Category: Court Decisions

1
“Lettuce Turnip the Beet” Pun on T-Shirts Not Trademark Use, Ninth Circuit Affirms
2
Battle of the ballet shoes: UK court finds infringement of registered community design
3
Battle of the Bentleys: Bentley Motors loses trade mark appeal against Bentley Clothing
4
Can’t “Shake It Off” Yet: Court Denies Taylor Swift’s Motion to Dismiss Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
5
PTAB’s Motion to Amend Patentability Powers
6
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Booking.com to Trademark Its Domain Name
7
U.S. Supreme Court rules Georgia’s official annotated code outside the scope of copyright protection under “government edicts” doctrine
8
Photographer Unsuccessful in Copyright Case Over Use of Embedded Instagram Photo
9
Henley Arch obtains significant damages award in copyright claim against home owner
10
U.S. Supreme Court Holds Copyright Remedy Classification Act of 1990 Does Not Abrogate State Sovereign Immunity for Copyright Infringement: Allen v. Cooper

“Lettuce Turnip the Beet” Pun on T-Shirts Not Trademark Use, Ninth Circuit Affirms

The owner of the trademark “LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET” cannot prevent third parties from printing the mere phrase on t-shirts, tote bags, or other products. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed on January 20, 2021 that consumers are likely to purchase such products because they find the phrase aesthetically pleasing and not because they associate the phrase with any particular source. LTTB LLC v. Redbubble, Inc., 19-16464 (9th Cir. 2021).

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Battle of the ballet shoes: UK court finds infringement of registered community design

The UK IP Enterprise Court has ruled that an Austrian shoe company infringed a registered community design (“RCD”) held by a US based sustainable fashion brand although there was no infringement of the corresponding unregistered community design (“UCD”). The decision is a relatively rare example of a UK, or EU, based Court analyzing fashion items and addressing design novelty issues between 2017 and now. A full copy of the decision can be found here.

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Battle of the Bentleys: Bentley Motors loses trade mark appeal against Bentley Clothing

Luxury car manufacturer Bentley Motors has lost its appeal against a ruling which found it infringed the trade marks of a small, family company called Bentley Clothing. A full copy of the decision can be found here.

Following the ruling, Bentley Motors must stop using the trade mark BENTLEY and their combination sign – the B-in-Wings logo and the word BENTLEY (shown below) – on clothing.

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Can’t “Shake It Off” Yet: Court Denies Taylor Swift’s Motion to Dismiss Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

On September 2, 2020, a California federal judge denied musician Taylor Swift’s motion to dismiss copyright infringement claims related to the lyrics in Swift’s hit song Shake It Off. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the district court held the merger doctrine did not apply at this stage and that plaintiffs Nathan Butler and Sean Hall sufficiently alleged a protectable sequence of creative expression and substantial similarity in the lyrics at issue. This ruling comes nearly three years after Hall and Butler originally filed suit, and nearly one year after the Ninth Circuit breathed new life into the case by reversing the district court’s prior dismissal of this lawsuit.

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PTAB’s Motion to Amend Patentability Powers

In a 2-1 split decision on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the Federal Circuit confirmed that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB“) had the authority to reject substitute claims under 35 U.S.C. §§ 101 and 112, statutory grounds not available to the PTAB for evaluating patentability of granted patent claims in inter partes review (“IPR“). (Uniloc 2017 LLC, v. Hulu, LLC et al., Case No. 2019-1686, slip op. at 3 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020).)

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Booking.com to Trademark Its Domain Name

On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., 591 U.S. ___ (2020) that “Booking.com” is eligible for trademark registration because consumers do not perceive “Booking.com” as a generic name.[1] The 8-1 decision written by Justice Ginsburg rejected the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s argument that when a generic term is combined with a generic Internet-domain-name suffix like “.com,” the resulting combination is necessarily generic, noting that such an unyielding legal rule that entirely disregards consumer perception is incompatible with the Lanham Act.

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U.S. Supreme Court rules Georgia’s official annotated code outside the scope of copyright protection under “government edicts” doctrine

On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts that copyright protection does not extend to the annotations in Georgia’s official annotated code. In the case, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc. (No. 18-1150), the majority held that because “Georgia’s annotations are authored by an arm of the legislature in the course of its legislative duties, the government edicts doctrine puts them outside the reach of copyright protection” even though the annotations themselves do not have the force of law.[1]

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Photographer Unsuccessful in Copyright Case Over Use of Embedded Instagram Photo

User beware – you will be held to a social media platform’s terms of use. Most people are aware by using a social media platform that they give up some rights to the content that they share. What rights and to what extent depends on the platform and the specific terms of use.

A district court in the recent Sinclair case found no copyright infringement by the website Mashable, where it used one of photographer Sinclair’s Instagram photos in an article, even after an unsuccessful attempt to license the photo directly from Sinclair. Sinclair v. Ziff Davis, LLC, and Mashable, Inc., No. 1:18-CV-00790 (S.D.N.Y. April 13, 2020).

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Henley Arch obtains significant damages award in copyright claim against home owner

Late last year, Judge Baird of the Australian Federal Circuit Court handed down a decision in the case of Henley Arch v Del Monaco, a copyright infringement matter in respect of a project home design.

The claim was brought by well-known Australian builder Henley Arch, who readers might also recall from the 2016 decision in Henley Arch v Lucky Homes. The respondent in this case, Dorian Del Monaco, was an individual who owned a property in Pakenham (Melbourne), Victoria.

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U.S. Supreme Court Holds Copyright Remedy Classification Act of 1990 Does Not Abrogate State Sovereign Immunity for Copyright Infringement: Allen v. Cooper

On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”) does not abrogate the states’ sovereign immunity from copyright infringement suits.[1]  The practical effect of this ruling is that copyright holders cannot sue the states for damages for copyright infringement.[2] 

Allen was decided in reliance on and accordance with Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, a 1999 case in which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional the Patent Remedy Act (“PRA”), a related statute “basically identical” to the CRCA, that eliminated the states’ sovereign immunity from patent infringement suits.[3] 

Applying the reasoning of Florida Prepaid and emphasizing stare decisis, the Supreme Court rejected the arguments that either Article I’s Intellectual Property Clause or Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment’s limitations on state power provide a basis for the CRCA’s abrogation of state sovereign immunity in copyright suits.[4] 

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