringement and failing to pay appropriate fees to see the work by using BitTorrent peer-to peer file-sharing technology. Geo-location for IP addresses The filmmakers have told courts that they hope to identify infringing parties by tapping geo-location and other technologies, and Manny Film LLC, argued to a federal judge in Miami that this approach against John Doe defendants had been accepted elsewhere. But the South Florida court held that case law knocked out the proposed approach, with U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungara saying she found it troubling to associate an internet protocol address with one person, when others might have had...

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$27 million award affirmed in bogus film deal

Five years after striking two deals valued at the time at $300 million to finance 10 films to be made with his company Rainstorm,  Steven G. Kaplan has won a California appellate decision affirming a private arbitrator’s $27-million award to him after his big plans with foreign investor Fortnom fell through. It turns out that Fortnom didn’t exist and Kaplan since has pursued the duo who represented the firm, Anthony Lombard-Knight and Jakob Kinde. In 2008, Kaplan sought a funding deal with businessman Joao Vale e Azevedo, whom the lawyer-producer didn’t know previously was convicted of embezzlement.  Through Vale e Azevedo, the moviemaker met Lombard-Knight and Kinde and began his dealings with Fortnom. Kaplan struck and formalized two agreements with the company in 2010. But within a few short months, the representatives tried to force changes, including withholding performance bonds. In 2011, Kaplan initiated arbitration for breach of contract and subsequently won damages, a ruling that was enforced by British courts. Lombard-Knight and Kinde sought a trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that they weren’t responsible for the fictitious corporation and hadn’t been properly notified about the case against them. The trial court found for Rainstorm and Kaplan, with Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey ruling that Lombard-Knight and Kinde had failed to respond in timely fashion to and could not overturn the arbiter’s ruling against them. With the appellate court decision in hand, Kaplan has pledged...

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Court says arrivederci to La Dolce Vita case

If there ever was a sweet life to a long-running lawsuit over a legendary film icon, a federal judge in Los Angeles has said basta finito to it: U.S. District Judge S. James Otero  recently granted Paramount and Melange Pictures  summary judgment  against International Media Films Inc. (a tip of the hat to Courthouse News for posting the court notes on the case). IMF had failed to reply to the latest moves in contentious claims over director Federico Fellini’s famed La Dolce Vita, a 1960 narrative of a journalist’s week in Rome. The court blocked IMF from reproducing, allowing others to reproduce, to perform, display or exploit La Dolce Vita. (The judgment can be found and downloaded here.) The judge said the company could not prepare or authorize any derivative works based on the film starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg. The court held that Paramount and Melange owned the film rights, and that IMF had contributorily infringed on those rights. The judgment against IMF: $899,477 in damages, costs, and attorney’s fees. This case, which has its roots in ownership disputes dating to the Sixties, came into the federal courts four years ago. It was mostly resolved two years ago but has lingered with the defense first claiming that IMF’s owner, president, and only active officer was too ill to participate in a trial; defense counsel subsequently withdrew. IMF since has failed to...

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More blues for Toyota over B.B. King ad

Toyota has failed to get a federal judge in Nevada to dismiss a copyright complaint from Eric Dahl, who wrote in his book B.B. King’s Lucille and the Loves Before Her, about finding and returning blues legend B.B.King’s cherished guitar. Dahl not only is an author, he is a guitar collector and frequent pawnshop patron, always on the lookout for unique instruments. When he found in a Gibson Lucille in Las Vegas shop with Prototype 1 written on it, he could not shake the feeling the ax belonged to King. Dahl met with King and returned the instrument, a gift for the bluesman’s 80th birthday that had been stolen. King sent Dahl home with an autographed guitar for himself. It’s a touching and copyrighted story, which made its way into a Toyota commercial for the 2015 Camry. Toyota’s version had a few twists and turns. In its commercial, Toyota shows a young, attractive woman who finds the guitar in a storage unit and returns it to King. He is so elated, he presents her with a signed guitar for her troubles. Dahl sued for infringement, saying the automaker had access to his story and took ideas from his first few book chapters without permission. Toyota argued to U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas that it had presented a generic and common story line that could not be copyrighted.  In a decision widely reported on,...

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