With live events cancelled during the pandemic, content creators are increasingly dependent on merchandise sales.  Creators from podcasters to YouTubers to musicians are reliant on merch to bolster their revenue and their brands.  Subscribers stuck at home are watching more video and listening to more podcasts and music.  Apart from advertising and sponsorships, merch is the only way for creators to monetize their increased profile during the pandemic.

However, 2020 has seen an explosion of counterfeit products including branded merchandise by content creators.  An analysis from the New York Times in February 2020 found that the sale of counterfeit items represents more than 3 percent of global trade, corresponding to $1.4 billion in value in the U.S. alone.  Reviews on Amazon containing words like “fake” and “counterfeit” have doubled since 2015.
Continue Reading Trademark Protection for Your Brand Merchandise in the Age of Copycats, Counterfeits, and Fakes

Patents covering software for use in the financial industryAudrey-Millemann-03_web are increasingly being invalidated by the courts. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014), district courts are holding these patents invalid on the grounds that they are unpatentable abstract ideas, and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals is affirming the district courts’ decisions.

Patents may cover one of four statutory categories of inventions: (1) machines; (2) articles of manufacture; (3) processes; and (4) compositions of matter. 35.U.S.C. §101. These types of inventions are called “patent-eligible subject matter.” The longstanding exceptions to these four categories are: natural phenomena, laws of nature, and abstract ideas. These types of inventions are called “patent-ineligible subject matter.”

In Alice Corp., the Supreme Court established a two-part test to determine the patentability of claims directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. The first step is to decide whether the claims in the patent are directed to patent ineligible subject matter, such as an abstract idea. If so, the second step is to determine whether the elements of the claim transform the abstract idea into a patent-eligible application.

Two recent cases illustrate the trend. In both cases, the claims covered software for use in the financial industry, as was true of the claims invalidated in Alice Corp.


Continue Reading Federal Circuit Continues to Nix Financial Patents

In a sensible decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Amazon.com Inc. is not vicariously liable for copyright infringement based upon the conduct of its Associates who use copyrighted photos without permission on their linked websites.

This decision is particularly important because there are an increasing number of “copyright trolls” patrolling various Internet websites. These trolls, sometimes using computerized software to locate allegedly protected images, engage in “hit and run” litigation whereby they identify an alleged act of infringement and then seek a nominal — but still significant  — sum (usually less than $5,000) to instantly settle the case. They even go so far as putting in credit card payment information in their “dunning letters.” Intent is not a factor. The trolls well know that establishing a fair use defense is probably more costly than simply settling the case. An entire industry is now being built on these kinds of spurious lawsuits, where a few years ago a polite takedown notice would have been all that was required.
Continue Reading Vicarious Liability Under the Lanham Act: The Amazon Affiliate Case