Geekview IP Week(ish) in Review

Posted by | November 15, 2011 | Disputes, Geekview IP recap, General | 2 Comments

TV One claims BET and MTV stole the essence of the Essence.

TV one recently sued BET and MTV for stealing its show.  Literally!  According to TV One, first BET and then MTV illegally broadcast video footage from the 2010 Essence Music Festival (EMF) in violation of TV One’s exclusive rights to do so.  And all I can think about is the 90’s band EMF and whether they ever had a run-in with Essence Music Festival over the use of EMF.  Somehow, I doubt it.  But back to the real deal. Legally speaking, TV One sued BET and MTV for copyright infringement, interference with a business relationship and unjust enrichment.  TV One asked the court to make BET and MTV stop showing 2010 EMF footage, destroy all copies of the infringing programming and turn over profits from the infringing programming to TV One.  I bet TV One will win this one, though I do wonder at what cost, since it appears to have filed for copyright registration in a less than timely manner, making it ineligible to receive statutory damages or attorneys’ fees.  Speaking of costs, the Corn Refiners Association is soon to learn the cost of false advertising . . .

Corn Refiners must be choking!

As I wrote about a couple months ago, many of us avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) due to the health risks it poses, including obesity.  In response, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has given up trying to market corn syrup and has instead decided to “re-brand” HCFS as “corn sugar.”  This led Western Sugar Cooperative and C&H Sugar Co. to sue several HCFS manufacturers and the Corn Refiners Association for false advertising under the Lanham Act and in violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200.  On October 21, the court let the manufacturers out of the case, while allowing the case to continue against CRA.  Since then a Sugar Association press release states that the organization has retained the services of Mark Lanier, who has won several trial verdicts of hundreds of millions of dollars.  The Sugar Association must trust that ultimately a jury will sink its teeth into the story of the corn refiner’s intentional deceit and hand the Sugar Association a sweet victory.  Meanwhile, I imagine this case will cost a lot of dough.  If sweets don’t lure them in, dolls will . . .

Hello Dolly!  Hello Lawsuit!!

When famous Broadway scenic designer Oliver Smith died on January 23, 1994, Rosaria Sinisi inherited his copyrights in numerous set designs, which his estate formally assigned to her on December 8, 1995.  Ms. Sinisi recorded these copyright assignments with the Copyright Office and also registered several of Smith’s other works related to the Hello Dolly set during the 1990s and 2000s.  Ms. Sinisi then licensed the Hello Dolly works to others for a fee, though never to a company named Broadway Bound Costumes, Inc. (BBCI), which she claim rents out a modified version of the set without permission.  Ms. Sinisi sued BBCI seeking damages in excess of $300,000 and a court order instructing BBCI to cease infringing (read: using or leasing) the Hello Dolly set designs.  One thing’s for certain, Ms. Sinisi is one doll not to be messed with, but she’s not the only doll who will take you down . . .

Lambert orders “take down” of his own album, now Colwel Platinum Entertainment’s gonna take him down.


Adam Lambert was the runner-up on the TV show American Idol in May, 2009.  The rules for American Idol disqualify contestants who have a current recording contract or any other agreement that would prevent them from entering into a recording contract.  Colwel Platinum Entertainment filed a lawsuit against Lambert that claims he had a record contract with its predecessor in interest when he was an Idol contestant.  Though the complaint doesn’t come out and state it, it surely implies that he was ineligible to be on the show.  But, really, who cares?  It seems a little too late to be bringing that up, but hey, these guys are really ticked off.  After all, they announced a release date of October 18, 2011 and began taking pre-orders for Lambert’s new album, Beg for Mercy (ironic, no?) on October 10, 2011.  Lambert issued a take-down notice to Amazon on October 11, 2011 and Amazon removed the Album on October 14, 2011.  The album is back up on Amazon with a new release date of November 21, 2011.  If the allegations in the complaint are true, Lambert soon will be begging for mercy while negotiating the damages caused by wrongfully issuing a take-down notice.  And if the allegations against Andy Samberg and his band the Lonely Island are true, they too may soon be begging for mercy . . .

Shy Ronnie busted for bagging beats.

The Lonely Island consists of a trio of musical comics: Andy Samberg, Kiv Schaffer and Jorm Taccone.  They’re most well known for their performances on Saturday Night Live (SNL), including the above December 5, 2009 skit with Samberg’s SNL character, Shy Ronnie and performing artist Rihanna.  Aleric Banks and Monique Hines are performing artists from St. Louis, Missouri who claim that they wrote the original musical composition used in the skit above.  They recently filed a lawsuit against Samberg, his Lonely Island bandmates, their label and NBC, that alleges that the trio stole their song and their master sound recording and created unauthorized derivative works from it by recording new lyrics over the compositions.  This case is just beginning, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the infringement claims ring true.  And while we wait, Bloomberg Businessweek rallies around rodents . . .

What’s all the ruckus about a rodent, you wonder?

Will the real Rally Squirrel please run forward?  Who knew that a squirrel running across home plate during the October 5, 2011 playoff game between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals could create a viral sensation, two trademark registration applications and coverage on Bloomberg Businessweek?  But the best story has yet to be told.  The earlier of the two trademark applications — the one for RALLY SQUIRREL — was filed by PBR Industries!  No doubt they were drinking when they decided to co-opt the critter.  So will they prevail over enterprising Sean Patrick Sullivan, who applied to register RALLY SQUIRRELS just ten days later?  Probably.  But will these squirrely applicants prevail over the Cardinals who themselves offered the shirt shown on the bottom left?  You’d be nuts to think so.  Squirrels, cardinals and spiders all played a part in last week’s IP news . . .

My Spidey-sense says something stinks.

Marvel Comics have rocked since I was a little kid, so you’d think a Marvel Broadway production would, well, make us marvel.  Sadly for Spidey, the majority of the news about the Spider-Man musical have been about injuries and bad reviews.  And now, former Bookwriter and Director, Julie Taymor has sued the production team for copyright infringement and breach of contract seeking in excess of $1 million in damages.  It’s hard not to wonder about folks who demand to be associated with something that seems to be failing so hugely, but in Julie’s defense, the show is taking in around $1 million per week according to an article on IBN Live.  Eventually we’ll see who crawls their way to finish.  Or will we?  And with the mystery looming . . .

Mystery abounds!

It’s a fascinating study of our times to see the IP news in the headlines (or the Google Alerts).  You just never know when your lawsuit, or even your trademark application, will end up in the news.  Given this, I wonder if we’ll start seeing (or not seeing) more IP holding companies?  What do you think?

 

 

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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