On 29 November 2017, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) released its judgment in response to a reference from an Italian court relating to cloud recording and computing services provided by VCAST Limited (VCAST). The services enabled VCAST’s customers to select live broadcasts of television programmes that VCAST then remotely, through its own systems, recorded and made available in a cloud data storage space. The Italian court asked whether VCAST could provide this service without the permission from the owner of the copyright over the programme, with a specific query as to the application of the private copying exception provided in Article 5(2)(b) of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) (InfoSoc Directive).
Is this the right angle?
Is this the best filter?
Do I have the legal right to post this content?
While the first two questions may be at the forefront of the mind of social media users, the third is arguably as important as the pressure to push content to followers mounts in a saturated market. It is all too easy to download, screen-shot or take a photo of an image and share it across many platforms, however, taking a laissez-faire attitude to copyright ownership can land social media users in hot water.
Last week, Xposure Photos UK LTD, an “international celebrity photo agency”, filed proceedings against Ms Kardashian in the Central District Court of California alleging that she had infringed its copyright in an image that was posted to her Instagram® account. The image in question had originally been licensed to The Daily Mail and contained a copyright notice “© XPOSUREPHOTOS.COM”. The version of the image that appeared on Ms Kardashian’s account did not contain this notice nor any acknowledgement of Xposure Photos. The unauthorised removal of the copyright notice attracts 17 US Code § 1202 -1203 which provide the basis for a civil action for such conduct. In addition to seeking an injunction to prevent Ms Kardashian from using the image, Xposure Photos is also seeking US$25,000 in statutory damages as well as any profits resulting from the infringement.
While this is arguably small change for Ms Kardashian (who allegedly earns up to US$250,000 for a sponsored post on her social media sites), once legal costs and any time invested in litigation or negotiating a settlement is considered, it seems a hefty price to pay for failing to obtain an appropriate licence from the copyright owner. It is a timely reminder to social media users to ensure that they have the appropriate rights to the content they intend to use.
- Xposure Photos UK Ltd v Khloe Kardashian et al, 2:17-CV-3088 (C.D. Cal).
By: Jaimie Wolbers
In just a few weeks, Piaggio – the Italian company manufacturing iconic Vespa scooters – obtained a double victory before Italian courts both under the intellectual property and the copyright perspectives.
Yesterday, in a decision that will be welcomed by the fashion industry, the United States Supreme Court ruled that certain design elements of cheerleader uniforms may be eligible for copyright protection. Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc. The Court held that, “a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work—either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression—if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated.” Justice Clarence Thomas authored the 6-2 majority opinion, addressing disagreement among lower courts as to the proper test for determining if certain design elements could ever qualify for copyright protection.
This case involved lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes on cheerleader uniforms. In finding that these elements could be covered by copyright, the appeals court below had identified nine different approaches that various courts and the Copyright Office had employed over the years to address “separability.” The appeals court fashioned its own test and found that the design features of Varsity Brands’ cheerleader uniform played no role in the overall function of the article as a cheerleading uniform, and the elements were separable from the utilitarian aspects of the uniform and thus eligible for copyright protection.
The Supreme Court affirmed. Applying § 101 of the Copyright Act, the Court found that the decorations on the uniforms at issue could be identified as having pictorial, graphic, or sculptural qualities, and the arrangement of the decorations could be placed in another medium (e.g. placed on a painter’s canvas) without replicating the uniforms themselves. Thus, the two-dimensional work of art fixed in the uniform fabric met both the separate-identification and independent-existence requirements of the statute. Importantly, the Court held only that the uniform elements are eligible for protection in concept; now the trial court must determine whether Varsity Brands’ specific lines, chevrons, and shapes are original enough to merit copyright protection.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred in the result, pointing out that the Court did not have to discuss the separability test at all because the designs at issue were not themselves useful articles, but rather standalone, two-dimensional pictorial and graphic works reproduced on a useful article. Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissented, arguing that even under the majority’s test, the designs cannot be perceived as separate from the cheerleading uniform.
Thus, although the majority offers some clarity about the proper approach to separability, the dissent demonstrates that analysis may yield divergent results. The decision is likely to be embraced by fashion industry leaders and other garment design stakeholders for its recognition that certain garment design elements may be protectable under the Copyright Act. K&L Gates will continue to monitor litigation in this area and provide updates.
A link to the opinion can be found here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-866_0971.pdf
In a ruling on 1 September 2016, the EU General Court invalidated a ruling of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Board of Appeal in a case begun by a submission for the registration of a trademark showing an animal from the cat family leaping. The applicant was the Italian company Gemma Group Srl with its registered office in Cesarola Ausa. An objection was lodged by Puma SE with its registered office in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
The applicant submitted the following graphic mark for registration:
for machines for processing wood, aluminum, and PCV.
The plaintiff based its argumentation on two earlier international trademarks:
Those marks were registered for numerous types of goods in general use, including bags, clothing, accessories, footwear, toys, and sports equipment.
In addition, Puma SE raised the argument of the renown of its marks in all EU member states and for all goods covered by the registration. The objection was based mainly on the renown of those marks. In accordance with Article 8 paragraph 5 of Regulation No. 207/2009, a trademark similar to an earlier renowned mark is not registered if the unjustified use of that mark would result in undue benefits being reaped, or would harm the distinctiveness or renown of the earlier mark.
“Fashion has always been a repetition of ideas, but what makes it new is the way you put it together.” – Carolina Herrera
Welcome to the latest edition of Fashion Law, this edition touches on issues that demonstrate the impact of world events and technological changes on all businesses.
Fashion Law gives you the latest updates on legal issues affecting the fashion industry.
Please click here to read the Spring/Summer 2016 edition of Fashion Law.
Contact: Lisa Egan
On October 31, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a new rule instituting an electronic system for the designation of copyright agents, which is required to take advantage of the safe harbor from copyright infringement for online service providers under 17 U.S.C. § 512(c).  For purposes of § 512, any entity that provides an online service (such as a website, email service, discussion forum, or chat room) generally would qualify as an online service provider.  A copyright agent is typically the individual at the online service provider for which contact information is provided in order to receive the various notices provided under § 512.
Under the new system, which takes effect on December 1, 2016, all online service providers seeking safe harbor under § 512(c), including those that have previously designated an agent with the Copyright Office, are required to submit designations through the electronic system. Entities that previously designated a copyright agent via the paper system must submit a new designation through the electronic system by December 31, 2017. Failure to do so will negate the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability established by § 512(c). Designations also must be renewed at least once every three years. (The current paper-based system does not require renewal.) The fee for registration and subsequent renewal(s) is set at US$6 per designation.
A recent decision on copyright infringement in building designs
On 13 October, Justice Beach of the Federal Court of Australia delivered his judgment in the case of Henley Arch v Lucky Homes & Ors, a copyright infringement case in respect of a project home design.
Mr and Mrs Mistrys were customers who, in 2013, went part way through the sales process with Henley Arch (Henley) for it to build them a house in accordance with its “Amalfi” design. The Mistrys paid Henley a deposit and plans were drawn up to build the house on the block that the Mistrys were purchasing. The Mistrys signed a standard Henley document acknowledging that Henley owned copyright in the plans and that the Mistrys were not entitled to use these (other than by building with Henley). While the Mistrys had initially wanted Henley’s “Avenue” façade option, after they learned that this would increase the price by about AUD10,000 they reverted to the standard option for the facade.
The Mistrys did not sign a final contract with Henley and instead approached Lucky Homes with the Henley plan (which featured Henley’s title block and copyright notice). Lucky Homes agreed to build the home for the Mistrys with the “Avenue” façade they preferred for about AUD10,000 less than Henley’s price (that is, Henley’s price for the house with the standard façade). The Mistrys ultimately engaged Lucky Homes, and it engaged a draftsperson to create a plan for the Mistrys’ house from the Henley plan, with a number of minor changes.
According to the Italian court, an industrial design can enjoy copyright protection if it has an artistic value
According to the Italian court, an industrial design can enjoy copyright protection if it has an artistic value
In July, the Court of Milan issued an interesting decision that granted copyright protection to the famous après-ski boots “Moon Boots” on the basis that they have recognized artistic value. In fact, the court recognized that Moon Boots have a particular aesthetic appeal capable of deeply changing the concept of après-ski boots, so that they have become an actual icon of Italian design.
In this case, the producer of the famous après-ski boots sued the producer and the distributor of a similar type of boots, called “Anouk Boots”. They alleged they constituted copyright infringement, infringement of the registered community design as well as unfair competition and asked for applicable remedies and compensation.
According to the Court of Milan, such injunctions would be contrary to local procedural rules as well as to Italian and European fundamental principles of law
In July, a famous Italian broadcaster asked the Court of Milan to block access to a specific portal, in order to stop its unlawful communication to the public of football matches of major Italian teams and of the UEFA Champions League to which the broadcaster holds the exclusive broadcasting rights.