Sirabella v Coalition to Advance The Protection of Sports Logos

EBay seller moves for declaratory judgment against Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos (CAPS).

sirabella v caps

CAPS letter


Republican Study Committee Report on Copyright, Withdrawn

Report on Copyright Law, by Republican Study Committee, withdrawn. Coverage here and here.

withdrawn republican copyright study



Producers of The Hobbit sue low-budget film AGE OF THE HOBBITS. One does not simply use the name HOBBIT in a title. Complaint (in two parts) is fun reading. Coverage here.

You know what would be an interesting trademark fact pattern – a documentary about Homo floresiensis.

hobbit complaint

hobbit part two


Village Voice v Yelp (BEST OF _____ v BEST OF _____)

Village Voice owns local newspapers in various cities. They offer ‘incentive/promotional programs’ to local establishments under the BEST OF mark as In BEST OF DALLAS, BEST OF DENVER, etc. Yelp, the local review/directory site/app is allegedly using many of the same marks.

village voice v yelp


NSFW Copyright Complaint: Mavrix v BuzzFeed

News Agency sues BuzzFeed for ‘scraping’ paparazzi shots. Gigaom commentary here.

mavrix v buzzfeed



PUTT-PUTT is an incontestable trademark. Defendant’s Putt-Putt website here. Vintage Putt-Putt ad from here.

putt putt


When Coexistence Agreements Go Awry

Not that this has ever happened with any of my clients, but there is a certain tendency to think that, in a coexistence agreement that allows the smaller company to continue use of the mark, but must obtain permission to modify its mark or vary its field of use, that the large company, once it got what it wanted the first time, will not monitor compliance. Well, the large company monitored in this case. Deutsche Telekom sues for trademark infringement and breach of the coexistence agreement.

t mobile t system


Softball Question re Certification Marks For Bats

The Amateur Softball Association owns certification marks indicating that a equipment manufacturer complies with performance standards articulated by the ASA. Defendant allegedly sells decals bearing the ASA certification marks, for use by bat manufacturers whose bats do not meet the ASA standards.

american softball association


Plaintiff Licensed His Former Lawyer To Use The Copyright in the Complaint He (Allegedly) Drafted

Unusual fact pattern. Plaintiff finds unclaimed property. He organized individuals to bring a class action to sue a bank. Plaintiff (not a lawyer) hired defendant as lawyer for the class action. Defendant and plaintiff have a falling out and defendant ‘takes’ the case members with him. When the lawyer filed an amended complaint, the jilted plaintiff sued defendant for copyright infringement, arguing that he owns the copyright in the original complaint (because he had (allegedly) done all the drafting).

Held: The Court declines to decide whether copyright can reside in a legal complaint (which is of more than passing interest to me as a law blogger). However, even if plaintiff is the true author of the complaint, by paying the lawyer to represent the class, he granted an irrevocable license to use the complaint, and create derivative works (amended complaints) if necessary.

uprs v kaplan


I Don't Think The Protagonist of "Gone With The Wind" Can Be An Alaskan Gold Miner

For one thing, the burning of Atlanta would seem out of place.

This Western District of Washington case has a common fact pattern: plaintiff’s and defendant’s computer games are similar in the sense that the ‘gameplay’ (the rules of the game), is very similar, but the ‘skin’ (the setting and characters and interface) are different. Gameplay is not protectable. However, as the Court notes:

A video game, much like a screenplay expressed in a film, also has elements of plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, and character. Spry Fox took the idea underlying Triple Town and expressed it with its own characters, its own setting, and more. These objective elements of expression are within the scope of Spry Fox’s copyright.

Some of Spry Fox’s expressive choices are not protectable because they are scènes à faire in many video games (and often in games in general). For example, the use of points and “coins” to reward a player’s progress through a game is standard.

So far, so good. Then we get to this sentence:

“. . . the object hierarchy coupled with the depiction of the field of play comprise a setting and theme that is similar to Triple Town’s. A snowfield is not so different from a meadow, bears and yetis are both wild creatures, and the construction of a “plain” is not plausibly similar to the construction of a “patch””

I concur with Prof Goldman that this sentence is, uh, unclear. Also, the Court notes that (1) the name YETI TOWN is similar to TRIPLE TOWN; and that (2) that alleged similarity is relevant to a copyright analysis, is also, uh, interesting.

And now, from our perhaps not so instructive ‘put another way’ department. The Court notes:

There are apparent differences between games (for example, yetis are not bears and “bots” are not campfires), but a court must focus on what is similar, not what is different, when comparing two works. Put another way, a writer who appropriates the plot of Gone with the Wind cannot avoid copyright infringement by naming its male protagonist “Brett Cutler” and making him an Alaskan gold miner instead of a southern gentleman.

Yes, if in someone else’s novel a Southern gentleman and a scallawag fight over a Southern belle, against the backdrop of the Civil War, then small differences such as name changes would not avoid infringement. However, if a gentlemanly Alaskan miner fought a rakish miner over an Alaskan belle against the backdrop of, uh, some big event in Alaska, then I’m not so sure. The characters and plot of GWTW are intertwined with the time of the Civil War to the point that I suspect that the setting change would force the plot and characterization to a level of abstraction that would probably avoid infringement. Unless the author insisted on having the Eskimo maid say ‘I don’t know nothing ’bout birthin’ no babies.’ My point is merely that the example doesn’t really illustrate the Judge’s point.

yeti town copyright decision