Live from Comic-Con . . .

By Geoffrey Gerber

It has been a long time since my last posting. In part, this has been because I have been trying to get enough work off of my desk to attend Comic-Con International in San Diego. Now I am here, and it is a wonderful world of fair and not-so-fair uses of intellectual property. I'll have enough material to blog about for a month. As busy as it is keeping me, I'll keep this post short.

How about a bumper sticker. Can't get much shorter.

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Beckham Beckons: Using Real People's Names In Movie Titles


The recent explosion of media coverage over the California arrival of David Beckham got me thinking about the use -- or more precisely, the "fair use" -- of his name in the title of the motion picture Bend It Like Beckham.  When I first heard that title back at the time of the movie's release in 2002, I had only the vaguest knowledge of David Beckham and made no connection between him and the rest of the title.  Indeed, to this ignorant American the title had mysterious and vaguely erotic connotations, as if it referred to a position in the Kama Sutra.  But the rest of the world, of course, knew immediately that the Beckham in the title was THE most famous athlete on the planet and that the title itself referred to Beckham's amazing skill at scoring on free kicks by “bending" (curving) the ball, which makes it veer out of the goalie's reach.

Knowing Hollywood, we can assume that all of the necessary permissions were signed in triplicate long before the first scene was shot.  But what if Beckham had refused to give permission?  Could you still include the name of the most famous athlete on the planet in the title of your motion picture?  Could you use for free a name that had a commercial endorsement value worth tens of millions of dollars?

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Trademark Trial & Appeal Board Says Internet Is Here To Stay

By Pete Salsich III

No, that's not a headline from The Onion.

In a recent precedential opinion, the TTAB held that evidence from the immensely popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia can be admitted even though -- by its very nature -- such evidence may be unreliable.  See In re IP Carrier Consulting Group, TTAB, Serial No. 78542726 (June 18, 2007).   At issue were applications to register two trademarks: "ipPICS" for online image services and "ipPIPE" for communications services.  The PTO rejected both applications on the grounds that they were merely descriptive of the services provided.  In doing so, it relied in part on numerous online and print sources showing that the abbreviation "ip" was commonly used to refer to "Internet Providers" such as the applicant.  On appeal to the Board, the applicant cited Wikipedia's entry on "Internet Service Provider" to show that the most common abbreviation for Internet Provider was "ISP", not "IP."  The Board accepted and considered the Wikipedia evidence, but still affirmed the examiner's descriptiveness finding and refused the applications.

In the process, the Board spent some time discussing the relative merits of evidence from Wikipedia and other user-edited online sources and concluded that the fact that such sources may sometimes be unreliable does not make them automatically inadmissible, provided the non-moving party has an opportunity to introduce rebuttal evidence.

Does this make sense?  John Welch at the TTABlog doesn't think so.

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Pine Tar, Stealth Condoms and Dead Fish


I am falling in love.  The object of my affection is the prose of a judge from the Seventh Circuit named Terrence T. Evans who seems equally at home in the worlds of jurisprudence, hip hop and baseball.  My infatuation began with Judge Evans' opinion in United States v. Murphy, 406 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2005), an otherwise run-of-the-mill drug case in which he famously paused to drop a footnote correcting the court reporter's misspelling of the term "ho":

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies."

If that footnote doesn't make you swoon, check out his latest opinion, Central Manufacturing, Inc. v. George Brett, et al. -- a trademark infringement case in which the lead defendant is indeed THAT George Brett, now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The Gods of Serendipity sent the appeal to a panel that included Judge Evans, and the resulting opinion will surely please them.

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Settling The IP Litigation Case: A Great New Blog Resource

By Pete Salsich III

As should be pretty obvious from most of the posts on this blog, we like to focus on new cases, new industry developments and new technology and how all those new things fit in with old (or at least older) legal constructs.   Today I want to draw your attention to a new resource that focuses on the old practice of settling cases.

I recently discovered The IP ADR Blog, a new blog hosted by Victoria Pynchon, Michael Young, Les Weinstein and Eric Van Ginkel, a group of well-respected alternative dispute resolution specialists in Los Angeles.  The blog focuses exclusively on IP litigation/ADR-related issues such as licensing structures, negotiation and IP asset valuation, all with an eye on getting litigating parties out of the courtroom and back to business.  Often one of the biggest challenges we face when advising clients involved in IP disputes is not letting the legal issues get in the way of seeing the business realities.  From what I've seen so far, The IP ADR Blog looks like it's going to be a great resource in meeting this challenge.

As Victoria Pynchon says in one of the first posts on the blog:

"Collaboration and reciprocity are the by-words of the blogosphere and the key to the settlement -- or the effective management -- of complex IP litigation."

I agree -- and in that spirit, I look forward to joining the dialogue and learning from these authors.

"Hey! (hey!) You! (you!), I wanna be your lawyer!"

By Pete Salsich III

That might be an increasingly popular refrain heard by Canadian pop star Avril Lavigne, who is getting a lot of attention right now for her songwriting practices.  Last week, Lavigne was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit over her song "Girlfriend."  The plaintiffs are the founder and former road manager of the '70's pop band the Rubinoos.  They claim that Lavigne's hit infringes their 1978 release "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."  As you would expect, you can already find many comparisons on YouTube and elsewhere, including the Rubinoos own website.  (Of course, all those who posted snippets of both Lavigne's and the Rubinoos' copyrighted music on YouTube and elsewhere should have a fair use right to do so, as long as they only used as much of the songs as was necessary to facilitate their commentary.)  Eminent copyright scholars like William Patry and almost everyone else seems to have weighed in on whether the suit has merit. 

Lavigne publicly responded this week by essentially asserting a "no access" defense -- that is, she claims she never heard the Rubinoos' song, so couldn't possibly have copied it.  Curiously, Lavigne does not say whether her co-writer, producer/remixer Dr. Luke, ever heard the song.

The "never heard it" defense won't help Miss Lavigne out of her most recent copying flap, however.  In the last two days, similar copying claims have surfaced regarding another of her songs, "I Don't Have To Try."  This time Lavigne allegedly copied the song "I'm The Kinda" by Peaches, an artist (and song) that Lavigne recently publicly stated was one of her biggest influences. 

I'm no musicologist, but at first blush both claims appear to have some merit, and they can't be good for the young pop star's reputation.  It may be great to be in Rolling Stone and on Perez Hilton, but there are better ways to be noticed.

And the Keyword Beat Goes On

Eric Goldman's Technology & Marketing Law Blog offers an excellent analysis of the latest district court decision to weigh in on the question of whether the purchase of a Google keyword ad that uses a competitor's trademark or the use of that trademark in the defendant's metatags constitutes a trademark use "in commerce" under the Lanham Act (and the equivalent state trademark laws).  Better yet, Eric saves me from having to update Pete's update of my original post on the topic. This latest decision,, Inc. v., Inc., (E.D.N.Y. June 12, 2007), is the fourth one in a Second Circuit jurisdiction holding that buying a keyword ads is not a trademark use in commerce.  The lesson for would-be trademark plaintiffs: sue outside the Second Circuit.

Copyright Infringement, Digital Devices and Electronic Discovery: Courts Have Random Access Memory Lapses

By Pete Salsich III

Beware the RAM . . .

From Gary's iPhone to my TiVo to your computer, we've begun to take the existence and use of digital devices almost completely for granted.  Most of us never think about the vast amounts of digital data that are being processed through our devices' random access memory (RAM).  On the most basic (non-technical) level, all digital devices create and very briefly store--often for only fractions of seconds--transient data "buffer" copies of digital information in order to ultimately display and/or process that information for the end user. 

Cool, but so what, right?


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