Photo of James Kachmar

James is a shareholder in Weintraub Tobin’s litigation section.  He represents corporate and individual clients in both state and federal courts in various business litigation matters, including trade secret misappropriation, unfair business competition, stockholder disputes, and intellectual property disputes.

(This article was republished with permission by ABA Business Law Today on 6/2/2020, available here.)

Certain literary or graphic characters may, in some cases, enjoy copyright protection. Think James Bond – or Batman and even his Batmobile.  Recently, the Ninth Circuit was called upon to determine whether the Moodsters, “anthropomorphized characters representing human emotions,” are subject to the same copyright protection as Batman.  Sadly, the Ninth Circuit concluded they do not.

The Moodsters were created by an expert on children’s emotional intelligence and development, Denise Daniels. She created the Moodsters to “help children cope with strong emotions like loss and trauma.”  In 2005, Ms. Daniels and her team released an initial product called The Moodsters Bible.  The Moodsters Bible told the story of five characters who were “color-coded anthropomorphic emotions” that represented a different emotion: pink–love, yellow-happiness, blue-sadness, red-anger and green-fear. Two years later, Ms. Daniels and her team released a 30-minute television pilot featuring the Moodsters called, “The Amoodsment Mixup.”  In 2015, Ms. Daniels and her team had developed a line of toys and books featuring the Moodsters that were sold at Target and other retailers.
Continue Reading Inside Out: The Ninth Circuit Holds The Moodsters are No Batman

Burbank High School runs a music program that reportedly provided the inspiration for the hit TV show, Glee. It is nationally known for the competitive show choirs its students participate in as part of the program. To defray the costs of fielding several choirs, a non-profit booster club was formed to help fundraise for the music education program. The booster club puts on a couple of annual fundraising shows, Burbank Blast and Pop, which include both the Burbank High School choirs as well as a number of other competitive choirs. The choirs’ music director serves as the liaison between the school’s choirs and the booster club.

The music director hired an arranger to create custom sheet music for two shows to be performed at the fundraisers: Rainmaker and 80’s Movie Montage. In creating these performances, the arranger used snippets from the following songs: Magic (originally performed by Olivia Newton John) and (I’ve Had the) Time of My Life (by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes) as well as Hotel California and Don’t Phunk with my Heart. After several performances, Tresona Multimedia, LLC, sued the music director, the booster club and parent-members of the booster club for copyright infringement. Tresona Multimedia alleged that it owned the copyrights to the above songs and that its copyright interests were infringed upon because no licenses were obtained to allow the use of the above songs in the performances.
Continue Reading Burbank High School Jumps with Glee over Copyright Victory

Is the privately-owned YouTube site really a “state actor” subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment? That’s the claim made in a lawsuit by Prager University, which is not really a university. The Ninth Circuit was recently called upon to address PragerU’s claim that the widely popular internet site operated by a private entity should be treated as a “state actor” subject to the First Amendment.  Unsurprisingly, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed well-established case authority to hold that the First Amendment’s protections apply only as to protect against governmental action, not to private companies such as YouTube.

PragerU claims that its mission is purportedly “to ‘provide conservative view points and perspective on public issues that it believes are often overlooked.’”  PragerU creates videos that target younger audiences and has posted hundreds of videos on YouTube.
Continue Reading YouTube and the First Amendment

In February 1996, faced with increasing public concern about the availability of pornography on the internet, as well as recent court decisions that seem to deter efforts to filter out such content, Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”).  As part of the CDA, Congress granted immunity to internet service providers from liability for actions they took to help users block online content that a user found to be offensive or objectionable.  Congress further declared its goals in enacting the CDA, and its immunity provision, were “to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control;” “to empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online content;” and “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the internet and other interactive computer services.”  In 2009, the Ninth Circuit decided the case, Zango, Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc., 568 F.3d 1169, which held that the immunity provisions of the CDA applied to computer software developers whose programs were intended to help users filter out or block objectionable material.  It is against the backdrop of the history of the CDA and its decision in the Zango case that the Ninth Circuit was called upon to explore the limits of the immunity provided by the CDA in the case, Enigma Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc., decided December 31, 2019.  In essence, the Ninth Circuit was called upon to determine whether the immunity provisions of the CDA, specifically section 230(c)(2), immunizes a software company whose blocking and filtering decisions are driven “by anti-competitive animus,” i.e., to deter users from accessing or using a competitor’s software products.
Continue Reading Is Your Competitor Objectionable? The Scope of Immunity Under the Communications Decency Act

One of the most common forms of relief sought in trade secret litigation is an injunction preventing the defendants from using or disclosing the plaintiff’s trade secret information.  Although temporary restraining orders and/or preliminary injunctions may be obtained that are in place during the lawsuit, a permanent injunction is entered after trial and typically has no set time period for expiration.  There are various statutes that allow a defendant to seek to modify or dissolve a trade secret injunction at a later date, including a showing that the information that is the subject of the injunction is no longer entitled to trade secret protection.  The recent decision in Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le (Cal. 6th App. Dist.) helps illustrate the high hurdle a defendant must clear in order to obtain such relief.
Continue Reading Challenging a Trade Secret Injunction? Better Come Loaded For Bear