Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Estate of James Dean Files Suit Over "@JamesDean" Twitter Account

In the past, the term "cybersquatting" may have only referred to the use of trademarks in internet domain names without permission, but may expand beyond web address names to include social media accounts.

The estate of long-deceased actor and icon James Dean has filed suit against the social networking site Twitter and one or more of its users, alleging infringement of trademark and likeness rights. A fan of the actor created the Twitter account "@JamesDean" back in 2009, with a goal of sharing their love of the Hollywood icon with the Twitter community. In question is whether using both the name and image of the long-deceased actor who starred in the movies "Rebel Without a Cause," "Giant" and "East of Eden" violates trademark and likeness rights as well as Twitter's "impersonation policy."

The site's "impersonation policy" states that "Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy."  

The Federal Anti-Cybersquatting Piracy Act covers the unauthorized use of celebrity names when it comes to Web domains but not Twitter user names. In its complaint, James Dean, Inc. claims that it requested that Twitter remove the "@JamesDean" account numerous times before filing suit. The lawsuit, James Dean, Inc., et al v. Twitter, Inc., et al, alleges that Twitter allowed a user to create an account with the handle, or user's account name, "@JamesDean" during or prior to September 2012 without permission.

It alleges trademark infringement under §§ 32(1) and 43(A) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a); and false endorsement under § 43(A). In addition, the suit claims violations of the right of publicity under both Indiana and common law, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. As per the lawsuit, James Dean Inc. wants Twitter to "give" the @JamesDean account back to the estate.

If you are a member of the Miami entertainment community and think you may have a trademark infringement case, contact the law office of Manos & Associates, P.L. online or call 305-341-3100 to contact an attorney and musician who knows the entertainment world. Your first consultation with an intake specialist can determine if we can help you, and it's free of charge. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Fair Outcome Following Alleged Trademark Infringement

Any business that owns a valuable patent, trademark or other intellectual property has likely taken considerable risk or expended a considerable sum to obtain it. When another business decides that it, too, can profit from the property or material without permission or a license, it’s important to take action to:

  • Protect your property
  • Obtain any compensation owed by law

A recent case in South Florida illustrates that, in the case of blatant trademark infringement, legal action can bring both a fair outcome and a high-value result.

For years, booth holders at the Fort Lauderdale-based Swap Shop flea market allegedly served as a source for counterfeit luxury items, including Coach purses, handbags and other items. Earlier this year, Coach responded to the alleged trademark infringement by filing a lawsuit not against alleged sellers and makers of the knock-off goods but against Swap Shop owners Preston and Betty Henn. The Henns, Coach claimed, “willfully turned a blind eye” to vendors illegally selling counterfeit Coach products on their property.

After just two days in court, the Henns capitulated and agreed to a settlement that included a $5.5 million payment to Coach due no later than December 27, 2013. For its legal efforts Coach obtained intellectual property protection, sent a message to other would-be trademark infringers and won a high-value sum that will significantly boost its 2013 bottom line.

The attorneys of the law office of Manos &Alwine, P.L., applaud the outcome of this lawsuit. Coach expends vast sums annually designing, marketing and distributing its coveted products. It deserves compensation from any party complicit in trademark infringement.

If your business is involved in a trademark dispute or other commercial dispute in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact one of our business dispute attorneys to discuss your concerns. Our team of commercial litigation attorneys has resolved hundreds of trademark and contract disputes involving licensed material, unfair competition, insurance, entertainment law, distribution agreements and more. We represent both plaintiffs and defendants and have achieved numerous six- and seven-figure outcomes both in and out of court. To contact us, call 305-341-3100.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Retail Shop Infringes on “Harry Potter” Licensing Rights

As South Florida readers in the entertainment industry likely know, licensing right disputes are a common threat to incomes and profits. While infringement most often occurs during the whirlwind days when a film, song, book or other property is first released, a recent case in Los Angeles shows that licensing infringements can also occur years after legally protected materials are initially released.

In early 2013, Warner Bros. filed suit against a shop in Los Angeles called Whimsic Alley, accusing it of selling and renting out unlicensed "Harry Potter"-branded items. Specifically, Warner Bros. claimed that Whimsic Alley’s wizard costumes, wands and Hogwarts-style “great halls” that it supplied for children’s parties were created and marketed without permission from Warner Bros., which the owner of most “Harry Potter” trademarks. Warner Bros. claimed that the extent of infringement entitled it to demand both compensation and the potential shuttering of the costume and gift shop.

Supporters of Whimsic Alley began a letter-writing campaign in what was viewed by many as a “David and Goliath”-type scenario, but attorneys following the case understood the legal ramifications of the dispute. Intellectual property law attorney Allen Grodsky of The Los Angeles Times noted that Whimsic Alley had been accused of illegally marketing unlicensed merchandise before and that he could “understand why Warner Bros. is upset.” Whimsic Alley’s attorneys must have agreed. Following a confidential settlement with Warner Bros., the store will be allowed to remain open, but it will have to “make changes” in its product that reflect a permanent injunction barring it from “displaying any ‘Harry Potter’ trademarks and other ‘confusingly similar’ marks in the shop or on its website”.

Irrespective of the scenario of this case, the fact is, trademark infringement is unfair and illegal and can cost you or your business a significant amount of money. If you believe another party is infringing on a trademark you own, protect your property and rights with the help of an attorney skilled in contract, intellectual property entertainment law. The attorneys of Manos &Alwine, P.L. have handled trademark infringement disputes since 1999. To contact us, call 305-341-3100.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Flight' gives rise to interesting fair use dispute

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Denzel Washington's Miami fans might not have realized it, but when they went to see Washington's new thriller "Flight," they were actually watching the subject of a very interesting intellectual property debate.

In case you have not seen the movie, Washington plays a character who struggles with alcohol and drinks at inappropriate times, like when he is behind the wheel.

One of the drinks Washington's character consumes in Budweiser. Earlier this week, Anheuser-Busch asked Paramount Pictures to digitally erase the Budweiser trademark from future copies of 'Flight.'

In a statement, Anheuser-Busch said it does not condone irresponsible use of its product and doesn't like that it is being depicted in connection with unhealthy drinking.

Now, usually, the use of a trademarked image in a film is considered fair use, meaning it is a reasonable and fair use of work without the author's permission. However, it's a case-by-case analysis, since a condition of fair use is that the use in question not impede the rights holders' ability to earn money and doesn't constitute more of a "use" than is necessary to accomplish the original objective.

As applied to this film, then, does negatively portraying Budweiser impede Anheuser-Busch's economic interests and is Budweiser used more extensively than necessary to accomplish the objective of showing that Washington's character is an alcoholic?

In any event, Anheuser-Busch has asked for the logo to be removed, but hasn't made any legal moves yet. That likely says something about how it perceives its chances of filing suit over this issue.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Anheuser-Busch Asks Paramount to Remove Budweiser From Flight," Daniel Miller, Nov. 6, 2012


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trademark dispute erupts between 'The Hobbit' and 'Age of the Hobbits'

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

If there were a movie at Redbox called "Age of the Hobbits," how many people here in Miami would think it had something to do with Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit," which is due to be released this holiday season?

Probably quite a few, because the word "hobbit" calls to mind J.R.R. Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" novels. Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" is based on those books; "Age of the Hobbits" is not.

That's why New Line Cinema recently sued The Asylum over its "Age of the Hobbits" film, which is due to be released direct-to-video a few days before "The Hobbit" is released in December.

New Line claims that "hobbit" is a trademarked phrase and refers only to characters in Tolkein's novels. The Asylum claims otherwise; pointing to how a hominid species discovered in 2003 was referred to as a "hobbit" before it received a proper scientific name.

Some elements of "The Age of Hobbits" do seem to suggest it is a knockoff, but that in and of itself is not illegal. In 1993, a film production company won the legal right to make an imitation of "Aladdin," and ever since then, it's been harder for studios to prevent the making and marketing of copycat films.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. The Asylum was also sued this summer when it tried to release a film called "American Battleships" at nearly the same time as Universal's "Battleship" and in that case, it changed the name of the film to "American Warships."

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hobbit' Lawyers Threatens 'Age of the Hobbits' Movie (Exclusive)" Matthew Belloni, Oct. 17, 2012

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