Tag Archives: Overreaching

War Is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

Originally posted 2007-03-28 19:08:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

And free speech is a form of negotiable intellectual property, right?

Maybe I can give up the blog. There is no percentage in clever commentary when the claimants provide the self-parody.  Credit to Instapundit.

“Criticizing A Trademark Is Not Trademark Infringement”

Originally posted 2007-09-29 21:25:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It’s free speech. This is a big step forward:

In a recent example of just how bizarre [trademark overreaching] has become, there was apparently a dispute over the trademark of the word “Freecycle” that’s been used by groups who promote reusing stuff that would otherwise be thrown out. There was an attempt to [register a] trademark [utilizing] the term, but not everyone was happy about it. One guy put up a website protesting the idea to [register] the term, and he got sued for trademark violations in using the mark in his criticism. Clearly, that’s way beyond the consumer protection purposes of trademark — but a district court actually agreed with the trademark holders, saying that the guy violated trademark law in “disparaging” the trademark. Luckily, the [9]th Circuit appeals court has now overturned the ruling, noting that there is little to no chance of confusion here over the mark. More importantly, the court pointed out that there is no such law against “disparaging” a trademark. That’s a good thing, too, or pretty much all criticism would be outlawed.

Thank you, Ninth Circuit. What’s astonishing, depressing and pathetic is that the mark owners won at the trial level. That’s the level at which small- and medium-sized business and individuals get slaughtered every day.

More here on this story.

Mourning Sonny

Originally posted 2009-01-01 16:58:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Posted on November 17th, 2008:

No, not that Sonny. No, rather this: If America’s most famous variety-show-star-turned-congressman hadn’t slammed into that tree on that fatal day of downhill skiing, we’d probably never have the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. That’s reason to mourn him right there.

Fair enough — if he’d sat in the lodge and drank cocoa instead we would probably still have the law, but at least its embarrassing content would not be matched with a preposterous name. But given that it is what it is, ten years later, what is it? Gigi Sohn says well:

How can you measure the number of new works and new wealth that were not created because of the extended terms? Or the number of new orphan works created? But since it has been shown that about 98% of copyrighted works lose their value between year 55 and year 75 of protection, we know who has profited from the law – large, multinational media companies like Disney, Fox and NBC-Universal, who maintain a vise-like grip on works that should have belonged to the public years ago. Suffice it to say that the Sonny Bono Act was nothing more than corporate welfare for big copyright holders. . . .

Ok, I got that off my chest. Now let me say something positive about both the DMCA and the Sonny Bono Act. The simultaneous passage of these two copyright strengthening bills, despite the strenuous objections of libraries, arts and cultural organizations, consumer electronics companies, and cyberliberties groups clearly hit a nerve, and became the impetus behind the copyright reform movement. . .

[W]hile we’ve stopped many bad things from happening, we have not yet been able to get any law or policy adopted that would bring some balance (or sanity) back to copyright law.

Read it! Hat tip to Denise Howell, via Twitter.

Comment here.

Goldman Sachs, those big losers!

Originally posted 2009-07-17 00:01:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Remember Mike Morgan, the flaky sort who dast challenge the mighty Men of Gold?   Now it’s over, like just another paid-back multi-billion dollar loan, and here’s how it all ends (via @walterolson):

Mike Morgan, a Florida-based investment adviser who started the controversial blog GoldmanSachs666.com, has prevailed in a case he brought against the investment bank in April.

Goldman . . . quietly agreed to several stipulations last month in order to dismiss the case. . . .

[H]e appears to have emerged victorious in the Goldman matter provided he maintains a prominently displayed disclaimer on his Web site disavowing any affiliation with the investment bank.In turn, Goldman agreed to refrain from interfering with Morgan’s use of GoldmanSachs666.com.  [Chadbourne & Parke IP practice co-chair John] Squires [(Goldman’s former chief in-house IP counsel)] Squires and Chadbourne IP litigation counsel Peter Bucci represented Goldman in the litigation.

That’ll teach those Goldman guys.  They must feel just rotten.  See, look:

Squires declined an Am Law Daily request for comment.

Imagine.  Well, maybe back at Goldman they’re not feeling all that rotten.  Here’s what goes in the ellipses:

Goldman, which exceeded expectations by reporting $3.4 billion in second quarter profits this week, quietly agreed to several stipulations last month in order to dismiss the case.

As I was saying:  This just proves that even having literally all the money in the world doesn’t always win cases, see!

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Sloppiness is its own reward — for the other side’s lawyers

Originally posted 2006-07-19 15:57:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

We said a while ago that the RIAA and its ilk looked out of control. Now Walter Olson reports that now the RIAA might have to pay attorneys’ fees for going overboard in one of its “sue the phone book” copyright blunderbuss suits. That’s not a good sign.

M-I-C . . . see you in court!

Originally posted 2008-09-03 11:51:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Could there be a mouse hole in Mickey’s larder?  The Los Angeles Times reports:

All signs pointed to a Hollywood ending with Disney and Mickey Mouse living happily ever after – at least until a grumpy former employee looked closely at fine print long forgotten in company archives. . . .

Copyright questions apply to an older incarnation, a rendition of Mickey still recognizable but slightly different. Original Mickey, the star of the first synchronized sound cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” and other early classics, had longer arms, smaller ears and a more pointy nose. . .

The issue has been chewed over by law students as class projects and debated by professors. It produced one little-noticed law review article: A 23-page essay in a 2003 University of Virginia legal journal argued that “there are no grounds in copyright law for protecting” the Mickey of those early films.

Garsh, Mick!

Roger Schechter, a George Washington University expert on copyright, called the article’s argument “a plausible, solid, careful case.”  By contrast, a Disney lawyer once threatened the author with legal action for “slander of title” under California law. No suit was filed.

SUPER HERO® my foot

Originally posted 2006-03-27 16:08:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

UPDATE: Our NPR interview on this topic was on NPR’s “All Things Considered” just before 6 tonight.

We blogged on this topic last week. Today the LA Times weighs in, writing, confusingly:

TICKETS TO THE California Science Center’s latest exhibit, “Marvel Super Heroes Science Exhibition,” sell for $6.75 and up. But there’s one lesson the exhibition offers free of charge to anyone who wanders by the museum, and it’s not about science.

The lesson is in the giant sign looming over the center’s entrance archway: “Marvel ® Super Heroes(TM) Science Exhibition.” The “TM” stands for trademark, signifying that Marvel is claiming exclusive rights to use the term “super hero” as a marketing term for, well, superheroes. The company and its largest competitor, DC Comics, jointly obtained the trademark from the federal Patent and Trademark Office in 1981.

The government’s action means that any company wishing to market a comic book, graphic novel or related item with any variation of “super hero” in the name or title must get permission from Marvel and DC. Dan Taylor, the Costa Mesa-based creator of the “Super Hero Happy Hour” comic, learned about this absurdity two years ago when he was contacted by lawyers for Marvel and DC, prompting him to rename his series to the more pedestrian “Hero Happy Hour.”

What government action? What happened in 1981? (See below — someone else found the answer.) Nor does a claim of a valid registration make any sense in light of the claim in the editorial that the sign says:

Marvel ® Super Heroes(TM) Science Exhibition

If SUPER HEROES were a bona fide registered mark, it should say “Marvel ® Super Heroes ®,” not “Super Heroes(TM).” “TM” signifies the assertion of common-law trademark rights — not a registered mark and, as a practical matter, that a mark was either refused registration or that legal counsel advised against seeking registration (because the refusal would harm a future common law claim).The editorial argues that SUPER HEROES is a generic term not entitled to any trademark protection, which is correct. Genericness is the only way to defend against a registered and incontestible trademark, which presumably one registered in 1981 would be.

Even if it were true that two competing companies could own a trademark jointly in an area where they compete — thereby violating the axiom that trademarks indicate a single source of a good or service with which they are used — they seem to be succesfully avoiding the issue of their absurd joint registration, even as their giant signs claim only a “TM” common-law mark.

I guess that’s some super-heroic PR / legal spin job by the comic book fiends, but why journalists aren’t “getting this” — or why I [couldn’t] for the life of me find the source that does indicate a registration — leaves me pretty confused at the very unlikelihood of it all.

UPDATE: Attorney Robert J. Sinnema points me to registration number 1179067:

SUPER HEROES (“PUBLICATIONS, PARTICULARLY COMIC BOOKS AND MAGAZINES AND STORIES IN ILLUSTRATED FORM [(( ; CARDBOARD STAND-UP FIGURES; PLAYING CARDS; PAPER IRON-ON TRANSFER; ERASERS; PENCIL SHARPENERS; PENCILS; GLUE FOR OFFICE AND HOME USE, SUCH AS IS SOLD AS STATIONERY SUPPLY;] NOTEBOOKS AND STAMP ALBUMS )).

He adds:

If you look at the owner/assignment information it appears to show joint ownership between DC and Marvel. (I’m with you, though–I don’t know how the mark can be a valid indicator of source.)

And why the plural? Believe me, there’s a reason for everything, including the companies’ continued non-use of the ®. They simply don’t want to draw attention to preposterous joint ownership (again — by competitors!) of the registration of a generic term. Ah, but utilizing the joint assignment — when a joint application would never have passed muster — is diabolically clever. It’s still not an enforceable trademark, however — registration, assignment or not.

UPDATE: Via (and according to) aTypical Joe, I have discovered my inner (trademark – protected) self! Read More…

Major League Baseball steals from customers

Originally posted 2007-11-07 22:14:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“If You Purchased MLB Game Downloads Before 2006, Your Discs/Files Are Now Useless; MLB Has Stolen Your $$$ And Claims “No Refunds”

Compelling blog post title, no?

So typical of the bloated steroid brains running that business. Yes, guys, you’ll always be able to do just whatever you want to fans, because your product is in unceasingly great demand. Just ask the record companies.

Billed hat tip to TechMeme.

An emphatic NO!

Originally posted 2009-10-05 14:36:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

JOOP!

Chatty Kathy:

German designer Wolfgang Joop’s bid to have a punctuation mark trademarked [sic] for his Joop! clothing and perfume company has been denied by European Union judges. Joop applied to register two versions of an exclamation point: the first is a simple exclamation and the other is inside a rectangular frame.

Can’t blame him for trying!

Say — maybe he can get a registration for WRITING IN ALL CAPS INSTEAD?!

Hershey keeps pushing it

Originally posted 2008-10-30 00:01:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

And as usual, Marty’s on top of it like chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream.

Hershey’s (Hershey’s’s?) pushing of the wrapper, foil and all, is one of our regular obsessions here.  You know, someone ought to do something about these guys…

Louisiana’s lawyers’ guild

Originally posted 2008-11-26 00:28:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Last year we screamed and shouted along with a bunch of other people and prevented New York from passing “ethics” rules that would have essentially shut down New York lawyers’ blogs by regulating them out of existence.  Unfortunately all the noise didn’t make it down to Louisiana, which did go ahead and pass a similar set of restrictions under the guise of “consumer protection” but which should be understood as an attempt by established bar-association types to keep the bogeyman of blog- and Internet-savvy lawyers away from their cozy courtroom concessions.

Now a Louisiana law firm is taking on the regulations and has filed suit in federal court. Look, here’s their press release — we’re allowed to copy that (but links added by LOC):

This morning, Wolfe Law Group, L.L.C. filed a suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s new rules governing lawyer advertising. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the enforcement of Louisiana’s new advertising rules, scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2009. The Louisiana advertising rules are some of the most aggressive in the nation, and Wolfe Law Group’s suit argues that the rules go too far and restrict an attorney’s right to freely speak about its trade.

Wolfe Law Group argues that the new rules effectively prevent a lawyer from advertising its services through online mediums, such as Google’s AdWords, as the rules also restrict an attorney’s ability to engage in discourse with colleagues, clients and the public through online bulletin boards, blogs, twitter, and other online communities and forums.

The law firm that practices in the area of construction law out of its offices in New Orleans, Louisiana and Seattle, Washington, is actively engaged in the Internet marketplace, posting daily on sites like wolfelaw.com, Twitter, Facebook, Avvo.com, and similar Web 2.0 services.

The suit argues that Louisiana’s new advertising rules would subject each of the firm’s posts to an “evaluation” by the Louisiana State Bar Association, with an evaluation fee of $175.00.

According to a letter sent to Wolfe Law Group’s colleagues and clients, “The new rules would stifle our firm’s ability to continue talking with you about the legal profession, the construction industry and the evolution of construction law across the nation.”

To continue commenting upon the progress of the action, the firm launched a blog titled “Blogging is Speaking,” at the Web address http://www.protectspeech.com.

Get that?  According to this, everything posted online by a Louisiana lawyer — and God help a Web 2.0-oriented shop such as Wolfe or, say, LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® — has to be run past a Louisiana oldlaw censor at $175 a pop!  Even assuming it isn’t bounced, that’s a lot of pops per pixel.  It’s prior restraint on the First Amendment axis, a restraint of trade (sorry, it’s a profession, but in economic terms a trade) on the antitrust axis, and just plain piggy on the obnoxious axis.

This effort by the Wolfe Law Group deserves the support of blogging and online-networking lawyers, their clients, their prospective clients… everyone who isn’t getting a cut of that $175 per, basically.

UPDATE:  Kevin O’Keefe thinks it’s a tempest in a teapot:  “Lawyers get paid to be creative”!  (Via Overlawyered.)

MORE:  Here’s the preliminary injunction amicus brief filed by Public Citizen.

Judge: “Go after your distributors, not free enterprise”

Originally posted 2007-11-27 14:59:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Quality KingJudges — especially in the Eastern District of New York — are picking up what’s going on in the “elite salons” end of the trademarks-as-distribution-method-enforcement scam.  Ever hear of Quality King?  Says Forbes:

Quality King Distributors has grown from a small shop in Queens, New York to a large distributor of pharmaceuticals and health and beauty care products. The company re-imports exported U.S.-branded over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and personal care products and sells them at deep discounts. Clients include drugstore and supermarket chains, grocery distributors, wholesale clubs and mass-merchant discounters. Glenn Nussdorf and his wife started Quality King in 1961, and the Nussdorf family still owns the company.

That can’t stand, can it?  Well, maybe it can:

A federal judge has blasted the L’oreal company, and former federal law enforcement officials it employs, for trying to bolster what he said was a very weak civil case by attempting to get former Justice Department colleagues to prosecute criminally a longtime business opponent. …

U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler in Central Islip recently ruled against Paris- and New York-based L’oreal in a 2004 civil lawsuit brought by the company against Ronkonkoma-based Quality King Distributors, a $3-billion-a-year distributor of hair-care and other products, as well as its spinoff company, N.J.-based Pro’s Choice. The suit was the most recent round of an ongoing 17-year legal battle between L’oreal and Quality King.

L’oreal sought in its suit the enforcement of a 1990 injunction that barred Quality King and Pro’s Choice from buying and reselling an upscale line of hair shampoos and conditioners, sold by L’oreal under the names Matrix and ARTec.

That should be good enough, right?  Well, not if Judge Wexler smells baloney: Read More…