In time for Sunday’s “Big Game,” NFL Properties LLC, New England Patriots LLC, and Philadelphia Eagles LLC have filed suit in federal court in Minneapolis seeking to obtain a restraining order forbidding professional counterfeiters from selling merchandise bearing protected trademarks. Such an order would permit law enforcement to seize any and all counterfeit goods. A trademark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination thereof, used or intended to be used to identify or distinguish the goods or services of the owner from those of others. The NFL not only owns the rights to the term “Super Bowl” but also to “Super Sunday” and other “Super” phrases. Similarly, Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount has trademarked “Blount Force Trauma” and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has the rights to the word “Gronk.” Trademark infringement occurs when a likelihood of confusion exists, that is, when a consumer is likely to be confused or deceived as to the source of the goods or services provided by alleged infringers. Named defendants include primarily large-scale counterfeiting companies that do not hold a license to market and sell such products. The NFL does allow some 180 companies to officially use trademarks and logos on clothing and other products. One may obtain a license to use such marks and logos by simply submitting a 36 page application along with an agreement to pay royalties starting in the six figure per year range. Instead, many companies have avoided the issue entirely by using alternative phrases such as “Big Game” and “Birds” in place of official NFL marks, “Super Bowl” and “Philadelphia Eagles.” #omnilegalgroup #trademark #NFL #SuperBowl #Patriots #Eagles
Google and China’s biggest tech firm, Tencent, recently entered into a long-term patent cross-licensing agreement covering “a broad range of products and technologies.” Tencent is valued at over $500 billion and oversees WeChat as well as China’s largest gaming and livestream platforms. The tech giant also has investments in Snapchat, Tesla, and Spotify. While the two companies have not broadly publicized what particular patents or technologies are covered by this agreement, these contracts typically allow the parties to freely exploit the subject matter claimed in the named patents. This further allows these companies to avoid litigation over patent infringement. Although Google has entered into similar deals previously with Samsung and LG of South Korea, this is its first such deal in China. This is amidst news that Google recently opened an artificial intelligence center in China and invested in Chushou, a Chinese online e-sports platform, suggesting the US tech company is trying to strengthen its foothold in China. To date, Google’s classic search engine is completely blocked in China following conflicts with authorities over censorship back in 2010. Nonetheless, Google’s head of patents emphasized how this agreement will allow the two companies to “focus on building better products and services for their users.” #omnilegalgroup #patent #Google #Tencent
The U.S. Department of Army recently filed a notice of opposition to bar the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ registration of their name in connection with entertainment services and professional ice hockey exhibitions. The Army argues a likelihood of confusion exists as the public may confuse the Army’s Golden Knights as endorsing, sponsoring, or otherwise controlling the quality and nature of the services offered by the NHL team. The Army stresses that its Parachute Team has performed in over 16,000 shows over the last 55 years and that during this time, it has been known as the “Golden Knights” and has employed a color scheme similar to that now used by the Las Vegas team. In contrast to the Army’s lengthy use of the term, the hockey team adopted the name only 14 months ago. Bill Foley, the principal owner of the Golden Knights, is a West Point graduate. Indeed, the team’s manager admitted that the color scheme of black, gold, yellow, and white was intentionally selected for its similarity to that used by the Army at West Point. Nonetheless, the team issued a public statement that they have not received any complaints from game attendees “expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey team.” A panel of three Trademark Trial and Appeal Board administrative judges will evaluate the respective arguments and determine whether the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be granted registration. #omnilegalgroup #trademark #goldenknights
Los Angeles-based company, Wixen Music Publishing, recently sued Spotify for copyright infringement. Wixen handles copyright management and royalty compliance for artists such as Tom Petty, Neil Young, Missy Elliott, Stevie Nicks, the Doors, and Steely Dan. Seeking $1.6 billion in damages and a ruling preventing Spotify from playing these songs until properly negotiated with the rights holders, the publishing company alleges the music streaming giant provided tens of thousands of songs to its users without proper licenses or compensation. In particular, Spotify failed to obtain a license from Wixen that would permit it to reproduce and distribute the songs. U.S. copyright law provides two separate copyrights for every recorded song: one for the musical composition (the words and musical notation) and one for the actual sound recording. In some instances, Spotify took the easy route by obtaining only the sound recording copyrights in the songs but failed to obtain equivalent rights for the accompanying compositions. This case is not a first for Spotify as only last year, it settled multiple other lawsuits under very similar facts. Nonetheless, Spotify maintains it is not always able to determine the identity of the rights holders. Ultimately, Wixen’s complaint contends, Spotify has developed into a multibillion dollar company built “on the backs of songwriters and publishers” and these parties have been wrongfully denied their fair share in Spotify’s success. #omnilegalgroup #copyright #Spotify
Prominent tattoo artist, James Hayden, recently filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the creators of the video game series “NBA 2K” for reproducing his copyrighted tattoo works on the digital versions of famous basketball players without his permission. Specifically, the complaint alleges copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act against 2K Games Inc. Hayden further claims the defendants’ reproduction of his copyrighted works is so detailed that the “NBA 2K17” version includes a “MyPlayer” feature allowing users to move, scale, rotate, and place over 3,000 customizable tattoos. Thus, Hayden’s copyrighted tattoo works are reproduced each time the game is played.
Hayden’s client roster includes superstars such as LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Danny Green, Tristan Thompson, and Kyrie Irving. The complaint provides by way of example several of the designs he has created for famous clients. For instance, many fans of LeBron James are clearly able to recognize his classic tattoos including “Gloria” and “Lion Design” appearing on his right shoulder and the stars on his left shoulder. Danny Green’s tattoo of a basketball player emerging from flames beneath the words “I Hold My Own” is another example. Further, Tristan Thompson’s replica of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” readable beneath the words “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” is yet another iconic work visible in the game.
There is minimal case law involving tattoos and copyright law. At a minimum, however, tattoos are protectable works of art under U.S. copyright law. As such, artists presumably own the copyright to any original work created by that artist. A tattoo artist thereby has the exclusive right to control the reproduction, distribution, and public display of its copyrighted work.