April 16, 2014

Flying Fairy Toys Engaged In Copyright And Trade Dress Infringement Lawsuit

copyright-toy-attorney-trade-dress-fairy-spin-master.jpgFlying toy manufacturer, Spin Master, is suing its former technology company and its new business affiliates for allegedly infringing Spin Master’s Flutterbye flying toy fairy’s copyrights and trade dress by selling the competing Starfly fairy. Indeed, the two companies are no strangers to litigation and are currently engaged in a patent infringement lawsuit in Illinois involving remote controlled airplanes and helicopters. Here, Spin Master claims to have introduced the Flutterbye toy in 2013, which fairy doll incorporates a new technology that allows a customer to control the flying fairy using only one’s palm. Spin Master asserts that the Flutterbye received numerous top toy awards and has been a commercial success. The Flutterbye fairy figurine has been copyrighted and several other copyright applications are pending for the flower designs, stardust, and packaging.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants approached Plaintiff about a possible collaboration to distribute the toy outside of the United States, which Plaintiff declined. Plaintiff contends that “after seeing the success of Spin Master’s Flutterbye fairy toy, and rather than independently creating a distinct product, Defendants Brix, CYI and Rehco together engaged in a plan to create a look-alike flying fairy product in an attempt to unfairly capitalize on Spin Master’s success.” Aside from copying original elements of the toy itself, Plaintiff claims that Defendants use confusingly similar packaging and marketing channels, including similar YouTube commercials.

Because each party's respective product packaging prominently displays their respective trademarks, it will be interesting to see if customers are confused about the source of the products. See Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. McNeil-P.P.C., Inc., 973 F.2d 1033, 1045-46 (2nd Cir. 1992) (holding that prominently displayed trade names on respective products "weigh[ed] heavily against a finding of consumer confusion resulting from the overall look of the packaging") (preliminary injunction denied).

The case is Spin Master, Ltd. v. Brix ‘N Clix Co., Ltd., CV14-02808 PSG (C.D. Cal. 2014).

April 9, 2014

Mickey Mouse May Sue DJ Deadmau5 Over Mouse-Head Trademark Application

DJ-trademark-attorney-music-register-application-name-deejay.jpgDisney’s trademark attorneys sought an extension of time at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial & Appeal Board while they review their options in legally challenging DJ Deadmau5’s application to register his mouse-head logo. Joel Zimmerman, better known by his Deadmau5 stage name, is a well-known music producer and DJ. For many years, the DJ has used his mouse-head logo on numerous album covers and also worn it as a headdress at his live performances and concerts.

The DJ filed a trademark application at the USPTO to register the mouse-head logo for use on a variety of goods and services including stereo turntables, DVDs featuring music, coffee, beer, clothing, entertainment services in the nature of performances by a musical artist, and even BMX bikes. After a trademark application is filed, if the examining attorney finds a lack of potential confusion with any previously registered or pending trademarks, the application is published for opposition for thirty days. During this opposition window, any person or company that believes it will be harmed by the registration may either file an opposition to the registration or seek an extension of time to oppose the registration. Disney has chosen the latter route while it evaluates its legal options in the next ninety days. Disney is the long time owner of the trademark in mouse ears depicted here, which are incorporated into the ubiquitous hats sold at Disney theme parks.

April 3, 2014

Presenting At Bridgeport's Trade Secret Seminar

trade-secret-seminar-bridgeport-cle-milord-speaker.jpgI have the pleasure of speaking tomorrow at Bridgeport Continuing Education's trade secret seminar, "Prosecuting and Defending Corporate Raiding, Customer Trade Secret, & Employee Mobility Cases." For a list of the distinguished speakers and topics, click here. To register for the seminar, click here. I will be speaking about the intersection of trade secrets with other forms of intellectual property, including patent, trademarks, and copyrights.

February 5, 2014

Facebook Sued For Patent Infringement Over Its “Facebook Ads” Advertising Services

sued-patent-infringement-lawsuit-facebook-morsa.jpgSteve Morsa filed a patent infringement lawsuit yesterday against social networking giant Facebook regarding its “Facebook Ads” advertising services. Morsa alleges he is the inventor and owner of two U.S. Patents, i.e. 7,904,337 and 8,341,020, both entitled “Match Engine Marketing.” The patents generally cover a computer system and method for presenting advertisements based on the user’s geographic location and interaction with a website, and matching the user’s conduct with criteria selected by advertisers. In July of 2010, while his patent applications were pending at the Patent Office, Morsa claims to have contacted Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg, and advised them that Facebook’s advertising platforms are covered by Morsa’s intellectual property rights in the ‘337 patent. Morsa received no response to his cease and desist letter or his other letters informing Facebook of his start-up company and seeking a business arrangement.

Click here for a copy of the complaint.

Morsa also alleges that Facebook was aware of his ‘040 patent because Facebook’s patent application for an invention titled “Sponsored-Stories-Unit Creation From Organic Activity Stream” refers to and cites Morsa’s patent application titled “Match Engine Marketing: System and Method For Influencing Positions on Product/service/benefit Result Lists Generated by a Computer Network Match Engine.”

Morsa is seeking unspecified damages for the infringement, but references Section 284 of the patent statute allowing “damages adequate to compensate for the infringement, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention.” In addition to monetary damages, Morsa wants a permanent injunction prohibiting Facebook’s use of the advertisement platform.

The case is Steve Morsa v. Facebook, Inc., CV14-0161 (C.D. Cal. 2014)

January 6, 2014

Sig Sauer Guns Sued For Infringing Patent On Handgun Grip Extender

patent-attorney-gun-grip-handgun-designs-sig-sauer-lawsuit-infringement.jpgFreed Designs has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against gun manufacturer Sig Sauer alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,928,764, titled Grip Extender For Handgun. Freed Designs contends that Sig Sauer has infringed its patent by making and selling magazine extenders covered by one or more of the patent’s claims, including magazine extenders for Sig Sauer models P238, P938, and P290.

Freed Designs’ patent covers a grip extender (reference numeral 11 to the right) invention that has a collar configuration so that the bullet magazine can be inserted through the grip extender and locked into the handgun. The bottom portion of the magazine firmly engages the grip extender and is locked into place once the magazine attaches to the handgun. The lower portion of the grip extender is also contoured to provide a comfortable grip for the hand of the user. In its description of one preferred embodiment, the inventor reveals that the grip extender can be made of any hard plastic and easily molded in a single piece.

Freed Designs seeks unspecified monetary damages, but it contends that it is entitled to “damages adequate to compensate for this infringement in an amount no less than a reasonable royalty, together with interest and costs” as provided by 35 U.S.C. § 284. Plaintiff also seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Sig Sauer’s further infringement of the grip extender patent.

The case is Freed Designs, Inc. v. Sig Sauer, Inc., 2:13-CV-9570 JFW (C.D. Cal. 2013).

January 2, 2014

Playboy Sues Le Book Publishing For Copyright Infringement Over Kate Moss Photos

photograph-copyright-attorney-playboy-kate-moss-le-book.jpgFor its sixtieth anniversary issue, Playboy commissioned noted fashion photographers Marcus Pigott and Mert Atlas to photograph Kate Moss to grace its cover. The photos have received widespread critical acclaim and praise as instant classics, and Playboy sought to timely register the pictures with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Defendant Le Book’s website bills itself as a leading provider, curator and portal for photography, film, video production and event-related services” for over 50,000 creative professionals, including “the most famous famed photographers, art directors, stylists and model agencies; the most lauded producers, locational finders, photo labs, rental studios, event spaces and caterers; the pre-eminent record labels, magazines, advertising agencies, fashion designers and PR firms.” Playboy alleges that despite Le Book’s sophistication on copyright matters in the industry, Le Book has violated federal copyright laws by posting the infringing Kate Moss photos to its website:

[Le Book has] reproduced, distributed and publicly displayed high-resolution copies of the Playboy cover with Kate Moss and the entire 18 page-spread featuring the photos of Kate Moss in toto, including the entire text and interview with Kate Moss...The brazenness of the infringement is further magnified by the fact that the infringement appears to be the product of direct, high resolution reproduction/scanning of Playboy’s magazine, as even the page numbers therefrom appear in the infringing images...Defendants have not just willfully and directly infringed Playboy’s copyrights; they have also enabled and facilitated countless act of infringement by third parties.

In addition to seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions, Playboy seeks unspecified monetary damages and its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the lawsuit.

The case is Playboy Enterprises International, Inc. v. Le Book Publishing, Inc. et al., CV13-9349 AGR (C.D. Cal. 2013).

December 16, 2013

Poquito Mas Sues Taco Bell Over Live Mas Trademark To Promote Mexican Food

trademark-attorney-lawsuit-mexican-food-poquito-mas-taco-bell.jpgPoquito Mas Mexican restaurant is going mano-a-mano against Taco Bell over the latter’s use of the “Live Mas” trademark and service marks on its restaurants, food, and beverages. Founded in 1984, Poquito Mas has more than ten restaurants in California and differentiates itself by selling high quality food, always using the freshest ingredients and freshly made salsas. It also has several USPTO registered for its family of MAS trademarks including Poquito Mas, The Mas, and Mucho Mas, among others. Because most of its trademarks have been registered for over five years, the trademarks have become incontestable per 15 U.S.C. § 1065.

Plaintiff alleges that in January of 2012, Taco Bell contacted Poquito Mas in an attempt to license the “Mas” trademark to use in its “Live A Little Mas” advertising campaign. After some discussion, however, Poquito Mas declined to license the trademark because it believed Taco Bell’s slogan would diminish the Poquito Mas brand and confuse customers. Shortly thereafter, Taco Bell is accused of launching the “Live Mas” campaign despite its knowledge of the extraordinary fame and strength of the Mas trademarks: “Taco Bell is still actively using, promoting, and otherwise marketing the ‘Live Mas” trademarks with the knowledge and intent that this may cause consumer confusion between Taco Bell and Poquito Mas.” In addition to the trademark infringement claim, Poquito Mas asserts causes of action for false designation of origin and unfair competition under both federal and California law.

Poquito Mas seeks unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs in addition to preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Taco Bell’s use of the Live Mas marks in its advertising. Further, because Taco Bell’s knowingly infringed the trademarks, Poquito Mas asks the court to triple the damages under the Lanham Act and award punitive damages under state law.

The case is Poquito Mas Licensing Corp. v. Taco Bell Corp., CV13-1933 (C.D. Cal. 2013).

December 11, 2013

Hello Kitty Jewelry Copyright And Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Filed By Sanrio

copyright-attorney-trademark-infringement-lawsuit-hello-kitty-sanrio.jpgThe Hello Kitty character has been around for more than fifty years and numerous other related characters and designs have been copyrighted by Sanrio. In fact, Sanrio’s website has a page listing all of its copyrights. Sanrio aggressively protects both its copyrights and trademarks related to the Hello Kitty characters, even suing a children's beauty pageant organizer for copyright infringement for using the Hello Kitty doll on its tiaras and trophies. Maybe that’s a good thing if you’ve seen how much these beauty pageants charge parents for the illusion of their kid’s success and to prevent exploitation. But more importantly, to prevent the next Honey Booboo from being thrust upon society. To protect myself from such a lawsuit, the image to the right displays some of the characters at issue in this lawsuit and was taken from Sanrio’s website.

Defendants Blink & Blink, Inc. and its officers are accused of selling jewelry and other products that incorporate a cast of Hello Kitty characters: “This case concerns the concerted, systematic and wholesale theft of various world-famous intellectual properties owned by Plaintiff. Defendants are engaged in the manufacture, importation, distribution, promotion, sale and/or offer for sale of bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, and other personal accessories, which incorporate unauthorized likenesses of animated or live action characters owned by Plaintiff, including, but not necessarily limited to, Hello Kitty (collectively “Infringing Product”).” The suit seeks unspecified damages, but requests that actual damages be trebled pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117.

The case is Sanrio, Inc. v. Blink & Blink, Inc., et al., CV13-08948 PJW (C.D. Cal. 2013).

November 23, 2013

USPTO Trademark Attorney Blocks Linsantiy Trademark Applications

trademark-attorney-application-office-action-uspto-refusal-block-register-linsanity.jpgWith Jeremy Lin’s return to New York this week, the epicenter of the 2012 LINSANITY craze, Grantland published an article regarding Linsanity 2.0 and his basketball career with his new Houston Rockets team. Thus, I thought it was a good idea to revisit the status of the Linsanity trademark applications that flooded the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office after Lin’s meteoric rise to pro-basketball fame. A Linsanity documentary chronicling his life has been made for goodness' sake.

Out of the eleven filed applications, nine have been abandoned because the applicants could not overcome the USPTO trademark attorneys’ refusal to register the name or nickname of a living individual without his consent (15 U.S.C. §1052(c)) or because it creates a false connection with Jeremy Lin (15 U.S.C. §1052(a)). One pending trademark application belongs to Jeremy Lin, who despite his quickness on the court was the last to file a trademark application. The other currently pending application belongs to Andrew Slayton, the proud owner of www.linsanity.com, which he registered two years before the Linsanity craze erupted.

Because Slayton clairvoyantly registered the linsanity.com domain name in July of 2010, almost two years before Linsanity rocketed into the Knicks’ lexicon, he claims that his use predates Lin’s use of the trademark and the Section 2(a) false connection refusal is improper. Good argument, except Slayton bricks – worse than a Dwight Howard free-throw – the next argument by admitting that he registered the domain name and coined the term “to characterize fan Enthusiasm about Mr. Lin” while Lin was playing at Harvard. Slayton’s next argument is an air-ball – worse than a Dwight Howard free-throw – because he claims that “Mr. Lin is not so famous that consumers are likely to associate [Linsanity] uniquely and exclusively with Mr. Lin.” Before he hurt his knee, Linsanity and Lin were synonymous and even sports-averse media and individuals were discussing Lin and Linsanity ubiquitously.

The trademark examining attorney didn’t buy Slayton’s pump-fake arguments and made the refusal to register final. The examiner cut through Slayton’s arguments like he was playing Mike D’Antoni coached defense, even the coach knows some people drop the “D” from his name because his teams lack any semblance of “D”efense. The examining attorney includes numerous references “indicating that the phenomenon known as ‘LINSANITY’ points unmistakably to Mr. Lin,” including being voted to Time Magazine’s world’s 100 most influential people in 2012. The examiner then points out that Lin’s last name is incorporated into the mark, “therefore the term LINSANITY is still essentially a reference to Jeremy Lin. Therefore, contrary to applicant’s claim, goods bearing the term LINSANITY will be associated with Jeremy Lin.” Thus, the mark was refused registration because it refers to a living person.

The examining attorney viciously and emphatically dunked on Slayton’s false connection argument because the domain name registration pointed to Jeremy Lin and, for good measure, directly quoted a New York Post article: “Andew Slayton, 45, boasted to The Post: Slayton claimed that when Lin was tearing up the Ivy League for Harvard, “Linsanity” just popped into his head... ‘I don’t know what [Lin] thinks, but it’s an homage to him,’ Slayton said.” Slayton has until January 12, 2013, to appeal the trademark attorney’s refusal and hopefully he won’t consult Jimmy Buss for any advice.

November 11, 2013

Chan Luu Sues Victoria Emerson For Trademark And Copyright Infringement Over Wrap Bracelets

how-to-protect-jewelry-trdemark-patent-copyright-attorney-chan-luu.jpgChan Luu, Inc.’s jewelry trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and unfair competition lawsuit arises from Victoria Emerson’s sales of wrap bracelets. Just this week two different jewelry designers inquired, after receiving cease-and-desist letters, whether jewelry designs were entitled to trademark and copyright protection. After explaining not only are jewelry designs entitled to copyright, trademark and trade dress protection, but also entitled to design patent and possibly utility patent protection, the enlightened jewelry designers recognized the value of obtaining intellectual property protection for their own designs. And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Plaintiff contends that because of its extensive use of the Chan Luu trademark on jewelry, clothing, and accessories, consumers recognize the mark as a source of high quality products. Plaintiff also has several USPTO registered Chan Luu trademarks. In addition, Plaintiff allegedly owns the exclusive trademark rights to its purportedly distinctive curved oval button that serves as the closure for many of the bracelets, which it has used since 2002. Defendants are accused of using the curved oval button trademark in addition to using the Chan Luu trademark, including buying the word mark as an Adword.

The copyright infringement claim, however, is based on Chan Luu’s registration of collections of photographs instead of copyright registrations for the jewelry pieces themselves. Defendants are accused of copying Chan Luu’s product photographs and using the photographs on defendant’s website www.victoriaemerson.com. Plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages in addition to preliminary and permanent injunction preventing Defendants’ use of the copyrighted images and the Chan Luu word mark and the oval button trademark.

The district court in R.F.M.A.S., Inc. v. Mimi So, 619 F. Supp. 2d 39, 58-59 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) reconfirmed that jewelry collections, whether thematically related or not, may be registered as a single work:

Jewelry collections are eligible to be registered in a single work registration. This issue was recently discussed in Castaneda, where the defendants sought to invalidate the plaintiff's registration for a jewelry collection on the same grounds as those offered by the So Defendants. There the court held:

[J]ewelry collections properly fall under the category of single work registrations rather than group registrations…. [A] single work registration for a published work covers "all copyrightable elements that are otherwise recognizable as self-contained works, that are included in a single unit of publication, and in which the copyright claimant is the same." In this case, a collection of jewelry -- usually a set of pieces thematically related and released for sale at the same time -- can be deemed a single unit of publication.
Yurman Studio, Inc. v. Castaneda, 591 F. Supp. 2d 471, 492 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (footnotes omitted).

While Castaneda states that a collection of jewelry is "usually a set of pieces thematically related and released for sale at the same time," id. (emphasis added), there is no requirement that the pieces must be thematically related. Rather, 37 CFR Section 202.3(b)(4) requires only that: (1) all copyrightable elements must be otherwise recognizable as self-contained works; (2) the items must be included in a single unit of publication; and (3) the copyright claimant must be the same. See Kay Berry, Inc. v. Taylor Gifts, Inc., 421 F.3d 199, 205 (3d Cir. Pa. 2005) ("The single work registration regulation is silent on whether the individual, self-contained elements of the 'single work' be 'related' in order to be registered. Instead, single work registration requires, in the case of published works, that all of the self-contained works be 'included in a single unit of publication' and share the same copyright claimant.").

The case is Chan Luu Inc., v. Brandshare, Inc. dba Victoria Emerson, et al., 13-CV-8210 (C.D. Cal. 2013).