Tag: Court Decisions

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Cheerleader Uniform Elements May Be Eligible for Copyright Protection
2
ANDA Filing May Subject a Pharmaceutical Company to Personal Jurisdiction in Patent Infringement Suits Anywhere in the U.S.
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A Right (Design) Carry-On!
4
Take a Closer Look Next Time you Flag a Black Cab…
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European Copyright Reform
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The Protection of Creative Designs: New Evaluation Standards Introduced by the Italian Supreme Court
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The end for the Dallas Buyers Club Dispute and Speculative Invoicing? Or is it Just the Beginning.
8
Pendulum Swings in Favour of Generic/Biosimilar Companies at Interlocutory Stage in AU
9
High Court of Australia Finds Claims for Isolated Genetic Material not Patentable Subject Matter
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H&M Unsuccessful in Challenge to YSL’s Registered Designs for Handbags

U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Cheerleader Uniform Elements May Be Eligible for Copyright Protection

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

By: David Byer, John Cotter, Shamus Hyland and Eric Lee

ANDA Filing May Subject a Pharmaceutical Company to Personal Jurisdiction in Patent Infringement Suits Anywhere in the U.S.

By: Trevor M. Gates, Theodore J. Angelis, and Peter Giunta

The Federal Circuit recently held that filing an abbreviated new drug application with the FDA for a generic drug product, and thus indicating an intention to sell that product in every state (including Delaware), subjected Mylan to specific personal jurisdiction in Delaware.

To read the alert, click here.

A Right (Design) Carry-On!

By Briony Pollard and Serena Totino

Designers will be disappointed by the recent Supreme Court decision in the long running Trunki (suit) case between Magmatic and PMS International, which finally put to bed whether surface decoration could and should form part of the global comparison test when assessing infringement of a Registered Community Design (RCD).

In 2013 Magmatic Ltd., manufacturer of ‘Trunki’, the ride-on suitcases for children, attempted to enforce its RCD against PMS International Group plc, importer and seller of the ‘Kiddee case’ in the UK and Germany.

Both Trunki and Kiddee cases are designed to look like animals, both have four wheels, a clasp at the front and a saddle-shaped top making the cases easy for children to ride on. The differences between the cases are largely limited to colour and the ‘protuberances’, which look like horns in the Trunki case and antennae or ears in the Kiddee case.

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Take a Closer Look Next Time you Flag a Black Cab…

By Briony Pollard and Serena Totino

Last month, a quintessential London symbol was subject to the scrutiny of the Hon. Mr. Justice Arnold in a case concerning Community and UK trade marks for the iconic shape of the black London taxi cab in Class 12 (the Trade Marks), owned by The London Taxi Corporation Limited (LTC).

LTC claimed that Frazer-Nash Research Limited and Ecotive Limited (FNR) had intended to deceive the public as to the origin of the Metrocab, a new model of the London taxi. LTC argued that a result of FNR adopting the specific shape it had for the Metrocab, was that consumers would think that it emanated from the same source as LTC’s taxis. As such, FNR threatened to infringe the trade marks and to commit passing off by marketing the Metrocab. FNR contended that the trade marks were invalidly registered because they lack distinctive character and give substantial value to the goods.

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European Copyright Reform

By Alessandra Bellani and Alessandra Feller

On December 9 2015 the European Commission presented a proposal for European Copyright reform. The proposed framework, inspired by the European digital single market project, aims to provide European users with wider content and strengthen copyright protection, as well as ensure authors a fair remuneration.

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The Protection of Creative Designs: New Evaluation Standards Introduced by the Italian Supreme Court

By Alessandra Feller and Alessandra Bellani

Through judgment no. 23292 of November 13 2015, the Italian Supreme Court introduced a distinction between objective and subjective standards, which should guide the judges’ assessment in order to decide if an industrial design can seek protection under Italian copyright law (the “IC Law”).

The Supreme Court recalled the principles established under the IC Law providing that:

  • industrial designs are worthy of protection if they have a “quid pluris” that consists of creative and artistic features; and
  • simple creative works are worthy of protection even if they only have an intrinsic artistic value.

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The end for the Dallas Buyers Club Dispute and Speculative Invoicing? Or is it Just the Beginning.

By Greg Pieris and Simon Casinader

On 16 December 2015, another chapter (and perhaps the final chapter) closed in the long running dispute between the rights holder of the film Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) and six Australian ISPs. Justice Perram of the Federal Court of Australia dismissed DBC’s application for preliminary discovery of the identities of over 4,000 Australian BitTorrent users who allegedly shared copies of the film.

As we reported in April 2015 (see here), Justice Perram initially ruled in favour of DBC ordering six ISPs to disclose the details of 4,726 customers. However, the Court was concerned this information would be used to write to account holders making demands for payments very much excess of what might actually be recovered in any actual suit (a practice known as “speculative invoicing”). To address this concern, the Court adopted the novel approach of making the release of account holder information conditional on DBC submitting for the Court’s approval a draft of the letter of demand proposed to be sent to the relevant account holders.

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Pendulum Swings in Favour of Generic/Biosimilar Companies at Interlocutory Stage in AU

By Naomi Pearce

FCA Confirms Commonwealth may Claim Relief Under “Usual Undertakings as to Damages”

The much anticipated Court of Appeal decision in Commonwealth of Australia v Sanofi ¹ was handed down on Monday.  The decision is a win for the Commonwealth, and for generic/biosimilar companies in Australia, and (if upheld in any appeal) will result in Sponsors adopting a more circumspect approach to seeking interlocutory injunctions for patent infringement in Australia.

Except where a generic/biosimilar applicant has “cleared the way” (cleared any patent impediments to launch through the Courts in Australia) or all relevant patents have expired, interlocutory injunctions are routinely sought by the Sponsor, and are routinely granted.

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High Court of Australia Finds Claims for Isolated Genetic Material not Patentable Subject Matter

On 7 October 2015, the High Court of Australia (High Court) issued its decision[1] in the long running dispute concerning Myriad Genetics, Inc.’s (Myriad) patent relating to an isolated nucleic acid coding for mutant or polymorphic BRCA1 polypeptide. Mutations in the BRCA1 gene can serve as indicators of a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

In a unanimous decision, the High Court found that claims directed to the isolated nucleic acid are invalid on the basis that they are not a ‘manner of manufacture’ and therefore not patentable subject matter. The High Court took the view that the claimed invention would extend the scope of the concept of “manner of manufacture” and that this was not something which was appropriate for courts to do. In light of the High Court’s decision, it will be interesting to see whether there is a legislative response to this issue.

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H&M Unsuccessful in Challenge to YSL’s Registered Designs for Handbags

Fashion retailer, H&M has been unsuccessful in its application to the EU General Court to invalidate YSL’s Community designs for handbags. Community designs protect designs for up to 25 years in every EU Member State. In November 2006, YSL successfully registered two of its designs for handbags. H&M had applied for a declaration of invalidity for these two YSL designs arguing that the designs had no individual character.

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