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Scott Hervey is a corporate and intellectual property attorney at Weintraub Tobin who works with companies in a variety of different industries. His clients include wineries, restaurants, technology companies, and entertainment/new media ventures. Scott has led his clients through hundreds of matters involving complex acquisitions, licensing, financings, and other transactions. He also assists clients in protecting their valuable brands through trademark infringement litigation, domain name infringement arbitration, and proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Trademark Trial and Appeals Board. He discusses IP Law topics on the weekly video series The Briefing.

While Shakespeare may have wondered “what is in a name?”, the executives at Peloton believe that the trademark SPIN is of great importance. Last month (February, 2021), Peloton filed petitions to cancel the trademarks SPIN and SPINNING for physical fitness instruction and for stationary exercise bicycles on the grounds that the marks are generic. Mad Dogg Athletics, located in Venice, CA, is the owner of the trademarks SPIN and SPINNING. Mad Dogg registered SPIN on the principal register in 1998 and SPINNING in 1993. In its petition, Peloton asserted that Spin classes and spin bikes are part of the fitness lexicon and that Mad Dogg’s trademarks for SPIN and SPINNING have become generic. Peloton cited to Internet evidence, including memes, to support its argument that the terms SPIN and SPINNING have become generic.

It is a serious issue for a trademark owner if their trademark becomes generic.  Generic terms are terms that the relevant purchasing public understands primarily as the common or class name for the goods or services. Put in common parlance, if the general public primarily understands the word to designate the product rather than the producer, the word is generic. Generic terms are incapable of functioning as registrable trademarks denoting source, and are not registrable on the Supplemental Register or on the Principal Register after having acquired secondary meaning.

There is a two-part test used to determine whether a designation is generic: (1) What is the class of goods or services at issue? and (2) Does the relevant public understand the designation primarily to refer to that class of goods or services? The test turns upon the primary significance that the term would have to the relevant public.
Continue Reading SPIN Trademark Has Peloton Wrapped Around the Axel

With the proliferation of social media and the ready access to images on the Internet and on any number of platforms, it’s just so easy to copy an image or video that moves you and post it on your social media accounts.  Easy to imagine how this can happen.  However, it’s important to remember that just because an image is posted on the internet or on a social platform doesn’t mean one can copy it and post it as your own.  Over the past two years, Justin Bieber, Emily Ratajkowski, Katy Perry, Gigi Hadid, Khloe Kardashian, LeBron James, Deshaun Watson and others have found themselves being named in lawsuits for copyright infringement arising out of just that; posting a photo of themselves on their social media accounts where the photo was taken by someone else.  While the majority of these cases settle, a few celebrities have decided to fight back.

In 2019 model and actress Emily Ratajkowski was sued over one of her Instagram stories featuring a photo of her that was taken by a paparazzi.  The photo showed her holding a vase of flowers covering her face while she was walking in NYC.  In October 2019, she filed a motion for summary judgement, attacking the plaintiff and his counsel, Richard Liebowitz, claiming that they “have brought this case in bad faith, attempting to turn a critical internet post that was available for only 24 hours into an unsubstantiated payday”, and raising a potentially viable defense – fair use.
Continue Reading Copyright Risks of Posting a “Non-Selfie”

In the past few years there has been a number of libel claims based on an unfavorable portrayal of a real person in either a television program or motion picture that is based on real life events.  To name a few, there is the currently pending Mossack Fonseca & Co., S.A. et al v. Netflix Inc., which is based on the streamer’s portrayal of Panamanian lawyers in the feature The Laundromat which was about the “Panama Papers” leaked documents scandal, and there is also the currently pending  Fairstein v. Netflix, Ava Duvernay and Attica Lock involving a defamation claim over the portrayal of Linda Fairstein, a former NYC prosecutor, in the Netflix series, When They See Us which was about the trial of the Central Park Five.  There was also the now resolved Green v. Paramount Pictures that was discussed in a previous article, and there was the false light claim made in Olivia De Havilland v. FX Networks LLC over De Havilland’s portrayal in the FX docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan.

These cases are primarily based on a claim of defamation, usually liable which is a written defamation.  In California, libel is defined by Civil Code Section 45 as “a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.”  In most states, libel is defined similarly.  In order to establish libel, a plaintiff will have to establish: that the statements were defamatory; that the statements were published to third parties; that the statements were false; and that it was reasonably understood by the third parties that the statements were about the plaintiff.
Continue Reading “Inspired By” Characters in Movies and TV – Defamation Lawsuit As a Spinoff

In this episode of The Briefing by the IP Law Blog, Weintraub Tobin attorneys Scott Hervey and Josh Escovedo discuss copyright litigation around the “Jersey Boys” — a musical and movie about The Four Seasons– involving an unpublished biography by one of the band members.

The Intellectual Property Law Blog provides insight in connection