Author: Matt Haddad

Judge finds too familiar a ring in this ‘Hobbit’

U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in Los Angeles has granted Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and producer Saul Zaentz a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum’s newest mock-buster, Age of the Hobbits. The flick was to be released straight to video three days before Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in theaters on Dec. 14. The judge said the hobbit trademarks fell into the fanciful or arbitrary category, which receive maximum protection as they are wholly made-up with no discernible meaning. He was unpersuaded by Asylum’s argument that the titles were not confusingly similar because they were not identical. Plaintiffs presented “evidence from a weekly tracking study conducted by Nielsen National Research Group, in which 30 percent to 40 percent of survey respondents exhibited confusion about the source of Age of Hobbits. Confusion rates of 25 percent to 50 percent offer support for likelihood of confusion ,while rates below 20 percent generally require corroborating evidence. The court held that the majority of factors weighed in favor of a finding of likelihood of confusion, particularly the similarity of the marks, relatedness of goods and use of similar marketing channels. The judge obeserved: “There is substantial likelihood that consumers will be confused by Age of the Hobbits and mistakenly purchase the film intending to purchase The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The court scheduled a late Janurary hearing on an order...

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Should celebrities seek a mark of distinction?

Your celebrity clients have a financial stake in the distinctive nature of their image and talent — and they don’t want unauthorized marketing that could dilute that value. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers an inexpensive solution to protect your clients from association with services, products or people that undermine or take unfair advantage of their image. Great! So what can you trademark? It can take almost any form as long as it is can be of identified and distinguished in specific goods and services. Such as?Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has applied to trademark his catchphrase “Jeah,” just as Paris Hilton has trademarked the saying, “That’s hot.”  She sued Hallmark for using that phrase on a greeting card; they settled out of court in 2010. According to XFINITY, Michael Buffer has earned more than $400 million of of, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” But Donald Trump, intending to imprint his catchphrase on all kinds of merchandise, was rejected when he tried to trademark, “You’re fired!” NFL quarterback Tim Tebow owns the trademark for his knee-down prayer stance, tebowing, so it’s unsurprising that Anthony Davis, a New Orleans Hornets baseketball player, trademarked the phrases, “Fear the brow” and “Raise the brow” in evoking his uni-brow look. The New York Post reports that business savvy rapper 50 Cent, ne Curtis Jackson, sued Taco Bell for $4 million for trademark infringement in 2008 when the restaurant chain...

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$2M judgment lost, Lil Wayne litigates still

The next time somebody wants to make a documentary about you, think twice, or maybe two million or more times: Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., aka Lil Wayne, is unhappy with a film about him. The Carter was begun in 2007  and released in 2009 by Digerati Holdings, Quincy Jones III and others. In 2009, Carter’s company,Young Money Entertainment, sued the filmmakers in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting breach of contract and further claims related to the release and distribution of The Carter. He says the filmmakers violated his right to give final approval for content and shots that depicted criminal activities. There were scenes showing Carter smoking marijuana and drinking a lot of cough syrup. Carter has sought $50 million for lost sponsorships, damage to his reputation and possible complications in his then-upcoming criminal trial on felony gun charges. The battling over this film has taken more than its share of twists and turns:In 2011, Digerati Holdings filed a cross-complaint, and, after appeal, its breach of contract charge against Carter survived. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants on Nov. 8 and Carter was assessed $2.195 million in damages because he had blocked the release of the documentary about him, negatively impacting its profits. Elena Gorgan tells some tales out of court. Just weeks earlier, on Sept. 6, Carter filed a different  lawsuit in Los Angeles against the filmmakers in a federal...

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German court issues stiff warning on file sharing

Whoa, how easy is it to skid across a copyright line and get slapped for doing so? The Hamburg Regional Court has ruled that a RetroShare user is liable for the copyright infringement that he passed on in an encrypted file, even though the user had no knowledge of what was in the file. The court did not convict the user but rather issued a preliminary injunction, threatening him with steep  penalties or imprisonment should he transfer the file again. While RetroShare keeps the identity of the original sender of a file anonymous, this decision makes anyone providing relays subject to prosecution for copyright violations. TorrentFreak says anonymous file sharing is increasing at epidemic proportions and German courts want to curb it. The Rasch Rechtsanwalte, with English translation provided by Google, notes that German courts are willing to use a broad standard for liability and disabuse darknet users of the notion that encrypted transfers will protect them from copyright violations. IT lawyer Thomas Stadler says that if RetroShare users fail to properly secure their internet connection, they’re at...

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A jingling noise up north? Copyright suits flying

While in the U.S. a catchy patriotic phrase talks about letting freedom ring, in Canada, tech-oriented companies are clamoring for their cash registers to jingle — with sums they say are owed over the improper collection of fees on ringtones. The legal issue also is a concern for videogame-makers who use tunes in their entertainments. It seems the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year held that delivery of a file over the internet did not constitute its “communication,” that decision coming in Entertainment Software Association v. SOCAN, the Canadian Copyright Board. The court said transmission of musical works contained in a video game through an internet download is not communication to the public. Further, it said the Copyright Board improperly applied a tariff to the downloads, effectively double-dipping by subjecting delivery of a copy through the Internet to two fees, one for reproduction and one for communication; that compares to delivery of a copy via stores or mail, subject only to reproduction fees. The court said the Copyright Board ignored the principle of technological neutrality. Based on the foregoing, telecommunication companies recently have sued the agency, seeking $15 million in restitution plus damages, along with a declaration that “the transmission of a copy of a ringtone containing a portion of a musical work is not a communication to the public by telecommunication of the musical work for the purpose of …Tariff 24, or in...

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