Posted On: August 31, 2009

Budget Blinds Draws The Curtain On Competitor’s Alleged Trademark Infringement

trademark-attorney-budget-blinds-trademark-lawsuit.jpgSanta Ana, CA – Budget Blinds, Inc. (“BBI”) sued Kenneth James, owner of Budget Blinds and Shutters, for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act § 43(a). BBI franchises mobile window covering business in the U.S. and Canada and currently has almost 900 franchised businesses operating under the “Budget Blinds” trade name and service mark. BBI has registered its “Budget Blinds” word mark and stylized mark with the USPTO.

Defendant operates a home décor and windo covering business that competes with BBI and its franchisees. Defendant uses the “Budget Blind” trade name on its website www.budgetblindsandshutters.com. BBI alleges that it sent a letter to Defendant demanding that it cease and desist any further use of the name “Budget Blinds and Shutters,” but Defendant failed to respond. BBI followed up with a second cease and desist letter, but Defendant allegedly also failed to respond to the second letter. The case is Budget Blinds, Inc. v. Budget Blinds and Shutters et al., SACV 09-0933 AG (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 27, 2009

El Pollo Loco Plays Chicken With Trademark Lawsuit

trademark-attorney-restaurant-el-pollo-loco.jpgSanta Ana, CA – El Pollo Loco, Inc. (“EPL”) sued Jacinto & Corona Enterprises, Inc. for trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition under the Lanham Act § 43(a). EPL operates and franchises restaurants, specializing in pretty tasty grilled chicken, in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Illinois. With locations in only six states, EPL may have difficulty showing that its marks are nationally famous, as required by the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006.

EPL owns, amongst others, the following trademarks: (1) a word mark registration for “El Pollo Loco,” which translates to “The Crazy Chicken,” with “Pollo” disclaimed; (2) a word mark registration for “El Pollo Loco Flame-Grilled Mexican Chicken,” with “Flame-Grilled Mexican Chicken” disclaimed; and (3) a composite mark consisting of a chicken head and flames with the words “El Pollo Loco Flame-Grilled Mexican Chicken,” with the words “Pollo” and “Flame-Grilled Mexican Chicken” disclaimed, as shown to the right.

trademark-attorney-el-pollo-loco-mexican-grill.jpgDefendant Jacinto operates a restaurant under the name “El Pollo Mexican Grill” in Santa Ana, California. Jacinto also uses the logo pictured to the left in operating and promoting its restaurant, including on its signs, menus, website and other advertisements. EPL alleges that it has nine of its own restaurants within a five mile radius of Jacinto’s restaurant. EPL has allegedly asked Jacinto to cease its use of the “El Pollo Mexican Grill” mark, but Jacinto has refused. With the words “Pollo” and “Flame-Grilled Mexican Chicken” disclaimed, it will be interesting to see the scope of protection afforded EPL’s trademarks. The case is El Pollo Loco, Inc. v. Jacinto & Corona Enterprises, Inc., SACV 09-959 CJC (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 22, 2009

Fox Sues TV Stations For Copyright Infringement And Breach Of Syndication Agreement

copyright-attorney-fox-television-syndication-license-roberts-lawsuit.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Plaintiffs Twentieth Television, Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation sued Roberts Brother Properties, LLC and several related “Roberts” companies, which operate the following television stations: WAZE-TV, WRBU, WZRB, and WRBJ. The stations broadcast, under license from the FCC, television programs in Evansville, Indiana; Jackson, Mississippi; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Columbia, South Carolina. Twentieth is the licensing agent for the free broadcast television rights in the following programs: King of the Hill, Malcolm in the Middle, Judge Alex, Divorce Court, Cristina’s Court, Family Guy, The Bernie Mac Show, Century Premiere, Boston Legal, Texas Justice, Still Standing, and Century 20 (collectively the “Fox Television Series”). Plaintiff Fox owns the copyrights to said programs.

Plaintiffs allege that since 1998, Defendants have entered into twenty-four written television syndication agreements for the television programs listed above, which agreements provided exclusive broadcast rights in the geographic regions. Some of the agreements required monetary payment and some others had “barter” terms, wherein the TV station licensee provides advertising time on the station in exchange for the licensed rights. The agreements allegedly have a “cross-default provision,” wherein a breach of one agreement constitutes a breach of all other licenses. Plaintiffs accuse the Roberts Defendants of failing to pay licensing fees beginning in August of 2008, after which Plaintiffs terminated all of the syndication agreements. Plaintiffs have demanded payment of the alleged outstanding balance of $1,272,241.77, but Defendants have failed to make payment or cease broadcasts of the programs. The case is Twentieth Television, Inc. et al. v. Roberts Brothers Properties, LLC et al., CV 09-5992 RSWL (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 20, 2009

Stock Photography Company Sues Website Design Company For Copyright Infringement

copyright-stock-photography-attorney-copyright-lawyer-masterfile.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Masterfile Corporation, a stock photography company, is suing KGM Productions, a website design and marketing company, for copyright infringement and removal of copyright management information under 17 U.S.C. § 1202(b). Masterfile alleges that it discovered Defendant was using eight of Plaintiff’s copyrighted photographs on Defendants websites www.kgmcharters.com, www.losangelespartybuses.com, and www.losangelescharterbuses.com. Plaintiff had long before registered its copyrights and demanded that Defendant remove the images from its websites. When Defendant failed to do so, however, Plaintiff initiated the instant lawsuit. Further, because Defendant is accused of removing copyright management information from the pictures, Plaintiff contends that it is entitled to recover statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. § 1203(c) of $2,500 for each of the eight photographs copied, plus costs and attorney’s fees. The case is Masterfile Corporation v. KGM Productions, Inc., CV 09-5830 DDP (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 17, 2009

Mobile Hi-Tech Wheels Sues MKW Alloy For Design Patent Infringement

Los Angeles, CA – Mobile Hi-Tech Wheels, Inc. (“MHT”) has been manufacturing custom wheels for automobiles since 1986, which wheels are sold to automobile dealers and after-market parts retailers. MHT was issued U.S. Patent No. D578,459 for its “Illusion” wheel design and U.S. Patent No. D585,808 for its “Bomber” wheel design. Defendant MKW Alloy, Inc. is accused of selling, without authorization, two wheel designs that allegedly infringe MHT’s patents. The case is Mobile Hi-Tech Wheels, Inc. v. MKW Alloy, Inc., CV 09-5695 VBF (C.D. Cal. 2009).

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Posted On: August 13, 2009

Rebranding - Loss of Identity vs. Invigoration

CNN Money has an interesting article (link here) regarding several companies' attempts to invigorate their image by using new logos. Some have succeeded (e.g. Apple) and some, well, not so much (e.g. Xerox). Although re-branding is a bit of a gamble with consumers, having a strong word mark as a fall-back measure reduces the risks.

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Posted On: August 10, 2009

Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Against Starzlife’s Display Or Distribution of Dustin Lance Black’s Sexually Explicit Photos and Video

copyright-lawsuit-invasion-of-privacy-dustin-lance-black.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Oscar® winner Dustin sued starzlife.com (details blogged here) and several individuals for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy over distribution of his sexually intimate photos and video. The Court issued a temporary restraining order against the distribution of the photos and the video. And now, after initially opposing a preliminary injunction, the Defendants have stipulated to the entry of the order (copy available here), which enjoins them from showing or distributing the material. The case is Dustin Lance Black v. Starzlife, Inc. et al., CV 09-05380 RGK (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 6, 2009

Trademark and Trade Dress Lawsuit Filed Over Nail Polish Bottle Design And Name

trade-dress-attorney-trademark-lawyer-opi-nail-polish.jpgLos Angeles, CA – OPI Products sued Beauty Treats International Co. for trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition over its sale of nail care products. Plaintiff has registered its OPI word mark and its bottle design mark with the USPTO. Plaintiff alleges that it began using the word mark in 1981 and the subject bottle design mark in 1992. Plaintiff claims that Defendants adopted their “OBT” trademark and an identical bottle shape in an “attempt to confuse and decive consumers and nail technicians into believing that the Accused Products are OPI Products or are affiliated with or authorized by OPI. The case is OPI Products, Inc. v. Beauty Treats International Co., Inc., CV 09-05383 PSG (C.D. Cal. 2009).

Posted On: August 3, 2009

Oscar® Winner Dustin Lance Black Sues Tabloid Website Starzlife For Copyright Infringement and Invasion of Privacy

UPDATE August 4, 2009: The Court entered a temporary restraining order (copy available here) preventing exhibition or distribution of the photos and video until the preliminary injunction hearing on August 10, 2009.

Los Angeles, CA – In a complaint that reads like a tabloid article (available here), Dustin Lance Black – Oscar® winner for best original screenplay for “Milk” – sued starzlife.com and several individuals for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy over distribution of his sexually explicit pictures and video. Black alleges that in November of 2006, he was in a relationship with Jeffrey Delancy and he observed Delancy holding a small camera and taking photographs during their intimate moment. When Black realized that the photos were of an explicit nature, he asked Delancy to delete the images from the camera, and Delancy complied. Black, however, was unaware that Delancy had also captured their intimate moments on video and downloaded the same onto his computer. The relationship ended soon thereafter.

copyright-lawsuit-invasion-of-privacy-dustin-lance-black.jpgNearly three years after the encounter with Delancy, Black learned of the existence of the sexually explicit video and photos when sample pictures were posted on starzlife.com and perezhilton.com. Black alleges that in 2007, Delancy was living with his boyfriend defendant Michael Lawrence when Lawrence accessed Delancy’s computer and stole an electronic copy of the photos and video. Lawrence then allegedly, out of jealousy, demanded that Delancy delete the photos and video from his computer and stood watch as Delancy did so.

Soon after Black won the Oscar®, he alleges that Defendants Lawrence and Nathan Folks devised a plan to sell or exploit the private photos and video. Folks is alleged to have contacted a “friend of his at Starzlife to act as their agent to expedite and maximize the sale or marketing of the photos and video.” Lawrence and Folks then allegedly created a non-existent fictitious business, Scott Allen Entertainment, Inc., to enter into a written agreement with Starzlife and had Traci Raitt, Lawrence’s out-of-state sister, sign the agreement.

Black alleges that after its attorneys contacted Lawrence and Folks, they first denied knowledge of or involvement in the attempted sale of the photos and video. But when confronted with the evidence, they allegedly feigned cooperation with Plaintiff as a stall tactic while they continued their attempts to sell the photos and video. Similarly, Starzlife is accused of cooperating with Plaintiff in an attempt to forestall litigation while continuing to exploit or sell the photos and video. Starzlife’s principals allegedly attended a meeting for the sale of the video and photos with Black’s private investigators posing as the potential buyers. Thus, Black filed the instant suit alleging causes of action for invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, violation of the right of publicity, unfair competition, fraud, conversion, accounting, constructive trust, and injunctive relief. The case is Dustin Lance Black v. Starzlife, Inc. et al., CV 09-05380 RGK (C.D. Cal. 2009).