Posted: March 19th, 2014
By: John Hodnette *
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to the film business companies like Disney are glad that trademark law exists to protect them from some imitators. The facts of this recent case could not be more indicative of classic trademark infringement. Here is what happened.
“The Legend of Sarila” is Canada’s first 3-D animated film. The story draws inspiration from Inuit culture and legends, and involves blizzards, journeys though frozen tundra, sled dogs, and mystical shamans. This film had little in common with Disney’s blockbuster hit, “Frozen” about a land that magically send into eternal winter. In fact, the trailers of “The Legend of Sarila” and of “Frozen” share nothing in common aside from being animated films involving snow.
However, after a slow start in sales for “The Legend of Sarila” Phase 4 Films, a Toronto based distributor, decided to retitle the film and change the packaging for the U.S. DVD sales. The new name they chose was “Frozen Land” and the packaging bore such a striking resemblance to that of the logo of Disney’s “Frozen” that it is no shock that Disney immediately filed suit. Continue reading »
Posted: March 3rd, 2014
By: Caitlin S. Hale*
As law students, it’s likely that we have all been “that person” in a conversation. You know; that one annoying guy (or girl) that tries to come off as smarter than they really are, or even if they really are that intelligent, tries to flaunt intelligence in front of others. Let’s call this person the peacock. The peacock is often charismatic, always confident, and loves to strut his stuff.
I mean, we’re proud of what we’ve learned, so we have a good reason be a peacock, right? Wrong.
We all know how annoying it is to come across a peacock, flaunting knowledge and using big words. But you know what is even more annoying than encountering a peacock? Being called out for being one. Especially if you have built your whole personality around being a peacock, or even worse, your business. Continue reading »
Posted: March 2nd, 2014
By: Samantha Berner *
On Sunday, February 9, the new hit game for iPhone and android users, Flappy Bird, was removed from the app stores. While ordinarily apps are taken out of commission for compelling reasons, such as legal issues, here, the developer Dong Nguyen appeared to do it voluntarily. Nguyen tweeted on Saturday, February 8, “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.” Although the game is still available for use for the 50 million users who downloaded the game prior to its removal, those who are just learning of the game and all of its hype are disappointed they no longer have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.
There has been much speculation as to what lead to the uncommon decision of removing the top-ranked game from the app stores, one that achieved similar levels of popularity compared to the infamous Candy Crush and Angry Birds games. Nguyen has since been pretty tight-lipped about his decision, but in an interview with Forbes, explained that while Flappy Bird started as a fun activity, it became an “addictive product,” which he believed became a problem. To solve the problem, he believed the best decision was to remove the game, a game he says is “gone forever.” Speculators also have trouble accepting this decision since it is estimated that he was receiving $50,000 a day from in-app advertising, and while Nguyen did not confirm that figure, he did admit he was receiving a lot of money through advertising. Continue reading »
Posted: February 21st, 2014
By: Lindsey Chessum*
In January 2014, Cadillac introduced a new version of its “crest” that will appear on new products including the 2014 CTS and 2015 ATS Coupe. The new crest is wider and flatter and no longer has the encircling laurel wreath. The Wall Street Journal labeled it “bolder” with “more edginess.”
When a car drives past you, usually, the first identifying mark you see is the car logo. A pouncing jaguar, then it is a Jaguar. The Spirit of Ecstasy then it is a Rolls Royce. More utilitarian logos include Chevrolet’s “bowtie emblem” or Volkswagen’s encircled “VW.” Because of a logo’s ability to serve as an identifier, it is uncommon for a motor company to makes changes. To serve as an identifier, companies invest time and money in designing and advertising. Consumers must build up an association with the logo through repeated exposure, and for the association to positive, the exposure must be controlled. Whether through media, experience, or hearsay, companies make a significant investment in their logos because they are intended to serve as a symbol of the company. Continue reading »
Posted: February 18th, 2014
By: Lindsey Chessum*
We have all seen knockoffs. Maybe we were even tempted to buy one. Knockoffs are a special source of concern for the National Football League (“NFL”) leading up to the Super Bowl. As game day approached, tents were lined up only a couple blocks away from the stadium boasted jerseys in all sizes and at a significantly lower price than the shops inside CenturyLink Field. Of course upon closer inspection, the material appeared less than quality and small details, such as coloring or pattern, were inconsistent with the official NFL jerseys. They were knockoffs.
What can be done? Before Super Bowl XLVIII, federal authorities seized $21.6 million in fake jerseys, hats, and the like. This amounted to at least 202,000 items. The U. S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) monitored international imports, searching for suspicious shipments that may not be what they purported to be. Additionally, Nike, the NFL’s official uniform supplier, joined up with the NFL in two federal court cases to shutdown websites selling counterfeit merchandise. Unsurprisingly, the defendants did not show, giving the victory to Nike and the NFL, but for every site they took down another seems to pop up. Continue reading »
Posted: February 16th, 2014
By: Rebeca Echevarria *
The rapidly growing Augmented Reality market boasted revenues of approximately $181 million in 2011, and analysts expect this figure to rise to $5,156 million by 2016. Augmented reality, frequently referred to as “AR”, is a virtual-reality system that enhances the real world with virtual data by superimposing computer-generated text, images, and sounds over real surroundings. AR is most commonly seen during sporting events such as the first-down lines displayed on television during football games, but this technology is quickly evolving. Google Glass and like products use an optical head-mounted display to produce graphics right in front of a user’s eyes rather than on the screen of a smartphone or a television. Businesses offering goods and services have realized the new advertising space available in AR, in which they can market their products and messages alongside the other virtual data displayed to an AR user. Continue reading »
Posted: October 25th, 2013
By: Lindsey Chessum*
If you have ever seen a dog-pile, then you already have a good image of what this lawsuit looks like. Everyone is jumping in while the people on the bottom of the pile are trying to crawl their way out.
It began in 2009 with Sam Keller, former Nebraska football player, filing suit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts Inc. (“EA”), and the Collegiate Licensing Company (“CLC”) for the use of his likeness in video games, photos, and promotions. Specifically, EA contracted with NCAA to produce sports video games based on college teams. The agreement has always been that no names of players are used, but EA takes extensive efforts to make players look and play like specific college athletes. There is a player made by EA who has the same hair color, facial features, play style, and home state as Keller, and he is not the only one.
That same year Ed O’Bannon, former UCLA basketball player, filed a similar class action anti-trust suit. The two cases were consolidated in 2010, and in 2011 Oscar Robertson, Tate George, Ray Ellis, and Bill Russell joined the suit, prompting O’Bannon to seek class-action status. More athletes joined the fray in 2013 from Arizona, Vanderbilt, Clemson, and Minnesota. Continue reading »
Posted: October 3rd, 2013
By: Rebeca Echevarria *
Trademark owners invest time and money to build strong brands and will often fight bitterly to protect their trademarks. Like businesses, states often possess trademarks as well to promote tourism or convey public service messages. One of the most familiar state slogans is New York’s, “I <3 NY” motto. The slogan can be found on various types of merchandise, but vendors pay New York a license fee every time they wish to use the trademark. New York actively pursues anyone it believes to be infringing its mark and has sent 350 cease-and-desist letters since 2008.
Like New York, Texas takes pride in its “Don’t Mess with Texas” slogan and will go to great lengths to protect it. In 2011, Texas won a dilution suit against the author of a romance novel titled “Don’t Mess With Texas,” arguing that the novel’s steamy plot diluted the anti-pollution message behind Texas’s slogan. Since then, Texas has successfully urged other users to abandon their use of the mark merely with cease-and-desist letters. Texas must, however, continue to take an active role to protect the mark if it does not want to see it in the public domain. Continue reading »
Posted: October 2nd, 2013
By: Lindsey Chessum*
Lance Armstrong was the golden boy of sports media. People, who previously denied biking to be a sport, cheered Armstrong on after he underwent cancer treatments, recovered, and still won the Tour de France. In honor of the biking athlete’s victories and as a source of motivation in their own athletic battles, teenagers and adults everywhere sported the yellow wristband saying, “Livestrong.”
Today, Armstrong is no longer in the evening sports report, and there are not many people wearing yellow wristbands. But there is one place where Armstrong’s name is still being used, the courtroom.
Accusations of doping were directed at Armstrong since 1999, but only recently in January 2013 did he confess to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Since then he has been dragged into a slew of lawsuits across the country where his character and his life have been questioned. So far, Armstrong owes $3 million to Acceptance Insurance Co. for bonuses he was paid for winning the Tour de France races in 1999, 2000, and 2001. Acceptance Insurance might also recover for prizes paid to Armstrong after his Tour de France races in 2002, 2003, and 2004. In that suit, however, there is an issue with a previous settlement in 2006 potentially barring the suit. Even the federal government is suing Armstrong, to recover the over $30 million spent by the U.S. Postal Service as his team sponsor. Continue reading »
Posted: July 22nd, 2013
By: Rex Li*
In 2012, Michael Jordan filed a lawsuit against a Chinese sports wear company, Qiaodan Sports Company Ltd. (“Qiaodan Sports”), for misusing his name as its trademark. The case was finally heard on April 27, 2013 in Shanghai Number Two Intermediate People’s Court. The trademark in dispute, Qiaodan (乔丹), is the Chinese translation of “Michael Jordan.”
Before being tried in Shanghai, this case was dismissed by a court in Beijing. The Beijing court accepted Qiaodan Sports’ argument that “Jordan” is a commonly used English name, so using its Chinese version, “Qiaodan,” does not infringe Michael Jordan’s right specifically.
At trial, Michael Jordan claimed that Qiaodan Sports misled consumers by using his name and his Chicago Bulls jersey number, 23. He requested an order of injunction and compensation of 1.14 million RMB (about $183,000). Continue reading »