Dueling Dukes: The Duke v. Duke University


John Wayne’s heirs recently filed a suit for declaratory relief in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California asking the court to declare the dueling Dukes can coexist without causing consumer confusion or dilution of their brands.  In the complaint, John Wayne Enterprises, LLC, asserts the “Duke” mark and other similar marks used in connection with the sale of alcoholic beverages (namely, bourbon) is not likely to cause confusion with Duke University marks nor does its use dilute any...
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Tyler Perry: Actor/Producer/Entertainment Mogul/Owner of “What Would Jesus Do”?


Atlanta-based entertainment mogul Tyler Perry has prevailed in cancelling television personality Kimberly Kearney’s registration of the “What Would Jesus Do” trademark—a rhetorical question whose initials have adorned the wrists of untold numbers since the 90’s. Kearney, also known as “Poprah” in the VH1 reality show I Want to Work for Diddy, apparently wanted to be more than bad boy for life Sean “Diddy” Combs’ personal assistant—she hoped to use the title...
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U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Trademark Issue of “Tacking”


The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to a trademark law case that would tackle the issue of “tacking.”  Tacking is the trademark law doctrine that allows a trademark owner to avoid abandonment and/or claim priority use in a mark that has been slightly modified from its original form.  The standard for whether the updated mark can be legally tacked onto the older form is whether the marks are considered “legally equivalent.”  Circuit courts have decided the standard differently; some have...
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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Cancels “Washington Redskins”


After months of speculation and media scrutiny, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled six federal trademark registrations for the “Washington Redskins” based on a finding that the mark is “disparaging to Native Americans.”   The Board’s decision noted that the Trademark Office should never have allowed registration of the trademarks to proceed in the first place.   Although the petition for cancellation was filed eight years ago, the movement to cancel the trademark...
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Supreme Court Takes the Air Out of Aereo


On June 25, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated opinion in the Aereo Inc. case, which has been pending in multiple courts since 2012.  In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court concluded Aereo's TV streaming service is a "public performance" under the Copyright Act.  The Court's ruling reversed a Second Circuit ruling in favor of Aereo.   Aereo provides subscribers with access to local television programming over the internet.  The company relies on tiny antennas in its subscribers' local area to...
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A $1.7 Million Mistake


Jurors awarded the Beastie Boys $1.7 Million for Monster Energy’s use of the band’s songs in a promotional video that aired in 2012.  The video – for a Canadian snowboarding competition – used portions of two songs, “Sabotage” and “Make Some Noise.”   The Beastie Boys sought at least $2 million in damages, asserting that the video’s use of copyrighted works was “absolutely egregious.”  The band argued that Monster Energy wanted to benefit from the...
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Unlucky 13


Taylor Swift has been sued for trademark infringement for her use of the phrase “Lucky 13” and the number “13.”   Blue Sphere, Inc. – doing business as Lucky 13 – alleges that Swift began to damage the Lucky 13 brand in 2012 when Swift began marketing and selling clothing that included the phrase “Lucky 13.”  Blue Sphere alleges that Swift’s conduct is “malicious, fraudulent, deliberate, willful, intentional . . . .”  Blue Sphere also alleges that Swift...
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