Roundup: Intellectual Property

The latest in IP news: Katy Perry, Sherlock Holmes, the Redskins, piracy & patents

In recent IP news, there has been trouble for singer Katy Perry as well as the NFL’s Washington Redskins. While Perry is being sued for copyright infringement, the Redskins’s trademark has been cancelled. Meanwhile, a new bill in the House of Representatives is trying to limit the amount of abusive patent demand letters and the ABA is trying to get the Congress to tighten online piracy. Furthermore, the 7th Circuit ruled that most of Sherlock Holmes’ characteristics are in the public domain. To find out more, click through the slideshow.

 

Image courtesy of the Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins trademark registration canceled

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins, ruling that the football team's name is disparaging to Native Americans. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the PTO decided that six Redskins trademarks, issued between 1967 and 1990, should be canceled. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office only decides issues regarding federal registrations, so while the TTAB ordered that all of the “Redskins” registrations be cancelled, it did not “cancel” the Washington team’s rights in “Redskins” as a trademark, or, by and large, the team’s ability to enforce those rights, under state, common law, and even the (federal) Lanham Trademark Act. For the Washington Redskins, there may be years of appeals, and pending a final decision, the trademarks will remain enforceable. But if the ruling stands, it will threaten billions of dollars in profits for NFL teams, which share revenue.

patent

New bill tries to limit abusive patent demand letters

A new bill aimed at limiting the number of abusive patent demand letters was scheduled to be discussed by a House of Representatives subcommittee on July 10. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade was to consider the “Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act” (H.R. 4450), also known as the TROL Act, and possibly forward it for further consideration in the House. U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), the subcommittee’s chairman, released a draft of the legislation, which attempts to protect businesses from abusive patent assertion entities (PAEs), better known as patent trolls, according to a subcommittee document. The proposal also tries to balance the needs of patent holders to “legitimately protect their intellectual property.” According to The Hill, if enacted, the bill will let the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General from all 50 states charge patent trolls who send out misleading, deceptive letters.

piracy

ABA adds its voice to concerns over online piracy, counterfeiting

The American Bar Association (ABA) has joined the continuing effort to enact new laws to combat the threat of online piracy and counterfeiting. The legal organization recently issued a white paper, “A Call for Action for Online Piracy and Counterfeiting Legislation,” which calls for Congress to consider remedies for what the ABA described as the presence of “massive” online piracy and counterfeiting. The white paper focuses on predatory foreign websites (PFWs) and other threats and also calls for “widespread adoption and expansion of voluntary measures” among businesses using the Internet, which will “discourage or eliminate online piracy and counterfeiting.” The preferred solution from Congress should happen soon, and laws should become “more effective” to deter online piracy and counterfeiting, especially by predatory foreign websites, the ABA said.

katy perry

Image courtesy of Katy Perry

Copyright fireworks for Katy Perry

If she loses this copyright infringement suit, singer Katy Perry is likely to look at this case as “The One That Got Away.” The popular singer has been accused of copyright infringement by a group of musicians, including Marcus Gray and Chike Ojukwu. The musicians allege that Perry’s 2013 song “Dark Horse” ripped off the 2008 gospel tune “Joyful Noise.” The suit names Perry and Capitol Records, as well as others involved in the writing, recording and distribution of “Dark Horse.” Lawyers for Flame note that comparisons between the two songs have cropped up online in the past year, and eventually the musicians themselves got wind of the similarities. The complaint claims that the original song has been “irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in ‘Dark Horse.’”

Sherlock in the public domain? Elementary… or not…

On June 16, the 7th Circuit court ruled that a large chunk of the great detective’s stories are now in the public domain and companies and individuals wishing to publish stories about Holmes are free to do so without paying a licensing fee, at least in most circumstances. “The law in the Seventh Circuit is now that alterations to a serialized character cannot extend the term of the copyright on the version of the character that first achieved protection,” Allison Brehm, partner at Kelley Drye, explains. “The good news is that the ruling reinforces the idea that serialized characters are subject to protection, but clarifies that, at least in the Seventh Circuit, the term of protection for the character as it initially appeared will not be affected by publishing subsequent iterations of that character.” Future cases, then, could require judges to look at elements of characters and plot, though the litigants could break the works down to aid the judge’s analysis. 

Contributing Author

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Jessica Liu

Jessica Liu is a sophomore at Haverford College, where she is majoring in political science. At InsideCounsel, she reports on news for the Women, Influence,...

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