Disc Jockey to Juris Doctor, Spotlight Interview

By: Rivver Cox* | Summer Guest Writer

COE RAMSEY practices entertainment and communications law at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP in Raleigh, North Carolina. His music and entertainment law practice includes representing major recording artists and producers, songwriters, and other artists. Coe advises his clients on copyright and other intellectual property disputes, music licensing, record contracts, publishing agreements, and live performance contracts. His communication law practice emphasizes FCC regulations, corporate transactions, and intellectual property matters where he advises his television and radio clientele. Coe’s passion for music and broadcasting arose from his young career as a disc jockey for 102 JAMZ of Greensboro while he was in high school. In addition, Coe is an Adjunct Professor at his alma mater, Wake Forest University School of Law, where he lectures on Entertainment Law.

Offensive Penalty: The Cancellation of the Redskins Trademark

By: Sarah Remes* | Summer Guest Writer

This summer, the Washington Redskins lost.  Although defeat is nothing new to the infamous franchise, this time it came off the field when a federal judge upheld the cancellation of the team’s federal trademark registrations, finding that the term “redskin” was disparaging, and therefore that the mark had been registered in violation of the Lanham Act.

The namesake of the Redskins, William “Lone Star” Dietz

The namesake of the Redskins, William “Lone Star” Dietz

The Redskins began defending their trademark registrations in the early 1990s but until recently had been successful in fending off legal opposition.  The first major challenge was brought in 1992 when a group of Native Americans filed a petition to cancel multiple Redskins trademarks, claiming that their protection violated the Lanham Act, a federal law that prohibits protection of marks that “consist of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt.” That case was successfully appealed by the team on two grounds: first, that the theory of laches barred the petition, as one of the plaintiffs was only one year old at the time the Redskins trademarks were registered in 1967; and second that the plaintiffs had not provided enough evidence as to the “disparaging” nature of the trademark, which must have occurred at the time they were registered.  While controversy surrounding the name continued to grow – even President Obama couldn’t avoid commenting – legally the team appeared in the clear.

This time, the plaintiffs, led by Susan Blackhorse, were determined not to make the same mistakes.  In June of 2014, Blackhorse challenged six Redskins trademarks, again under the Lanham Act, which led to their cancellation by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Not surprisingly, the team contested the decision, arguing instead that the name represents a strong and proud history that serves to celebrate and pay tribute to Native Americans, not degrade them.  “A Redskin is a football player.  A Redskin is our fans,” owner Dan Snyder explained.  “The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride.  Hopefully winning.” (This last part is definitely still up for debate).  On appeal, the court sided with Blackhorse, holding that the trademarks were disparaging at the time of their registration, and should not have received protection.

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Patent Reform in the 114th Congress

By: John S. Sears* | Summer Guest Writer

1868 Typewriter Patent

1868 Typewriter Patent

Despite recent years having witnessed the most extensive overhaul of U.S. patent law since the U.S.  Patent Act of 1952, it is clear more reform of U.S. patent law is on the horizon.  I recently had the privilege of leading a panel discussion on patent reform legislation at a meeting of university technology transfer professionals. Some proposals in the 114th Congress could have significant impacts on university tech-transfer practice, but for now I want to give a more general summary of the bills making their way through Congress

There are three bills in the 114th Congress considered “comprehensive” patent reform legislations, including major revisions such as to how we handle post-grant review proceedings, pleading requirements, demand letter practice, discovery, and willful infringement.  These include the Innovation Act (HR.9) and the corresponding Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act of 2015 (S1137), and the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth (STRONG) Patents Act of 2015 (S.632).

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Biggest Loser Host Hopes To Win Big In Court

By: Hunt Harris* | Summer Guest Writer

Jillian Michaels, the popular celebrity trainer and former host of “The Biggest Loser,” has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Lionsgate over YouTube videos posted to its channel.  Michaels, who recently quit the show for the third time in June 2014, claims Lionsgate has not compensated her for her workout videos that are used on the company’s YouTube channel.  The complaint states that “despite receiving millions of dollars in revenue from YouTube, and half of all views on the YouTube BeFit channel relate to Ms. Michaels’ Lionsgate (videos), Ms. Michaels has not received any compensation whatsoever.”  Lionsgate’s BeFit, which launched in 2012, has generated more than 200 million views to date and has more than 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube. According to Michaels, Lionsgate “did not consult her before they used her image and brand on the channel, and exceeded the number of videos posted to YouTube allowable under her contract.”

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The Drones are Coming

By: James Lathrop* | Summer Guest Writer

Henry Ford pictured a car in every driveway.  Bill Gates a computer in every home.  The next stage may become a drone above every house.


While the popular conversation about drones focuses on how businesses like Amazon will profit from their commercial usage, there is a growing trend of hobbyist buying drones for recreational purposes.  Despite this excitement, residential drone operators that crash their crafts must figure out how to pay for the expensive damages they cause.  The Boston Globe published one such story recently where a recreational drone user crashed a drone at a parade, hitting a man and almost injuring a child.  Therefore, this blog will focus on how a typical homeowner’s policy covers liability incurred from a wayward residential drone and predict how insurance companies may change policy language in listed liability exclusions to avoid disputes involving drones.

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The “Pot” Holes on the Road to Marijuana Legalization

By Dana Sisk* | Summer Guest Writer

Legalizing cannabis is a trend that is quickly starting to spread across the United States. Colorado, Alaska, the District of Columbia, Oregon, and Washington have legalized marijuana sales, and other states are pushing for a vote to legalize the recreational marijuana business.  This increased interest in the marijuana industry stems from its success in states where it has already been legalized. Washington recently reported their tax revenue from the first year of marijuana sales at just over $70 million, and Colorado reported that the marijuana industry had generated $700 million dollars of revenue in 2014. Additionally, a study estimated that the national marijuana industry was worth $2.6 billion in 2014.

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Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck? – Systemic Overcharging in the Grocer’s New York Stores

By: Casey Fidler* | Summer Guest Writer

Even though many people enjoy Whole Foods’ hot bar and fresh guacamole, it seems the grocery store chain has been aptly nicknamed “Whole Paycheck.”  Recently, the Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) investigated the New York supermarkets, and the agency found that 80 types of prepackaged products were mislabeled by weight.  The agency is now expanding its investigation after discovering overcharging that ranged from 80 cents for a package of panko to $14.85 for coconut shrimp.  Most of the products also did not meet the U.S. Department of Commerce’s standard for the maximum amount a package can deviate from its actual weight.

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Caught in the Web: SCOTUS’ Recent Decision Regarding Patent Royalties

By: Amanda Whorton* | Summer Guest Writer

Sketch by Art Lien

Sketch by Art Lien

Your friendly neighborhood U.S. Supreme Court laid down a crucial decision involving patent royalties and a Spiderman themed toy that has everyone’s spidey senses tingling.

Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment involves a toy Stephen Kimble invented and patented called the “Web Blaster,” which consists of a glove with a valve and canister of pressurized foam, allowing kids to pretend that they are their favorite web-slinging superhero by having string shoot from the palm of their hands.  Kimble had previously sued Marvel for marketing a similar toy and their settlement included an agreement that licensed the patent to Marvel in return for royalty payments from its sale.  However, the agreement set no end date for these payments.  Neither side was aware at the time that a 1964 Supreme Court case, Brulotte v. Thys, made agreements for royalty payments after the expiration of a patent per se unlawful.  Kimble urged the Court to overturn this decision, while Marvel argued that Brulotte prevented them from having to pay royalties after the patent expired in 2010.  Marvel already paid Kimble $6 million for use of his patent. Continue reading »

Time to Take Cyber Security Seriously

By: Dianna Shinn* | Summer Guest Writer

From government espionage to stolen card data, cyber breaches are becoming a common occurrence that impact national security and everyday American lives. The threat of cyber breaches stirred national attention in 2007 with the 45.6 million credit and debit cards that were compromised at TJ Maxx stores. Following the TJ Maxx breach both large and small retailers have experienced cyber security breaches leaving Americans’ personal information in the hands of cyber criminals. The largest breaches affected Target in December 2013 with 40 million credit and debit cards compromised and Home Depot’s September 2014 card breach with 56 million cards. The seriousness of cyber security breaches did not cause significant reactions from Americans until the 2014 Sony Attack, an act of espionage by the North Korean government.

From left, Chinese military officers Gu Chunhui, Huang Zhenyu, Sun Kailiang, Wang Dong, and Wen Xinyu have been indicted on cyber espionage charges

From left, Chinese military officers Gu Chunhui, Huang Zhenyu, Sun Kailiang, Wang Dong, and Wen Xinyu have been indicted on cyber espionage charges

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How Do We Fix Nonprofits?

By: Austin Thompson* | Summer Guest Writer

Nonprofits have recently been immersed in scandal. FIFA’s managerial elite has been exposed after decades of legendary corruption.  Last month, the U.S. government charged four American cancer charities with misusing over $187 million in donations. The American Red Cross is facing tough questions about how it has failed to get relief materials to those who needed it in the aftermath of disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, despite publicly raising vast sums of money. Are nonprofits morally bankrupt? Is donated money simply going to crooks? Well, nonprofits may be going through a rough patch in the spotlight, but that’s how the system is supposed to work.


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