A “Sharknado” Clears Woody Ellen Film of Copyright Infringement.

 Sharknado, the Syfy television movie that took Twitter by storm earlier this month, has even made its way into a federal court opinion. A federal judge referenced the disaster movie in a copyright infringement case involving Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris.

“The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, ‘Midnight in Paris,’ read the book, ‘Requiem for a Nun,’ and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare ‘The Sound and the Fury’ with ‘Sharknado,'” the opinion states.

The copyright infringement lawsuit against Sony Pictures involved a single line taken from a William Faulkner novel. Owen Wilson’s character says, “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner, and he was right. I met him too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

While the movie line closely resembles a line from Faulkner’s novel, Requiem for a Nun, Judge Michael P. Mills held that the doctrine of fair use applied. “At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement,” Mills wrote. “In this case, it cannot.”

As the judge further explained, “The copyrighted work is a serious piece of literature lifted for use in a speaking part in a movie comedy, as opposed to a printed portion of a novel printed in a newspaper, or a song’s melody sampled in another song. This transmogrification in medium tips this factor in favor of transformative, and thus, fair use.”

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

New Report Finds NPEs Filed Majority of Patent Cases in 2012

Patent infringement litigation by non-practicing entitles (NPEs), also referred to as “patent trolls,” continues to rise dramatically.

In fact, NPEs filed 56 percent of all patent suits, according to a new report by Lex Machina Inc. and the University of California Hastings College of the Law. By comparison, patent trolls filed only 24 percent of patent infringement litigation in 2007.

The new study expanded on the group’s prior research regarding what it calls “patent monetization entities.” The latest report examined 13,000 cases from 2007-2008 and 2011-2012.

Below are several noteworthy findings detailed in the report:

• The number of defendants sued by NPEs decreased slightly from 2011 to 2012, which “may suggest that changes in the joinder rules from the America Invents Act had at least some initial success in pushing patent monetization entities not to cast the net so broadly.”

• Of the parties who filed the greatest number of patent litigations in the years studied, 9 out of 10 are patent monetization entities and only one is an operating company.

• Mechanisms for notifying the public when patents have been asserted in litigation are woefully inadequate. Despite federal requirements, the system was not operative for more than two-thirds of the patents asserted, which “puts small companies at a disadvantage because they cannot easily tell if a patent has been asserted and what territory is being claimed by the patent holder.”

• The newest patents issued are the most frequently asserted in litigation, which “could be an indication that parties are increasingly filing for patents for the primary purpose of assertion.”

This latest report provides new insight into a growing patent trend. NPEs have been a hot topic recently, prompting attention from Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and even the President.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Facebook Trademark Dispute Over “Timelines” Headed to Trial.

A trademark lawsuit over Facebook Inc.’s “timeline” feature is likely headed to trial. The social company media company faces infringement and unfair competition claims filed by Timelines Inc., which hold the trademark registration for “Timelines” and “Timelines.com.”

Timelines, Inc. filed the trademark infringement suit shortly after Facebook unveiled the new feature in 2011. Its website allows users to record and share historic events. Meanwhile, the Facebook feature with the same name allows users to organize their milestones shared on the site chronologically.

Facebook subsequently attempted to quash the suit by seeking cancellation of Timelines’ registered marks. “The term ‘timelines’ is merely descriptive of, or generic for, the services offered by plaintiff and thus plaintiff’s trademark registrations are unenforceable and subject to cancellation,” Facebook argued.

“Given the generic or at least merely descriptive nature of the term ‘timeline’ when used to identify chronologies of events and related information (or tools for their creation), as well as the prior and widespread use of the term by third parties, counterdefendant does not own exclusive rights in the term ‘timelines,'” the counterclaim further alleged.

However, a federal judge recently refused to dismiss the lawsuit and ordered it to trial later this month. Facebook “has failed to demonstrate, as a matter of law, that the marks are generic,” U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah wrote. “At this stage in the proceedings, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as to this group of users, ‘timeline(s)’ has acquired a specific meaning associated with plaintiff.”

I will continue to follow the case and provide updates as they become available.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Small copyright disputes and how to resolve them.

The Copyright Act protects a wide variety of works of authorship, from individual articles or photographs that may not have a high commercial value to motion pictures worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the marketplace.

Copyright owners can file lawsuits under the copyright law for unauthorized use of the owner’s work.

However, not all copyright owners have the same resources for bringing a lawsuit, which usually requires substantial time, money, and effort.

Sometimes a copyright owner may want to stop a small infringement that has caused a relatively small amount of economic damage.  The owner might not file a lawsuit because of  a modest recovery versus the potentially large expense of litigation.

In some cases under the copyright act, owners can receive statutory damages and attorney’s fees, but these amount may not be recovered until after the copyright owner has engaged in a long court battle at a significant cost.

So Congress has asked the Copyright Office to study the current system for a means to resolve small copyright claim disputes, as well as possible alternative systems.

To conduct this study, the Office has undertaken a variety of activities to learn more about small copyright claims issues. The Office has published three Notices of Inquiry requesting public comments on the challenges faced under the current system as well as possible alternatives to the current legal system.

If you would like to add your voice to the study, you can enter your comments here.

How Can I Help?

Copyrights can be a source of great income, or great liability.  If you have a work that needs protection, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

Cooperation to avoid litigation.

Rosetta Stone Inc. and Google Inc. have announced plans to dismiss a three-year old trademark infringement lawsuit over Google’s AdWords system. The two companies  now plan to work together to fight trademark abuse online.

Rosetta Stone filed suit in 2009, alleging that Google allowed its competitors to market copycat software when Rosetta’s trademarks were used as search terms in Google’s AdWords system. “Google’s search engine is helping third parties to mislead consumers and misappropriate the Rosetta Stone marks by using them as ‘keyword’ triggers for paid advertisements and by using them within the text or title of paid advertisements,” Rosetta Stone alleged.

As the Associated Press reports, the lawsuit was dismissed in 2010. However, it was scheduled to resume this year after an appeals court ruled that some of the claims should go to trial.

In a statement, Rosetta Stone and Google pledged to “meaningfully collaborate to combat online ads for counterfeit goods and prevent the misuse and abuse of trademarks on the Internet.”

“By working together, Google and Rosetta Stone hope to improve detection methods, and better protect from abuse brands like Rosetta Stone, advertising platforms like Google AdWords, and ultimately consumers on the Internet,” they continued. “At the end of the day, both companies would rather cooperate than litigate, and we believe this agreement is an important step toward eliminating piracy and trademark abuse on the Internet.”

In this case, it appears that Google and Rosetta Stone have decided that it may be more cost-effective to pool their resources against a common enemy as opposed to the time and expense of trial. However, it is likely that this was just one of the factors taken into consideration when settling the lawsuit, as other terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

How Can I Help?

If you need help to protect a brand, file a trademark application, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

A haunting case.

It’s a little early for Halloween, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a trademark lawsuit last year about the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

The house belonged to Sarah Winchester, the widow of famous gun maker William Winchester. According to the story, Sarah was told by a medium that the family was being haunted by those killed by Winchester rifles. The medium instructed Sarah that the only way to keep her family safe was to move West and build a house for the ghosts.

So long as construction on the house continued, Sarah and her family would be safe, according to the medium. Construction continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years, only ending when Sarah died in 1922. At her death, the mansion contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.

Given the backstory, it is not surprising that the mansion is now owned by Winchester Mystery House, LLC and serves as a tourist attraction. The company filed a trademark infringement lawsuit after Global Asylum, Inc. released a direct to DVD film called Haunting of Winchester House without a license to use the mark and the story.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently confirmed that the film company was protected under the First Amendment, relying heavily on the precedent established in Rogers v. Grimaldi. The first prong of the Rogers test requires only that the title pass “the appropriately low threshold of minimal artistic relevance” to the content of the film. In this case, the court found that both the title “Haunting of Winchester House” and the Victorian-style mansion on the DVD cover have some artistic relevance to the underlying work. In its opinion, the court noted that “caretakers move into the house built by Sarah Winchester, and her ghost and the ghosts of those killed by Winchester weapons are characters in the film.”

With regard to the second prong of the Rogers test, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the title and the cover of the DVD do not “explicitly mislead as to the source or content of the work.” As the court highlighted, “There is no suggestion that the film was authorized, endorsed, or produced by plaintiff. The cover art to the film does not contain the phrase ‘Winchester Mystery House’ or ‘Winchester Mystery House, LLC.’”

How Can I Help?

If you need help to protect a brand, file a trademark application, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman