Defamation Claim Over “Slavery Wasn’t So Bad” Comment Revived by Fifth Circuit

What if people thought you said that “slavery wasn’t so bad?”  Would it harm your reputation?  Would it matter if the statement was contextualized with various caveats? According to the Fifth Circuit’s August 15, 2017 opinion in Block v. Tanenhaus, context is everything. The plaintiff, Walter Block, admits that he uttered the words: “slavery wasn’t so bad” while discussing the concept of “free association,” but argues that the New York Times took these words so badly out of context as to libel him.… More

An Unmapped Spanish Golden Mile: The “Indication Of Geographical Origin” Trademark Prohibition

Spain is famous for wines bathed in the sun. There are various splendid Spanish wine regions: Rioja, Valencia, Penedès, Priorat, Rueda — all of which would, by the way, make fantastic places to go during your holidays if you are still looking for a summer destination.

Another such location is the legendary winemaking region of Ribera del Duero in central Spain,… More

A Recipe For Sanctions: “No reasonable copyright attorney … would have filed this complaint.”

If you are going to file a copyright infringement complaint based on a cookbook, beware. Copyrights in cookbooks are considered “thinner” than copyrights in many other types of literary works. There are several reasons for this, including:

  • Ingredients are considered facts, and therefore lists of ingredients are not copyrightable because facts are not “original works of authorship” under 17 U.S.C. § 102(a);…
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Who Owns The Copyright In The Photograph That Launched A Thousand Pleadings?

Over a decade ago, a lawyer snapped a photograph of the Indianapolis skyline, thus opening the gates to perhaps the most prolific flood of copyright litigation in the history of Indiana. Over the last five years or so, this image has been the basis for dozens of copyright infringement lawsuits against scads of defendants. However, on July 18, 2017, Southern District of Indiana Judge Richard Young cast doubt on whether the plaintiff in all those copyright cases actually ever owned the copyright in the first place.… More

Trademark Investigations In The Age Of Social Media: When Can You “Friend” An Adversary?

I have often called my friend and colleague, Dave Kluft, the master of opposition research.  When we have a trademark case together, he can be counted upon to think deeply about our adversaries, see the world through their eyes, and uncover every small detail about them that could possibly be relevant to our case.  Most of us mere mortals, however, limit our investigations to working hours and use traditional methods. … More

Trademark Office Issues Tequila Certification Mark Just In Time For National Tequila Day

National Tequila Day is celebrated on Monday, July 24. Tequila is made with the distilled extract of the blue agave plant, which grows in and around the city of Tequila and other parts of the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Although agave has been used for the manufacture of fermented beverages since pre-Columbian times, the ancestor of what we now know as “tequila” was reportedly first made in the 16th century by Spanish conquistadors who had run out of imported brandy (which is why they originally called it “Mezcal Brandy”).… More

America’s First Ice Cream Trademark Infringement Case … Was “FRENCH”

This weekend marks Bastille Day in France and also National Ice Cream Day in the United States, so it’s the perfect time to recount the very first ice cream-related trademark lawsuit in the U.S. (or at least the earliest one available to us): French Brothers Dairy v. Giacin.

The story began in 1842, when Thomas Joseph French of Sussex,… More

Are False Accusations Of Copyright Infringement Defamatory?

Is it defamatory to falsely accuse someone of infringing intellectual property? Last month, the California Court of Appeal, in FilmOn.com v. DoubleVerify, Inc., affirmed the dismissal of a defamation action in which the defendant was accused of falsely labeling the plaintiff as a copyright infringer.

Does that mean you can just go ahead and call anyone you don’t like a copyright infringer,… More

Of Slants, Skins, And Signs: Section 2(a) Prohibition of Disparaging Trademark Registrations Struck Down!

Well, that happened! According to the Supreme Court’s opinion in Matal v. Tam, Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which purports to prohibit the registration of marks that “disparage . . . persons,” is unconstitutional.  When we first started blogging on this topic, here, we noted that certain stars were aligning for a constitutional showdown. … More

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Gene Simmons Claims Exclusive Right In Hand Gesture

Earlier this month, KISS guitarist Gene Simmons filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to register the “devil’s horns” hand gesture, which he routinely flashes at rock shows, as a trademark for “entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical artist; personal appearances by a musical artist.”  This bold move brings up a number of interesting questions, ranging from “Does the gesture really function as an indicator of source that points to Simmons?” to “How will he ever enforce it?” to “Can you really claim trademark rights in a hand gesture?”  For a number of reasons,… More

Watch: False Advertising Law for the Generalist In-House Counsel

Advertising can take many forms, including statements about a company’s products on websites and social media platforms. A wrong step can result in serious consequences, including legal challenges from competitors, consumers, the Federal Trade Commission, and other regulatory agencies.

Watch this webinar to learn how you can protect your company against legal challenges based on its advertising practices. You will also learn what options are available if your competitors are making false or misleading statements in their advertisements.… More

Supreme Judicial Court Punts On Executive Defamation Privilege

Last week, everyone in Washington, D.C. was talking about the invocation of “executive privilege,” the ability of a President to withhold information from, for example, an investigation into Russian influence on the U.S. election. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) considered, and then punted on, a different kind of executive privilege: the absolute privilege of an executive to defame others without liability.… More

Registration v. Application: A Copyright Circuit Split

Registration is not required for valid copyright ownership, but it is required before you can bring a copyright infringement lawsuit. Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act provides that:

No civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until . . . registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title. In any case,… More

Cava v. Champagne: A Trademark Lawyer’s Guide

Those of you attending the annual International Trademark Association conference in Barcelona may be drinking a glass of Cava right now and wondering: what makes sparkling wine different from regular wine, and what is the real the difference between Cava and Champagne (or, as the great Zapp Brannigan pronounces it, “champagen”)? Those of us stuck at home and not allowed to go to Barcelona – and no,… More

Watch: Protecting Product Configurations, Packaging, and Designs

What In-House Counsel Needs to Know

Product configuration and packaging play an integral part in consumer choice and can often set a particular product apart from its competition on the store shelf. Because companies heavily invest in creating unique product designs and packaging that encourage brand association, business owners should also consider protecting those investments as intellectual property.

Peter SullivanNatasha Reed and Jenevieve Maerker presented a webinar offering guidance for in-house counsel regarding the different types of intellectual property that may protect product configurations and packaging in the United States,… More