We recently discussed a new trend in celebrity copyright litigation on our YouTube channel and podcast (The Briefing on YouTube). Specifically, we discussed celebrities taking a stand and defending copyright claims brought by photographers against celebrities who reposted photos on their social media accounts. Two specific celebs who have taken a stand are
Josh Escovedo is an experienced trial attorney and Shareholder in Weintraub’s Litigation, Intellectual Property, and Real Estate practice groups. In addition to his general litigation practice, Josh assists clients with intellectual property litigation, as well as trademark and copyright clearance, registration, licensing, and enforcement. Josh has extensive experience dealing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the United States Copyright Office, and has successfully handled matters before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Josh discusses IP Law topics on the weekly video series The Briefing.
©2021. Published in Landslide, Vol. 13, No. 3, January/February 2021, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued numerous landmark decisions in 2020, among those—for trademark scholars and practitioners—Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc.1 The Court, with Justice Gorsuch delivering the majority opinion, held that a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a precondition to a profits award. But Justice Gorsuch’s opinion and Justice Alito’s and Justice Sotomayor’s concurrences were clear that mental state is still a highly important consideration in determining whether to award profits. To that end, even with the Romag decision clarifying that willfulness is not a precondition for a profits award in a trademark infringement suit, the lower courts are likely to still require plaintiffs to prove that defendants had high levels of culpability before awarding profits for trademark infringement. Practitioners should expect that juries will ﬁnd that defendants who knew of infringement or were reckless concerning the possibility of such conduct deserve to lose their profits.
Romag solidiﬁes the threat posed to companies that rely on third-party manufacturers. By allowing a profits award when infringement is perpetrated with a mental state less than willfulness, this decision incentivizes companies using Chinese and other foreign manufacturers to innovate in order to mitigate these risks, either by strengthening supply chain oversight or (more likely) by writing contracts to control the risk as much as possible. Considering the importance of Chinese manufacturing to global trade, the Chinese legal system and its evolving trademark enforcement system will likely cause companies to get creative.…
Continue Reading Meeting of the Minds: The Price of Recklessness: Disgorgement of Proﬁts in a Post-Romag World
The Supreme Court recently denied petitions for certiorari in two of the most highly watched intellectual property cases before the Court. Those cases were Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. VIP Products LLC and The Moodsters Company v. Walt Disney Company. Both cases were on petition from the Ninth Circuit and are summarized below for your convenience.
I. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC
In Jack Daniel’s Properties, Jack Daniel’s sued the maker of a dog toy, known as the Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker, that was comedically modeled after the Jack Daniel’s Old. No. 7 bottle. The toy was a clear parody, but Jack Daniel’s alleged that the toy infringed its intellectual-property rights. VIP Products argued that their use wasn’t infringement because the toy was an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection under Rogers v. Grimaldi. The district court rejected the argument and found VIP Products had infringed Jack Daniel’s trademark/trade dress.…
Continue Reading Supreme Court Update: SCOTUS Denies Review of Two Highly Watched IP Cases
Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari following an unfavorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit in the matter of VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. In that case, VIP Products sued Jack Daniel’s after receiving a cease-and-desist letter concerning its Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker dog toy. The toy is intentionally similar to the famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey bottle, but is clearly intended to be a joke.
Instead of saying Jack Daniels, the bottle says Bad Spaniels and includes a cartoonish cocker spaniel. Below that, where the Jack Daniel’s bottle usually says “Old No. 7,” the toy says “The Old No. 2” above “on your Tennessee Carpet” where the real bottle says Tennessee Whiskey. The squeaky toy is clearly intended as joke for dog owners, and I don’t believe it would confuse consumers into believing the product is actually associated with Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s apparently felt differently.
The district court agreed with Jack Daniel’s. While ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the Rogers test, which is used to balance the interests between trademark law and the First Amendment, was inapplicable because the toy is not an expressive work. Later, after a four-day bench trial, the District Court ruled against VIP Products and found it had infringed Jack Daniel’s IP.…
Continue Reading Dogs, Whiskey, and Intellectual Property: Need I Say More?