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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.

The facts in Mango v. BuzzFeed are fairly straight forward. Mango is a freelance photographer who licensed a photograph to the New York Post.  The Post included the photo in a story and below the photo included Mango’s name – an attribution known in the publishing industry as a “gutter credit”.  Three months after the story was published by the Post, BuzzFeed published a related story and included Mango’s photo.  BuzzFeed did not get permission from Mango to use the photo.  Further, BuzzFeed removed Mango’s name from the gutter credit.  Mango sued for copyright infringement and for removal or alteration of copyright management information under the DMCA.  Prior to trial BuzzFeed stipulated to liability on the copyright infringement claim, leaving Mango’s DMCA claim as the sole issue for the District Court
Continue Reading Second Circuit Frames Novel Issue of Photographer’s Claim of Copyright Infringement and DMCA Violation

The motion picture Wolf of Wall Street was based on a book of the same title written by Jordan Belmont.  In the book, Andrew Greene, who was director, general counsel, and head of the corporate finance department at Stratton Oakmont between 1993 and 1996, was discussed extensively.  In the book, Greene is referred to by his nickname “Wigwam” (a reference to his toupee) and described as engaging in criminal conduct.  In the motion picture, Wolf of Wall Street a minor character named Nicky Koskoff, who wears a toupee and went by the nickname “Rugrat” is depicted as engaging in unsavory and illegal behavior.  This includes engaging in adulterous/sexual acts at work and participating in criminal money laundering schemes orchestrated by one of the founders of Stratton Oakmont, Jordan Belmont (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).  Greene sued Paramount Pictures and the film’s producers on the grounds that the Koskoff character presented a defaming portrayal of himself.
Continue Reading The “Wolf of Wall Street” Defamation Suit – The Risk of an “Inspired By” Character in Movies and TV

For some time there has been a split among the Federal circuits as to whether evidence of willfulness is required in order to award disgorgement of profits for trademark infringement under Section 1125(a) of the Lanham Act.  The split stems from how each Federal circuit interprets Section 1117(a) of the Lanham Act which was amended in 1999.  The section reads as follows:

When a violation of any right of the registrant of a mark registered in the Patent and Trademark Office, a violation under section 1125(a) or (d) of this title, or a willful violation under section 1125(c) of this title, shall have been established in any civil action arising under this chapter, the plaintiff shall be entitled . . . subject to the principles of equity, to recover (1) defendant’s profits . . .

A number of Federal Circuits, including the Second and the Ninth, have interpreted the above to require a showing of willfulness for disgorgement in Section 1125(a) cases.  Six Federal Circuits do not.  On April 23, 2020 the United States Supreme Court made clear where it stands.
Continue Reading Trademark Infringers Beware – Willfulness Not Required for Disgorgement

Call me a pessimist, but it was surprising to me when I recently checked the USPTO trademark database that I did not find an application to register “Social Distancing” for some other novelty item.  (It is also surprising that the tag #socialdistancing has only 159,000 uses on Instagram.) Nevertheless, I am sure some entrepreneurs will use it on a t-shirt or coffee mug, file a trademark application for “Social Distancing” and then try to prohibit others from using the term.  Chances are, however, that this entrepreneur will not be successful.

The trademark examiner assigned to an application to register SOCIAL DISTANCING will likely refuse registration because it fails to function as a trademark because it merely conveys an informational message. Where a term is merely informational, the context of its use in the marketplace would cause consumers to perceive the term as merely conveying an informational message, and not a means to identify and distinguish goods/services from those of others.
Continue Reading Stay Away; No Trademark for Social Distancing and other Informational Terms