Generic Fair Use

... where pop culture meets intellectual property law

Tag: trademark (page 3 of 3)

Did Panem infringe trademarks or violate publicity rights by using Katniss Everdeen’s image as the “Mockingjay”?

Last weekend, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 made over $100 million at the box office.  The movie’s success is largely due to the strength of Jennifer Lawrence and the popularity of the books.  Enough digital ink has been spilled discussing the movie as a dystopian political outlook for young adult audiences.  Instead, here we repurpose the world of Panem as if it adopted the intellectual property laws currently in the United States.

 Accordingly, under that hypothetical, what trademark and publicity rights does Katniss Everdeen have?  Did the rebels and/or the nation-state of Panem violate or infringe any of these rights by exploiting her image as the “Mockingjay”?

 [mild spoilers ahead, proceed with caution if you have not seen the movie]

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Today in Trademarks: Is “Nut Sack Double Brown Ale” less offensive than “Washington Redskins”?

Last week, counsel for the Washington Redskins submitted a lengthy brief to the Fourth Circuit that, in part, provided a laundry list of other trademarks that have been registered by the USPTO and were implicitly deemed not to be immoral, scandalous, disparaging or otherwise offensive.  In a parallel but unrelated matter, the owners of the trademark for NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE – for a beer flavor, naturally – overcame a challenge to their mark and were granted a federal trademark registration.

These two decisions seem incongruous, but are they really?  At the very least, I hope to see an episode of South Park where Cartman wears a Washington Redskins™ jersey while drinking a Nut Sack®-flavored drink.

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Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks Made Simple

[originally published November 5, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

Did you know that the Framers of the United States Constitution solidified the rights to copyrights and patents more than two years before the protection of freedom of speech?[1]  It is true.  The Constitution, signed on September 17, 1787, included the following specific provision:

Congress shall have the power to … promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.[2]

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Is Your Halloween Costume an Infringement?

[originally published on October 28, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

Halloween is on a Saturday this year.  I am anxious to see people of all ages walking around in full costume.  What a wonderful time of year.  Halloween is fun – and it brings out the creative side in almost everyone.  People will be dressed as superheroes, villains, cartoon characters, pop culture icons, scary monsters, and more.  But most of these costumes you will see represent characters that were created by someone else.

Is your Halloween costume infringing someone else’s intellectual property rights?

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Express Yourself! A Primer on the Types of U.S. Trademarks

[originally published on October 12, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

Trademarks are everywhere.  Everything from a well-known slogan by a shoe company, to a famous organizational logo, to the signature color scheme or uniform of a performer can be considered as a trademark.  Trademarks can take many different shapes and forms, each of which may be protected by U.S. law.  The key is what can (or should be) protected and what may be enforced as the intellectual property rights of an individual or entity.  U.S. trademark law allows for a multitude of ways to express yourself or identify your product to the consuming public.  In fact, the law encourages this!

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What if Intellectual Property Rights Were Enforced in the World of “The Princess Bride”?

[originally published September 25, 2015 on www.law-dlc.com]

Have you ever watched a movie and wondered whether something cool in it could be patented?  Many movies, however, are set outside the United States.  Some are set in fantasy lands that would not recognize our system of laws.  Yet – what if?  What if, for example, the mythical country of Florin happened to adopt the laws of the United States as it applies to intellectual property rights?  Yes, Florin.  The homeland of Buttercup.  You know – The Princess Bride. What if the cowardly Prince Humperdinck recognized and enforced patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret concepts as seen in that movie?  Inconceivable, you say?  But what would that look like and what would be some examples?

[If you have never seen The Princess Bride, kindly stop reading and go watch it.  Now.  I do not think I can be friends with anyone who does not like this movie.]

I will skip the kissing parts and go right into the action and adventure.  Pirates are cool, right?  To the land of Florin we go!

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Top Three Differences Between Copyrights and Trademarks

[originally published September 10, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

The term “intellectual property” is commonly used to describe creative works such as inventions, music, movies, art, technical know-how and other intangible products. Unfortunately, the various types of intellectual property can often be confusing or difficult to categorize. For example, it is not uncommon to see a reference to a word or slogan being “copyrighted” when in fact, the correct term of art is “trademark.” Likewise, I am often asked in my practice to help clients “patent” their business or trade name.

There are four major types of intellectual property (IP) rights: patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Each category has unique characteristics that distinguish it from the other types of IP rights.

Accordingly, as a short-hand guide, here are some key differences between trademarks and copyrights under United States law.

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Clearing Up a Public Misconception About the “Washington Redskins™”

[originally published September 10, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

The federally-registered trademark for the “Washington Redskins” has been under attack since 1992. On June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) voted to cancel six marks held by the organization on grounds that “Redskins” was disparaging.

This vote was upheld on appeal on July 8, 2015 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. As of today, the federal registrations for “Washington Redskins” have been cancelled.

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