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Miami, FL Law Blog for Entertainment Law, Business Law, and Public Interest

Friday, December 16, 2011

Origami artist involved in copyright lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

An artist and film maker, known widely for her work in the world of origami, is at the center of a federal copyright lawsuit that claims she stole most of her ideas and concepts from fellow origami experts.

The female artist introduced her origami works in a 2007 series, which garnered national attention. It featured 37 pieces of work, which she claimed she found. She added her own spin on the origami by using canvas and painting the space in between the lines. She used this origami for commercial use, promoting it through interviews and other means.

Origami is the ancient art of folding paper. Experts can create elaborate and detailed designs. The art form has also exploded in recent years. Artists from around the world share their folding patterns and specifications via the Internet and other published works.

The six artists who are suing the woman are also accomplished in origami and have displayed their work in cities around the world, including Miami. They have even copyrighted many of their origami patterns, which create models of such things as an angel, falcon, grasshopper, parrot, mantis and many other creatures.

The group of artists claims that the female artist copied up to 24 pieces of their work for her own collection. One of the defendants had contributed to a book about origami design secrets. That defendant claims the New York artist swiped seven designs from that published work alone. Other members of this group say the female artist also spotted their origami in published works and copied the designs.

The suit cites 20 counts of copyright infringement. The group of artists seeks an unspecified amount of money in damages.

Source: Courthouse News Service "Origami Artists Won't Fold for Filmmaker," Dec. 7, 2011


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trade secrets dispute for Miami Beach manufacturer

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Beyond the bricks, mortar, machines and other physical assets of a company, many businesses have tremendous value in their trade secrets and proprietary information. Whether it is literally a 'secret sauce' or a manufacturing process, owners often make large investments to create these assets and rely upon their exclusive right to make use of or license this property. Because of the substantial value in this intellectual property, it is often the subject of commercial disputes.
In an ongoing dispute, a Miami Beach organization is involved in a dispute over what constitutes trade secrets, and who owns them. The company, InnoVida, had apparently developed a secret formula for manufacturing lightweight resin panels for use in housing construction. The formula for the resin that is used to create the panels was acquired by another company, Millport Associates, as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. But now the Innovida would like to be resurrected under a new name and resume its operations. Millport objects because it believes that the new venture intends to use the intellectual property it had already sold away.

Initially Innovida had intended that their panels could be used to quickly and cheaply build low cost housing, particularly in response to regional catastrophic events. The first project was to take place in Haiti, to help rebuild from the 2010 Earthquake. There were plans to build a factory in Haiti to begin production, but as finances ran out the company filed for bankruptcy. It is then that the intellectual property was sold to Millport.

Millport had been one of many creditors who were seeking to get their money out of the bankrupt company. Millport acquired the secret formula, along with lists of vendors, customers and manufacturers. The same was approved by the bankruptcy court. But the new venture, the proceeds of which could be used in part to pay other creditors is in question because Millport now owns the trade secrets that the new company would presumably use to get off the ground.

Source: Miami Herald "Brazilian firm buys trade secrets to build low-cost homes," Dec. 6, 2011


Friday, December 9, 2011

Florida tavern faces lawsuit from music companies

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Every small business owner in Miami knows that in addition to the cost of supplies and labor, there are a multitude of less obvious or hidden costs. Franchise fees, building maintenance, and other costs can add up quickly to take a cut from your bottom line. One Florida tavern is now facing commercial litigation for allegedly not paying for the proper license to play music owned by Sony and other copyright holders.

The music companies allege that because the establishment did not obtain the proper license to play their music they engaged in copyright infringement. The tavern countered that it did, in fact have the proper license and that the lawsuit should be dismissed, but now a federal judge has ruled that the tavern has not produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it had permission to play the songs and that therefore the lawsuit against it may move forward.

The owners of the tavern also alleged that, even if the music companies can demonstrate infringement they should not be personally liable, due to protections provided by their corporate structure. The judge said that because the owner directly benefitted from the alleged infringement and fully owned and controlled the establishment, the owner could be personally liable. These decisions are no the final word in the lawsuit but simply a green light for it to move forward.

It seem that it should be the situation that if a tavern owner has a great service staff and good food the business will automatically be successful and profitable. But business owners must also comply with employment and other regulations as well as ensure that their business is structured correctly, not to mention understanding intellectual property law well enough to mitigate this type of lawsuit. It is important for any business owner to consult with experienced counsel to ensure that all these peripheral issues are in order so that they can focus on running their business.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Unlicensed Song Plays May Cost Florida Bar," MARIMER MATOS, Dec. 6, 2011

 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Actor sues company for deceiving DVD cover

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Lionsgate Entertainment gave Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg the star treatment with its new movie, "Camp Hell." The company plastered Eisenberg's face across the DVD case along with giving him top billing.

The only problem is Eisenberg, who has been in such hit movies as "Zombieland" and "The Social Network", only appears in "Camp Hell" for less than five minutes. The actor has filed a lawsuit against Lionsgate for misrepresenting his role in the film and for unfair business practices in general. Eisenberg is suing for $3 million.

Contrary to what the DVD box might suggest, Eisenberg appeared only briefly in the horror picture and was compensated a mere $3,000 for his work. But that did not stop producers from using the actor's star power to attract viewers. Numerous disappointed film critics wrote reviews on how the movie had little entertainment value and very few scenes with Eisenberg. This was contrary to their expectations.

The actor is trying to distance himself from the movie, which features a provocative story line. The movie takes place at a Bible camp attended by suburban Christian kids. When one of those kids commits a sin of the flesh, the camp is plunged into a demonic plague.

Eisenberg and his legal team said that they filed the lawsuit to alert fans of the misleading marketing tactics by Lionsgate. The lawsuit also lists Grindstone Entertainment Group as a defendant. The lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court.

Source: MSNBC /Today "Jesse Eisenberg tells 'Camp Hell' to go to heck" Natalie Finn, Nov. 30, 2011
 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tootsie Roll company sues shoe firm for trademark infringement (2 of 2)

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In the first part of this blog series we told you about a trademark infringement lawsuit between the Tootsie Roll candy company and the Footzyrolls shoe manufacturer. Tootsie Roll alleges that Footzyrolls infringed on its trademark name and caused confusion among consumers who they allege may have confused the two brands and assumed that Tootsie Roll had some connection with the footwear.

For long-established brands, their name may be one of their most valuable assets. Business magazine regularly publish lists of the most recognized and valuable brand names. Some companies may even profit by licensing their names to products produced by others. Other brand names have become so synonymous with the product, like Kleenex, that the product itself is simply known by that name no matter who manufactures it.

Tootsie Roll asserts that it already does license its Tootsie Roll trademark for use on a wide variety of non-candy products, such as clothes, shoes and fashion accessories. Socks bearing the Tootsie Roll trademark are currently available on the Internet, being sold on the company's own website, as well as from major retailers such as Amazon.com.

Rollashoe began its business two years ago and was founded by two sisters who came up with the concept of women's footwear that could be rolled up into a bundle tiny enough to go into purses. They also believed that such shoes could be a welcome relief from high heels for some women. The shoe firm has applied for trademarks for Footzyrolls, Footzyfolds, and Footzysocks, with opposition from the Tootsie Roll company.

Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight "'Tootsie v. Footzy: Candymaker goes after footwear brand," Nov. 21, 2011


Friday, December 2, 2011

Tootsie Roll company sues shoe firm for trademark infringement (1 of 2)

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Earlier this week, we talked about a trademark lawsuit between "The Situation" and Abercrombie & Fitch. In that case, one side had believed that the other was improperly benefitting from their trademark, while the other believed that the value of its brand was being diminished. A similar dynamic is now at play in a dispute between a shoe manufacturer and a candy company.

A small shoe manufacturer known as Rollashoe has been sued for trademark infringement in federal court by the well-known Tootsie Roll Industries candy company. The cause of Tootsie Roll's ire is Rollashoe's Footzyrolls line of shoes, footwear that is capable of being rolled up into small bundles for storage and travel.

The Tootsie Roll trademark has been in use for chewy confection candy and lollypops, including lollypops with a tootsie roll center, for over a hundred years, commencing in 1908. The candy giant believes that the shoe company intended to capitalize on the Tootsie Roll trademark.

It asserts that the name Footzyrolls is so similar to its trademark in name and appearance that consumers are likely to be deceived or confused into believing that the two products are somehow related.

Rollashoe asserted that Tootsie Roll's claims were without merit. It claims that there was no existing evidence that consumers were actually likely to be confused into thinking that there was a connection between the two companies' products.

In the second part of this series we will discuss the value of trademarks and their value to a business. We will also look at how this sort of dispute can be viewed from the points of view of both an established brand like Tootsie Roll and a start up company like Footzyrolls.

Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight "'Tootsie v. Footzy: Candymaker goes after footwear brand," Nov. 21, 2011


Monday, November 21, 2011

Kim Kardashian sues to quell claim marriage was fake

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Kim Kardashian, a star of reality television shows which air on the E! cable network, has retained an attorney to sue a former employee she accuses of spreading false rumors that her former marriage to well-known basketball player Kris Humphries was merely a publicity stunt. The contemplated lawsuit reportedly will ask for an award of $200,000 in damages as well as the squelching of further statements concerning her marriage.

The former employee appeared on the television program "Good Day L.A." on last week and stated that he had worked as a publicist for Kardashian for two years between 2007 and 2009. He also asserted that the well-publicized marriage, which only lasted 72 days before a divorce was sought, was merely staged for the purpose of obtaining media attention. He also charged that Kardashian's entire reality television program was staged as opposed to being spontaneous and unrehearsed.
In an earlier media appearance on the "Elvis Duran Morning Show," he had claimed that Kardashian was certain for some time before her marriage to Kris Humphries that she had no interest in being married to him, and was actually still smitten with NFL football player Reggie Bush, a former boyfriend.

Kardashian, in contrast, contends that the former employee only worked for her briefly on a blog project, and argues that his recent statements concerning her marriage are in violation of a confidentiality agreement. The ex-employee responded by stating that he has copies of such an agreement, but that it was never signed and therefore is not valid and binding.

Source: Reuters, "Kim Kardashian Sues 'Ex-Publicist' Who Claimed Her Wedding Was a Sham," Daniel Frankel, Nov. 13, 2011


Friday, November 18, 2011

Warner Brothers engaged in false claims of copyright infringement

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Warner Brothers has admitted in a court proceeding that it engaged in a practice of sending notices to a website demanding that it remove certain digital files as copyright infringement, despite having no copyright on the content at issue. In at least some instances, the company just demanded the removal of some software simply motivated by the fact that the company did not like it.

The company sent the website notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which empowers copyright owners to demand that websites take down copies of infringing content, with websites exempt from liability for potential copyright infringement if they comply with the notice. Critics of the law have contended that this has a chilling effect on the presentation of non-infringing material, as companies may issue such notices and demand the removal of particular content even in some instances where it does not actually infringe.

Warner Brothers' practices in this regard arose in the context of a lawsuit it filed against a cyberlocker website called Hotfile which provided a mechanism for users to upload and share digital files online. The lawsuit charged Hotfile with facilitating copyright infringement, a charge Hotfile denied. Hotfile further asserted that it had, in fact, fully cooperated with Warner Brothers to help prevent the use of its services for copyright infringement purposes, even producing special software to detect potentially infringing files and target them for removal.

Warner Brothers now admits that it responded to this defense by issuing numerous DMCA takedown notices to Hotfile demanding the removal of content that it knew it had no copyright on. In some instances, it did so after simply searching for digital files that used similar keywords to material that it owned the copyright on, never going to the trouble of even looking at the actual content of the file whose removal it was demanding.

Source: Tech Dirt "A Glimpse Of The Future Under SOPA: Warner Bros. Admits It Filed Many False Takedown Notices" Mike Masnick, Nov. 10, 2011


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lawsuit seeks to legitimize internet cafes that offer "simulated gambling"

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Today, a Florida appeals court will listen to arguments arising from a lawsuit filed by an operator of internet cafes. The lawsuit seeks to obtain a definitive ruling that the cafes do not violate Florida's gambling laws. The lawsuit is a response to action by four Florida counties in which property was seized and at least one worker was arrested. The counties believed that the cafes offered services that were essentially slot machines.

The litigation contends that the cafes do not offer illegal gambling, but instead that they offer internet access which can be used to engage in legal sweepstakes games. The café operators say that the sweepstakes are similar to other business sweepstakes, like opening a soda bottle to see if there is an instant prize under the cap.

This lawsuit had initially been dismissed because it was filed against the state attorney general and other state level authorities rather than the county agencies which actually took the enforcement actions that are being questioned. Today, the appeals court will hear arguments about whether the lawsuit should be revived.

While the operators of the cafes seek to use this lawsuit to determine that their activities are not in violation of state gambling laws, the state has attempted to sidestep this issue completely and focus on their belief that they had not taken any direct action against the cafes and that they are not therefore the correct party against whom to pursue the lawsuit.
It is more than understandable that a business that has been accused of illegal activities would desire clarification to establish that they are providing legal services. In this case, even if the court ultimately determines that the activities are legal, it may not be the final word on the legality of the purported 'simulated gambling' at internet cafes. There are currently at least two proposals in the state legislature that would specifically address the legality of the services offered by the cafes.

Source: The News Press "Appeals court set to hear Internet cafe violation case," Nov. 14, 2011


Friday, November 11, 2011

NBA controversy over revenue split

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

The NBA labor committee is set to reopen talks with players over athlete contracts, but some owners and managers are not optimistic about the meeting's outcome. The NBA ownership group's labor committee wants to bring the revenue split to 50/50, but the players are not willing to go below 52.5 percent. However, pressure to end the lockout may cause some owners to side with the players. The owner of the Miami Heat, Mickey Arison, was caught hinting on Twitter that he was ready for the affair to be over.

In the midst of the lockout, some players are campaigning for decertification in hopes that it would increase their chances of success at the talks. To accomplish this, the NBA players would need 226 players, 30 percent of its membership, to vote that they no longer wanted union representation.

Giving up the next season or the next two seasons is not an impossible foresight for the NBA players, as they are unwilling to accept the 50/50 split offered by the labor committee. Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told reporters that while the NBA owners present a 50/50 split as a partnership, he rejects that notion, saying "That's not how it works."

Regardless of the negotiation, the National Basketball Players' Association is hesitant to accept any deals too soon. An executive with the organization told reporters that this bargaining agreement will have long-term implications on how NBA players are paid, stressing that the NBPA cannot accept a bad deal in order to avoid a missed season.

Source: ESPN "NBA sides to resume talks, sources say," Nov. 5, 2011


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Condo investors say they were defrauded

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

As you are likely all too aware, the real estate market in Miami and the rest of South Florida has been severely impacted by the downturn in the housing market. Home buyers and real estate investors who had a seemingly bright economic outlook several years ago are now facing depressed property valuations in a troubled real estate market. This has lead to an increase in real estate disputes as developers and investors seek to mitigate the damage from the economic troubles.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that litigation regarding a condominium development has landed the investors and the homebuilders back in federal court. The case is interesting because the investors are claiming that they were defrauded in violation of federal securities laws

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit revived claims by the investors that the homebuilder had engaged in selling unregistered securities. The investors asserted that as investment opportunities, the promotion and sale of the condos was subject to federal securities laws. The court had previously dismissed these claims.

The investors said that when they were sold the condos, it was indicated that the units would be rented and managed by a management company. The company was supposed rent the units and then pay mortgage payments, utility costs and maintenance fees. Representatives for the investors say that these obligations were never carried out.

Ownership of an investment property is often an individual's first or only exposure to potential commercial lawsuits. While real estate developers and banks may be very accustomed to real estate litigation as simply a part of their everyday business, A private individual who decides to invest in real property may have never had to face this type of dispute before.

For both those unaccustomed to litigation it is important to seek advice from an experienced professional to help you protect your interests.

Source: Orlando Sentinel "Investors' condo suit versus Pulte revived," Mary, Shanklin, Nov. 6, 2011


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