Intellectual Property Law

Doing It For The ‘Gram

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The law’s stubbornness to bend with trends is not a flaw, but by design. It prevents unnecessary changes and ensures that an adjustment is truly needed. Consequently, the law often struggles to keep up with technology. For an example, look no further than Instagram. The application has become a major platform for advertising and copied content. This article by Scott Alan Burroughs highlights the law’s struggle to adapt…

See, Doing It For The Gram.

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‘Dumb Starbucks’ parody shuts down but debate over trademark law & parody continues

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I followed this story as it developed over the past week – the author here did a great job summarizing the events thus far.

Here is my response (see original article below):

On the discussion of who has the stronger argument, it gets interesting. First there is the First Amendment and parody vs trademark law. Followed by, dilution by blurring or tarnishment.

The trademark protection argument is weak because it hinges upon the “the likelihood” of consumer confusion. I find it difficult to believe that anyone here is confused. The parody literally attached the word “dumb” to Starbucks name. No one would reasonably believe the two stores are related.

Fielder also has a decent argument against dilution by blurring and tarnishment with §1125(c)(3) of the Lanham Act. In short, the section specifically permits for the parodying of the goods or services of a mark owner. While it protects against injury to the good will and reputation of the mark, here I do not believe Starbucks has suffered much harm. It was fairly clear the act was a prank; it was funny, and the coffee was free!

Over time, if the parody were to remain open (or expand), and a correlation was made with a decline in the public’s perception of Starbucks, then perhaps, an argument may be made for the good will and reputation of Starbucks’ mark. Otherwise, I think it may be considered fair game.

Either way, it will be exciting to see what comes next in this ‘kerfuffle’!

Professor Tonya M. Evans

By Professor Tonya M. Evans

dumbstarbucks-cupsOn February 9th, The Huff Post and other media outlets reported the grand opening of a store in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, “Dumb Starbucks”. The clever prankish parody even caught the attention of Forbes:

‘Although it looks like Starbucks, smells like Starbucks and even acts like Starbucks (the super-friendly baristas asking for your name were hired off Craigslist), the whole thing is an elaborate goof on Starbucks culture. A list of Frequently Asked Questions posted on premises compared the place to Weird Al Yankovic’s homage to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Dumb Starbucks, you see, is the “Eat It” of $6 coffee drinks.’ Source: Forbes.com

Amazingly, people stood in line for hours for the Dumb Starbucks java, which reportedly was whatever the local grocery store had on hand for the few days Dumb Starbucks remained open. The locals and media alike seemed to get…

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The Stunt that Keeps on Giving…

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News of the mysterious ‘Dumb Starbucks’ coffee shop that popped up in Los Angeles over the weekend spread like wildfire. As details emerge, it appears the shop was one big stunt. As it turns out, the idea was the brainchild of Comedy Central reality-TV-show host Nathan Fielder. The networks argument against trademark infringement, parody law & free speech…

Despite threats from Starbucks that what Nathan Fielder is doing is a trademark infringement, the network’s parent company says “Dumb Starbucks” constitutes “protected free expression.”

See, Comedy Central Lawyers Approve ‘Dumb Starbucks’

Copyright Law Pop Quiz – News Organizations

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Consider the following scenarios:

  • Two high school cheerleaders are suspected of spearheading an elaborate underground gambling ring.  Neither the police nor the school will release the students’ photographs, but your reporter was able to obtain several images of the girls on Facebook along with a short video of them performing a cheerleading routine.  Can your station use these visuals in its newscast?  During a tease?  On its website?
  •  With the gubernatorial election a month away, a story appears overnight on the website of the local alternative weekly newspaper that the incumbent has late-stage cancer and may only have weeks to live.  Your political reporter tries, but is unable, to confirm the story overnight.  Can your station lead its morning newscast with the story?  If so, must you attribute the newspaper as the source of the story?
  • Your station’s primary competitor obtains hidden-camera video of the star quarterback for the local NFL team injecting steroids before a big game.  Your assignment editor identifies the source of the video, but is unable to negotiate a licensing agreement at a reasonable price.  Can your station still broadcast parts of the video on its newscast (using the video recorded from your competitor’s newscast)?

See, What Every News Organization Needs to Know About Copyright Law.

Quentin Tarantino Suing Gawker Over Leaked Script

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Quentin Tarantino has filed a copyright lawsuit against Gawker Media for allegedly facilitating the dissemination of copies of his unproduced script, The Hateful Eight.

Last week, the famous director was outraged after details about the Western circulated. He was so irate that he told the media that he wouldn’t be making the picture as his next film.

Soon afterwards, Gawker’s Defamer blog linked to the 146-page script under a post titled, “​Here Is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script.”

See, Quentin Tarantino Suing Gawker Over Leaked Script

Who really owns an LLC’s blog entries?

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Though the question presents itself under very unfortunate circumstances, the issue is worth pondering.

Dear Rich: I am part of an LLC that owns a blog. One of our officers was the active blog contributor. She died last year. Some of the other officers would like to publish her blog posts, but we are unsure who owns the copyright – the LLC or her heirs?

See, Does LLC Own Officer’s Blog Entries?

‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit: Sony/ATV Settles With Marvin Gaye’s Family

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Breaking news in one of Hollywood’s top legal disputes of 2013. Definitely a step in the right direction for Sony/ATV, but they are not out of the woods just yet. Parties remaining will likely want to hear why Sony originally concluded that the songs were not similar.  See the link below for details.

‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit: Sony/ATV Settles With Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive)