Posted On: May 14, 2012

Rothschild Family Sues Commoner For Using Surname And Coat Of Arms As Furniture Trademarks

trademark-infringement-surname-family-name-rothschild.jpgIn a complaint that should have been written by quill on a wax-sealed scroll instead of pleading paper, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. and Société Civile du Château Lafite Rothschild (you may now bow or curtsey), companies owned by the Rothschild Family (whose ancestors were ennobled by European monarchies), are suing an alleged commoner, Judson Rothschild, for trademark infringement and cybersquatting for using the surname and Coat of Arms to hock furniture and interior design services to both noblemen and commoners alike. As full disclosure, I am not ennobled by European monarchies. Instead, my father enjoyed reading Shakespeare, thus the name: Milord.

Plaintiffs allege that the family is engaged in numerous international businesses, including “two of the most famous wine enterprises in the world, and own the estates which produce the well-known ‘Chateau Mouton Rothschild’ and ‘Chateau Lafite Rothschild’ wines. These wines have become known as the finest of Bordeaux wines, and command a price appropriate to their quality.” Plaintiffs own several USPTO registered trademarks incorporating the surname, including Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

“As a result of the activities of the plaintiffs and their predecessor entities, and the well-known history of the Rothschild Family, the Rothschild name has become well known in the United States and throughout the world in connection with luxury goods.” Plaintiffs also allege that “because of the association of the Rothschild Family and their enterprises with opulent decoration, there are numerous literary references to ‘the Rothschild style’ or ‘the style Rothschild.’ The term has become part of interior decorators’ language.” Further, plaintiffs contend that the family’s coat-of-arms is famously associated with the Rothschild name and has developed secondary meaning in connection with products denoting luxury and comfort.

Defendant Judson is accused of establishing business entities that include the Rothschild name and operating the rothschildinteriors.com and therothschildcollection.com websites, which entities advertise luxury-style furniture and interior design services. Also, Judson is accused of using a confusingly similar coat-of-arms. Plaintiffs allege that defendants’ use of the infringing trademarks will mislead consumers into believing that Judson is a member of the world-famous Rothschild family and the goods and services he offers are approved or associated with the Rothschild family.

The case is Baron Philippe de Rothschild, S.A. v. Judson Rothschild, et al., CV12-3884 MMM (C.D. Cal. 2012).

Posted On: May 3, 2012

Guyism Website Sued For Infringing Copyrighted Katy Perry Bikini Pictures

copyright-infringement-guyism-pictures-katy-perry-bikini-mavrix-photo-attorney.jpgMavrix Photo is a celebrity photography agency that licenses the pictures to magazines and celebrity gossip websites. Mavrix alleges that it has licensed individual images of celebrities for over $100,000 to major content outlets. Mavrix is accusing the popular men’s website, Guyism.com, of infringing at least 21 different copyrighted Katy Perry bikini pictures by posting them on its website. An exemplary picture taken from the complaint is shown to the right. “Defendants herein have driven massive traffic to Guyism.com—including millions of visitors monthly across the United States and California—in part due to the presence of the sought after and searched-for celebrity images that frame this dispute. All of this traffic translates into significant ill-gotten commercial advantage and revenue generation for Defendants as a direct consequence of their infringing actions.”

Mavrix is seeking statutory damage of $3,150,000 for the 21 images. In order to qualify for statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. §412, a plaintiff must show that the pictures were registered within three months from the date of first publication or that the registration occurred before the infringement began. Here, the Katy Perry photographs were taken in the Bahamas on July 18, 2010 and registered by September 7. Section 504(c) of the Copyright Act provides for damages of up to $150,000 per work wherein the infringement is shown to be willful. Here, Mavrix alleges that despite Guyism’s “economic resources and sophistication on intellectual property matters, Defendants have, on information and belief, violated federal law by willfully infringing Mavrix copyrights to at least 21 different photographs on Guyism.com.” In other words, Guyism is sophisticated enough to know that it willfully infringed Mavrix’s copyrights by posting the Katy Perry photos on its website. I was able to do the math – calculator unaided – and 21 multiplied by $150,000 does, in fact, equal plaintiff’s demand.

This isn't Mavrix's first bikini clad celebrity photo copyright infringement lawsuit. Mavrix previously sued the Daily Mail for for copyright infringement for posting Kate Hudson's bikini pictures on its website and using the pictures in its print publication. The Daily Mail lawsuit ended with a confidential settlement payment.

The case is Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Guyism, LLC, CV12-3625 PA (C.D. Cal. 2012).