Here goes. Stephen Colbert, when he was on The Daily Show on Comedy Central, performed under the name STEPHEN COLBERT but he played a character that satirized TV reporters. Colbert described the character as a “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot.” Colbert went on to host THE COLBERT REPORT playing a similar character to the one he played on The Daily Show.
Colbert went on to host The Late Show on another network and it was reported that the ‘character,’ the satirical TV reporter, remained the property of Comedy Central. Colbert performs on The Late Show as himself (or least he doesn’t assume the persona of a satirical TV reporter).
Last Week, Colbert the host brought back Colbert the reporter to do one of Colbert the reporter’s ‘signature’ (should I say ‘trademark’?) bits, The Word:
OK, yesterday, Colbert the host reported that The Comedy Channel had protested the use of Colbert the reporter, claiming copyright in the character.
This is plausible, as characters can be copyrightable. Apparently a car can be a copyrightable character (see the Batmobile case below). It makes the head swim as to what the character of Colbert the reporter consists of, given that the name STEPHEN COLBERT and Stephen Colbert’s appearance would seem not be part of that character. Interestingly, the part of the reporter character that would seem to belong to Comedy Central would be the mannerisms and behavior that satirize Bill O’Reilly. Plus a single raised eyebrow.
To take this one step further. Colbert the host threw the gauntlet down. He reported the dispute, and introduced Stephen Colbert, the twin cousin of Stephen Colbert the reporter (pause and enjoy the twin cousin joke).
Colbert the twin cousin of Colbert the reporter, also has a raised single eyebrow. And Colbert the host did a segment named The Werd, which, in his words, is ‘word’ but with an ‘e.’
Colbert the twin cousin appears to be a parody of a satire of Colbert the reporter.
Here is the recent Sherlock Holmes case:
Here is the Batmobile case:
Original registrant enters into coexistence agreement with third party, undertaking not to protest certain uses of CRAZY HORSE trademark. Plaintiff enters into contract with third party assigned to it. Original registrant assigns rights to Defendant. Defendant protests Plaintiff’s use.
Held: Coexistence agreement and assignment to Plaintiff held enforceable. Defendant is barred from protesting Plaintiff’s use.
From 43(b)log: Arguing that conceptual separability is simply a coda to physical separability, dealing with situations in which physical separation couldn’t be accomplished without destroying the useful article–regardless, there must be something other than the design of the article itself that can be identified as a protectable work. The existence of design patent also sheds important light on the limited role Congress intended copyright to play for useful articles.
Trump lawyer Jason Greenblatt threatens Tony Schwartz, (credited) author of “The Art of the Deal” and author’s lawyer, Elizabeth McNamara’s response. Background here.
The IRS is seeking a court order to obtain documents from Facebook in connection with Facebook’s 2010 taxes. Facebook transferred certain rights in IP to a related company in Ireland. The standard for such transfers is discussed in paragraph 20 of the declaration below.
short version: nothing to do immediately regarding existing EUTMs; might want to consider back-up UK filing for new EU TMs.
Footnote two is a contender for funniest Supreme Court footnote this term.
Kirtsaeng bought low-cost foreign edition textbooks in Thailand and resold them to students in the U.S. In 2013 the Supreme Court held that Kirtsaeng could invoke the Copyright Act’s “first-sale doctrine,” 17 U.S.C. 109(a), as a defense to the publisher’s copyright infringement claim. Kirtsaeng then sought more than $2 million in attorney’s fees from the publisher under the Act’s fee-shifting provision. The Second Circuit affirmed denial of Kirtsaeng’s application, reasoning that Wiley had taken reasonable positions during litigation. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated. When deciding whether to award attorney’s fees under 17 U.S.C. 505, a court should give substantial weight to the objective reasonableness of the losing party’s position, while still taking into account all other relevant circumstances. Precedent has identified several non-exclusive factors for courts to consider, e.g., frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness, and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence. Putting substantial weight on the reasonableness of a losing party’s position is consistent with the objectives of the Copyright Act, but courts must take into account a range of considerations beyond the reasonableness of litigating positions. Because the district court “may not have understood the full scope of its discretion,” the Court remanded for consideration of other relevant factors.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), establishes a safe harbor which gives qualifying Internet service providers protection from liability for copyright infringement when their users upload infringing material on the service provider’s site and the service provider is unaware of the infringement. Plaintiffs filed suit against Vimeo alleging that Vimeo is liable for copyright infringement by reason of 199 videos posted on the Vimeo website, which contained allegedly infringing musical recordings for which plaintiffs owned the rights. In this interlocutory appeal on certified questions from rulings of the district court interpreting the DMCA, the court concluded that the safe harbor of section 512(c) does apply to pre-1972 sound recordings, and therefore protects service providers against liability for copyright infringement under state law with respect to pre-1972 sound recordings, as well as under the federal copyright law for post-1972 recordings. Therefore, the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment to plaintiffs with respect to Vimeo’s entitlement to the safe harbor for infringements of pre-1972 recordings is vacated. The court also concluded that various factual issues that arise in connection with a service provider’s claim of the safe harbor are subject to shifting burdens of proof. Because, on a defendant’s claim of the safe harbor, the burden of showing facts supporting a finding of red flag knowledge shifts to the plaintiff, and the district court appears to have denied Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment as to a number of videos on this issue based on a test that would improperly deny service providers access to the safe harbor, the court vacated the denial of Vimeo’s motion for summary judgment on that issue. The court remanded for reconsideration and further proceedings. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the district court erred in its ruling in Vimeo’s favor as to plaintiffs’ reliance on the doctrine of willful blindness. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings.
Plaintiff Guthrie operates medical facilities, Defendant ContextMedia provides a digital network for advertiser (read: pharma)-sponsored medical information displayed on screens in doctors’ offices. Plaintiff operates in the Twin Tiers region, which is Southern New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Defendant operates in all 50 states. At the District Court level, Defendant was enjoined from doing business in the Twin Tiers region, but could continue to use its mark both outside the region and in its online activities (website and social media). Plaintiff appealed.
Second Circuit: The logos are ‘jaw droppingly similar.’ Droppingly is a word – I looked it up. No evidence that similarity between the logos was more than coincidental. Plaintiff demonstrated a probability of confusion.
However: the lower court performed the Dawn Donuts analysis incorrectly. The Dawn Donuts doctrine provides that a plainitff cannot obtain injunctive relief beyond the area where it has proven a likelihood of confusion (which can create strange fact patterns involving slow-to-expand regional plaintiffs and ‘remote junior users’).
Here, while Plaintiff operated facilities only within the area of the injunction, it demonstrated the present possibility of harm outside the region. For example, Plaintiff promoted its marks both to potentials donors and to potential hires nationwide. Plaintiff takes pains to signify its ‘impartiality’ which could be damaged if donors perceived an erroneous association with a pharma-sponsored content network. Furthermore – unlike the original Dawn Donuts plaintiff, this defendant did not establish that it was highly unlikely that Plaintiff would expand beyond its present region any time soon.
Case remanded to the district court to tailor a proper injunction taking these facts into account.
Bonus Discussion: Similarity analysis when marks in question are compound marks consisting of [similar logo] plus [differing word marks].