Craigslist Prevented from Trademark Peace Symbol

Craigslist’s application to trademark the international peace symbol was recently rejected.  The Trademark Trials and Appeal Board held that the symbol failed to distinguish its products and services, even when given the color purple.  A well known symbol must be clearly identify the source of goods if it is to be registerable. For this reason it often makes more sense to register a unique mark. 

Click here for full article

Headlight Flashing: Obstruction of Justice or Protected Speech?

Michael Elli was ticketed after he flashed his headlight as a warning to oncoming motorists.  The moving violation was later dropped but Elli filed suit against the city of Ellisville, Missouri  claiming that headlight warnings are a form of protected speech. Elli’s lawyer is quoted as saying “if communicating the presence of a speed trap with headlamps is the obstruction of justice, then so too is communicating the same message by CB or at the corner gas station.” Florida, Tennessee and Utah have also considered this matter; all three states siding with the drivers.  Florida went a step further and lassed a law banning prosecution for flashing headlights.

Click here for full article

Yoga Pose Sequence Not Copyrightable Material

The founder of Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudhury, recently filed suit against two of his trainees.  The trainees formed their own yoga studio and used the identical Bikram Yoga sequence contained in Choudhury’s federally copyrighted book.  The court held that the copyright protected only the books containing the compilation of exercises.  It did not protect the sequence of those exercises because that sequence is a collection of facts and ideas and not a creative work of expression.

Collage of Copyrighted Images Does Not Violate Copyright Law

The Second Circuit recently held that an artist’s use of copyrighted material in both collages and paintings does not constitute copyright infringement.  The artist’s incorporation of these works was considered transformative and therefore fair use of the images. 

Click here for full article

Use of Second Generation Seed Constitutes Patent Infringement

A farmer who legally purchased patented seeds from Monsanto was recently sued for replanting second generation seeds without permission (Monsanto v. Bowman). Generally the purchaser of a patented item may use and resell that item; however, a purchaser is not permitted to make additional copies of that item.  Although the second generation of seeds was created without human intervention, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the replanting of these seeds constituted patent infringement. 

Click here for full article

9th Circuit Holds the Bat Mobile is a Character Protected by Copyright

DC Comics recently sued the manufacturer of Bat Mobile replicas claiming that these copies constituted copyright infringement (DC Comics v. Towle).  The Ninth Circuit recently agreed, holding that “especially distinctive” characters are entitled to copyright protection, finding that the Bat Mobile is not just a car; it is a distinctive character.

Click here for full article

Pitfalls of Trademark Use in Advertising and Promotion

Be cautious when using the trademarks of others… even when you are simply advertising a product or promoting something as mundane as the “Super Bowl” or “March Madness.”  Both of the terms used in the aforementioned example are federally trademarked and that trademark should be noted in any advertising or promotional material.

You should never use a trademarked name in an advertisement to describe a general style of item. In a recent case, Tiffany & Co. filed suit against Costco for advertising “Tiffany” engagement rings.  The rings Costco sells are not made by Tiffany;  Costco simply used the term to describe the style of ring and is now being sued for trademark infringement.

Click here for full article