Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jay-Z Copyright Infringement Case with Dwayne Walker

Back in 2012, Dwayne Walker filed a lawsuit against Jay-Z for breach of contract and copyright infringement for failure to pay royalties, claiming that he designed the iconic logo for Roc-A-Fella records, Jay-Z’s record company and is owed $7,000,000. The lawsuit, Dwayne D. Walker, Jr. v. Shawn Carter (“Jay-Z”) et al, case no. 12-cv-05384(ALC)(RLE), was filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York in 2012. The Plaintiff’s alleges that that “Jay Z, Dame Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, all agreed to pay Walker $3,500 for the design of the Roc-A-Fella logo. However, Dwayne Walker stipulated in the agreement that he be compensated with two percent of future royalties for ten years after the first year of use. Walker, who claims to own the copyright to the logo, received the $3,500, but the royalties have never come.”

One does not need to have registered with the US Copyright office to actually have copyright protection, but a registered copyright holder has the presumption of ownership in court- whereas an unregistered owner does not. The logo at issue was registered with the USPTO by ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS, INC., reg. no.: 2310169.

Recently, Mr. Walker is claiming that Jay-Z’s legal team is stalling by complicating the legal proceedings. As reported by The Daily Mail, Walker’s attorney accuses Defendant’s legal team of using behavior to ‘mislead, harass, and needlessly increase the cost of litigation’ as the case. RadarOnline writes that for example, “Jay Z’s legal team is “unwilling to cooperate in producing a joint report” and “changed terms of the proposed schedule” numerous times to suit Jay Z’s needs and timetable, the documents claim.” In response, Jay Z’s attorney’s wrote “that they have considered Walker’s prior settlement offer” but believe “that there is NOT a possibility for promptly settling or resolving the case.”

If Mr. Carter’s legal team is trying to scare the Plaintiff away through prospect of high legal fees, it seems that it isn’t working. “This is a straightforward breach of contract case,” explains Berry. “Mr. Walker agreed to create a logo for Jay-Z and his partners, and he did create a logo that has become intimately tied to the enormous success of Jay-Z. Mr. Walker upheld his end of the bargain when all the parties were just starting out, and now they need to uphold theirs.”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Copyright Aereo Oral Arguments in US Supreme Court

This week, The U.S. Supreme Court began the oral argument stage for ABC Inc. v. Aereo, No. 13-461, a case with colossal ramifications on copyright law. ABC is joined by CBS, Disney, Fox, Comcast’s NBC Universal, and the federal government. The Aereo Company, based in Long Island, NY is an internet alternative to watching television. Aereo charges its subscribers a monthly fee to watch television stations over the internet, without the company having a license to do so, or paying retransmission fees to local affiliates.

The case turns on a part of the copyright law that requires copyright owners’ permission for “public performances” of their work. The law defines such performances to include retransmission to the public.” Aereo argues that since they have an individual antenna streaming to each individual subscriber over the internet, it is accordingly not classified as a public performance under U.S. Copyright Law.

According to Deadline, Chief Justice John Roberts proclaimed during oral argument that “[y]our technological model is based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don’t want to comply with…There’s no reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antennas except to get around the Copyright Act.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out at Aereo “[Is] the only player so far that pays no royalties whatsoever.”

The oral arguments were reportedly watched in person today by Fox co-COO, James Murdoch as well as Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia. The high stakes of this case is clear. If the court rules for Aereo, it could be a deathblow for the television broadcasting model that has been fighting the internet for years. If the court rules for the broadcasting companies, the Aereo business model will be finished. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in June.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Apple Seeks $2.2 Billion in Damages from Samsung

The 2nd trial between Apple and Samsung is 5 days in, Apple is seeking $2.2 billion in damages from Samsung for alleged infringements of 5 of Apple’s patents. Apple filed Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd et al in the California Northern District Court on February 20, 2012, and to make things interesting Samsung filed a counterclaim, alleging that two patents have been infringed on by Apple. Samsung is seeking $6 million, a fraction in comparison. The two tech heavyweights have been at each others throats for years, and by July 2012 had over 50 lawsuits against each other around the world.

The latest news from the case involve Apple’s expert, Christopher Vellturo, who testified this week that the infringement covers 37 million phones and tablets sold during a 2 year period, and the patents at issue involved software that makes the smartphone user friendly. The damages total $2.2 billion. The argument is that Samsung cut into the public demand for Apple’s products by infringing on their patents. Not surprisingly, Samsung’s lawyers think the $2.2 billion demand in damages is a “gross, gross exaggeration.”

If Apple prevails on the merits, although unprobable, but not impossible, that the tech giant will collect billions in damages. While even Apple’s trial lawyers may not believe they can get it, the late Steve Jobs, who declared “holy war” on Google, would be pleased with the fighting spirit. The trial has just begun, and Samsung could use the victory after losing to Apple in a separate, but similar trial, otherwise Apple may feel empowered to push Samsung even further and more frequently into the court room.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trademark Opposition of Deadmou5 vs. Disney

At the end of March, The Trademark Trial and Appeals Board granted Disney a 90 day extension to file an opposition against a pending trademark sought by Ronica Holdings, Limited, on behalf of the popular EDM artist, Joel Zimmerman, known as “Deadmou5” (pronounced “Dead Mouse”).

The pending trademark, shown below (Serial No. 85972976) features a smiling black and white mouse head with big ears, similar to the Mickey Mouse silhouette, also shown below. It is likely that Disney and Zimmerman’s representatives are trying to hash this out during the 90 day period.

In one scenario, Disney may seek to block the trademark outright fearing a black and white mouse logo may lead to a likelihood of confusion with the iconic Mickey Mouse trademark. Moreover, Disney may also fear that a similar mouse logo used in connection with the edgy EDM scene, may tarnish the Mickey Mouse’s family friendly image that Disney has worked to build up for many years.

Alternatively, the parties may reach an agreement where both trademarks may co-exist with certain agreed upon limitations.

Zimmerman’s mark at issue is already used in interstate commerce and around the world. According the Deadmou5 wikipedia page, Joel Zimmerman created his mouse head logo using 3D graphic design software, and has used similar mouse designs on his album artwork dating back to 2005. Moreover, Zimmerman is recognized for performing as Deadmou5 while wearing a giant electronic mouse head.

While on one hand, Zimmerman may argue that there is no likelihood of confusion based on his continued use of the mark without a problem for almost ten years, but on the other hand, Disney’s ability to litigate this to the fullest may give Mr. Zimmerman good reason to avoid a high cost legal battle, and seek a quick compromise.