Intellectual Property

New York’s post mortem right-of-publicity statute recently came into effect.  Its previous right-of-publicity laws were an extension of its statutory right of privacy which provided that “any person whose name [or likeness] is used within [New York] for advertising [or trade] purposes without . . . written consent” can sue for an injunction and damages.  Because the statute addressed privacy concerns that dissipated at death, such rights did not extend post mortem.  New York courts have held that because the state’s law affords no common law right of publicity – the statutory grant is exclusive. New York’s new law brings…
We recently wrote about a case in the Southern District of New York against Mashable relating to the embedding of content from social media platforms like Instagram.  In that case, the court held that Instagram’s terms of use (which were accepted by the plaintiff, a photographer, when he created an Instagram account) were insufficiently clear to allow Mashable to escape liability for publishing Instagram content through the process of embedding.  Thereafter, the parties settled out of court.  Legal watchers speculated that the ruling would encourage copyright infringement claims based on the embedding of content. Embedding is the process of making…
Hard seltzer first hit the marketplace about five years ago and rapidly grew in popularity with sales exceeding $4.5 billion in 2020.  Wanting to ride the wave of success, many companies have introduced hard seltzers into this now crowded space.  But what is a hard seltzer?  Is it a form of beer or something else?  Based on its popularity, most would say, “Who cares whether hard seltzer is beer, just give me one.”  However, Modelo Grupo (“Modelo”) and Constellation Brands (“Constellation”) would say there is a lot riding on the answer. Modelo, whose parent is Anheuser-Busch InBev (“AB”), created the…
What happens when a junior trademark holder’s business becomes so popular and well known that it threatens to swamp the reputation of a senior mark holder?  The senior mark holder brings a trademark infringement case alleging “reverse confusion” among its potential customers.  This was the scenario the Ninth Circuit faced in its recent decision in: Ironhawk Technologies, Inc. v. Dropbox, Inc. (decided April 20, 2021). Ironhawk develops computer software that uses compression technology to allow for the efficient transfer of data, especially in “bandwidth-challenged environments.”  It has marketed its software under the name “SmartSync” since 2004 and obtained a trademark…
Quick answer: no! The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals recently tangled with a patent application for an invention that did not have scientific support.  The court affirmed a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board rejecting a patent application on these grounds.  While this is not a common occurrence, in this case, it’s an easy conclusion to reach. In In re Huping Hu, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 7776, the inventors applied for patents for inventions related to “quantum entanglement.”  According to the inventors, quantum entanglement is “quantum spins of photons, electrons and nuclei.”  The inventors explained that “quantum spins…
In Hytera Communications Corp. Ltd. v. Motorola Solutions, Inc., 1-17-cv-01794 (NDOH 2021-04-29, Order) (Donald C. Nugent), the District Court denied defendant’s motion for attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285, determining plaintiff’s litigation positions were not baseless even after a granting of summary judgment of noninfringement that “was not a close call.”   As way of background, in patent infringement cases, Courts are authorized to award “reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party” in “exceptional cases.” The determination of whether to award fees requires a two-step process: first, the court must make a factual determination as to whether the case is…
If you pay much attention to sneakers, you might know that the agreement between Nike and the Bryant Estate for Nike’s line of Kobe sneakers recently expired. Although Kobe started his career with Adidas, he changed to Nike in 2003, and he stayed there for the rest of his life. Many people expected the estate to reach a deal with Nike to continue the partnership, but the deal has officially expired without any sort of agreement being reached. Some people speculated that the Bryant Estate may have been allowing the agreement to get closer to expiring to leverage Nike into…
In the 9th Circuit (as well as the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 11th Circuits), the test for determining whether the use of a third-party trademark in an expressive work (i.e., use of a brand within a movie, TV series, video game, etc., including as part of the title of an expressive work) is the 2nd Circuit’s test from the 1989 case of Rogers v. Grimaldi. The Rogers test was adopted by the 9th Circuit in Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records (better known as the “Barbie Girl” case). Under the Rogers test, the use of a third-party mark in an expressive…
Pfizer and BioNTech recently asked the Southern District of California to dismiss a patent infringement claim from Allele Biotechnology related to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. Allele holds a patent for a fluorescent protein called mNeonGreen, which causes some cells to glow when exposed to certain kinds of light.  Allele does not claim that mNeonGreen is used in the vaccine or was used by Pfizer and BioNTech to develop the vaccine, but rather that mNeonGreen is used in one of the clinical tests to detect the presence of antibodies in a patient that was given the Covid-19 vaccine.  A third…
Finding Google’s copying a fair use, the Supreme Court ended Oracle’s decade-long attempt to recover copyright damages.  The battle began between these tech giants when Google designed its Android software platform for mobile devices, such as smartphones.  The platform allows “computer programmers to develop new programs and applications” for Android-based devices.  In designing the mobile platform, Google independently developed most of the code but copied what the parties referred to as “declaring code” for 37 application programming interfaces, or APIs.  The declaring code in APIs “enables a set of shortcuts for programmers.”  A programmer can select a particular task from…