Category Archives: Right of Publicity

Sexual Harassment Parody Commercial Held Not To Violate Lanham Act

Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act prohibits false or misleading statements in commerce that are likely to cause confusion as to a person’s affiliation, approval or sponsorship of someone else’s commercial activities. Here’s an easy example: You take an iconic photograph of a celebrity and, without the celebrity’s permission, incorporate it into the wrapper of a candy bar you are selling. Consumers are confused into thinking the celebrity has endorsed the candy bar,… More

Sue-per Bowl Shuffle III: The Year In NFL-Related Intellectual Property Litigation

Two years ago, I started worrying about what would happen if someone at a Super Bowl party asked me to explain an NFL-related lawsuit, particularly one of those intellectual property lawsuits that sports fans assume IP lawyers know about. This anxiety led me to put together the Sue-per Bowl Shuffle I and Sue-per Bowl Shuffle II: guides to trademark, copyright, patent and other intellectual property disputes concerning the NFL during 2014 and 2015 respectively.… More

A Trademark Year In Wine And Beer 2016: Our Holiday Buyer’s Guide To Disputed Beverages

trademark-year-in-wine-and-beerJust in time for the holiday season, we present our third annual Trademark Year in Wine and Beer, a wrap-up  of alcohol-related trademark and trademark-ish disputes dating back to December 2015, when we published our last edition. Our scope includes lawsuits brought in U.S. Courts, actions before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), arbitrations pursuant to the  Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”),… More

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Beyoncé Sues Feyoncé and Fame is the Name of the Game

RINGBeyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, known to most as simply Beyoncé, and as “Bey” to those who like to pretend they know her, is about as famous as one can be.  She transitioned from the acclaimed group “Destiny’s Child” to become one of the biggest pop stars in the world.  Number one hits, Grammy Awards, sold-out tours, and even a reasonably successful film career are firmly under her fashionable belt.… More

The First Circuit’s “Scungy” Backpage: Copyright And Right Of Publicity Claims Ineffective Against Sex Trafficking

BackpageIn Doe v. Backpage.com, the First Circuit affirmed the District of Massachusetts in holding that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) shields from civil liability a website used by third parties to facilitate the sex trafficking of underage girls.  If you haven’t had a chance to follow the case, there are three basic takeaways: (1) the immunity provided by Section 230 of the CDA is very broad;… More

Sue-per Bowl Shuffle II: The Year in NFL-Related Intellectual Property Litigation

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Around this time last year, I started worrying about what would happen if someone at a Super Bowl party asked me to explain an NFL-related lawsuit, particularly one of those IP-ish lawsuits that I’m supposed to know about. So I put together the first Sue-per Bowl Shuffle, a guide to the year’s gridiron disputes over trademarks, copyright, the right of publicity and other matters with a First Amendment flavor.… More

Celebrity Trademark Watch: Who Owns Marilyn Monroe’s Image? – Right of Publicity vs. Trademark Rights

mmIn her posthumously published autobiography, My Story, screen legend Marilyn Monroe wrote: “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.”  There is something eerily prophetic about this quote, given how Ms. Monroe’s fame endures to this day, seemingly undiminished over time.  One can only speculate,… More

Authorship Credit for Scholarly and Creative Works: The Elusive American Attribution Right

creditWhat if were to tell you that I jointly authored this article with a colleague, but that I’m not going to give her any credit or attribution because I don’t feel like it? Can she sue me for copyright infringement? No, because we are joint authors, so I have as much a right to publish this article as she does. If we lived in Europe, my colleague might have relied on her inherent right of attribution,… More

Are You Sure This Isn’t About Copyright? Chicken Sandwiches, Monkey Selfies and the Boundaries of Copyright Law

CaptureLast week, a wild crested macaque named Naruto (but really People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against photographer David John Slater in the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Slater infringed Naruto’s copyright in the famous “monkey selfies” (taken by Naruto with Slater’s camera). The complaint requests that the Court order Slater to disgorge any profits he has realized from the distribution of the images and establish a trust,… More

Harry Potter Lawsuits And Where To Find Them

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On July 31, 2015, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling celebrates her 50th birthday, according to muggle sources. The enormous success of Rowling’s literary creation and its associated multimedia empire has spawned countless jealousies, countless imitators, countless parodists and countless pirates. The franchise has kept dozens if not hundreds of lawyers busy with precedent-setting copyright cases, trademark disputes, First Amendment battles over religious expression,… More

Political Speech, Trademarks And The Definition of “Goods or Services”

3Last month witnessed the resolution of two trademark infringement cases involving the relationship between political activities and the definition of “goods or services.” On May 18, 2015, State Senator Steve Hershey gave up his right to appeal to the Fourth Circuit from the District of Maryland’s decision that he was infringing the Hershey Chocolate trade dress. On May 19, 2015, however, the Fourth Circuit overturned the case on which the District of Maryland had been relying.… More

Digilante Justice: Defamation By Camera Phone

swEarlier this month, a man in Melbourne, Australia decided to take his very first selfie next to a Darth Vader poster at a local shopping center. A nearby shopper mistakenly thought that the man was taking pictures of her young children. Convinced she had espied a pedophile, the mother snuck a cellphone shot of the man and uploaded it to Facebook, along with commentary labeling him a “creep” and implying that he might be a “registered sex offender.” When word of the post reached the man,… More

And the Lawsuit Goes to . . . An Oscar-Time Guide to “Best Picture” Intellectual Property Litigation

OscarThe film that wins the Best Picture Oscar this year is certain to attract more viewers and more box office receipts than it had before receiving the award. But Best Picture winners also tend to attract more lawsuits, including intellectual property claims. Plaintiffs show up out of nowhere claiming to be the true authors of the underlying work, infringing defendants come out of the woodwork to unlawfully grab a little bit of the success for themselves,… More

Sue-per Bowl Shuffle 2014: The Year in NFL-Related Intellectual Property Litigation

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Heading into this year’s Super Bowl party season, there are two things every lawyer should be concerned about. First, why can’t your team get it together? Second, what do you do if you are asked to explain to your friends and neighbors some NFL-related litigation that you haven’t been following? We can’t help you with the first problem (although, as an Iggles fan living in the heart of Patriots Nation,… More

Use of Porn Star Images in “Romance Fraud” Dating Profiles Fails to Support Trademark and False Advertising Claims

CaptureThe plaintiff in Avalos v. IAC/Interactive Corp. called it “one of the biggest conspiracies ever executed on the internet” — the unauthorized use of images of adult film stars in fake online dating profiles. But in an opinion issued October 30, 2014, Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York held that trademark law was not the right way to go about solving this problem.… More

When Can You Be Sued For Introducing Copyrighted Works At Trial? Almost Never, But Plaintiffs Keep Trying

Professor Nimmer once identified the “weakest infringement claims of all time” as  those involving attempts by copyright holders to prevent their copyrighted work from being used as evidence against them in court. “It seems inconceivable,” Professor Nimmer wrote, “that any court would hold such reproduction to constitute infringement either by the government or by the individual parties responsible for offering the work in evidence.” But this scholarly warning has not prevented many plaintiffs from trying —… More

How Not To Market Your Business Online (Even If It Works): Claims Against Fake Review Sites And Stolen Obituary Photos Survive Motion To Dismiss

1Despite celebrity endorsements from the likes of Dennis Miller and Alan Thicke, all that glitters isn’t gold when it comes to the marketing of precious metal investments. In March 2014, American Bullion, Inc., which is in the business of encouraging individuals to convert their retirement savings to gold and silver, brought suit against its competitor, Regal Assets, LLC, in the Central District of California, alleging a host of unsavory internet marketing practices. … More

Privacy or Property? Arizona Court Adopts Post-Mortem Right of Publicity In Intra-Family Online Dispute

The right of publicity, i.e., the right not to have others appropriate your name or image for commercial purposes, is an odd duck.  It was described by Professor Prosser in 1960, and later in the Restatement of Torts, as of one of four species of common law privacy rights intended to remedy the emotional injury to one’s “seclusion” caused by breaches of privacy. By contrast, the Third Restatement of Unfair Competition in 1995,… More