By: Mickey Tomlinson
This blog post addresses how important consumer surveys will be for “generic.com” owners because of the United States Supreme Court’s recent Booking.com BV v. USPTO decision. The Supreme Court held there is not a per se rule that automatically bars a “generic.com” from being trademarked, rather the consumer perception of the mark determines its eligibility for trademark registration. Booking.com presented evidence consumer surveys illustrating the fact that consumers associate “Booking.com” as a specific company that offers online hotel booking and accommodation services rather than as a class of goods or services. While the Supreme Court found Booking.com’s evidence persuasive, the dissent did not; Justice Breyer argued “generic.com” cannot receive trademark registration because (1) it violates traditional trademark law and (2) consumer surveys are not reliable. Ultimately, the Booking.com BV v. USPTO decision indicates consumer surveys are invaluable and will likely be offered early as evidence in the trademark registration process for similar “generic.com” marks.
By: Jake Shapiro
Artists have recently discussed the consequences of not owning their masters, which results in a lack of control of the music they created. This is the result of certain provisions in a recording agreement, and it is unlikely that these provisions go away despite efforts by artists to negotiate more favorable deals. This type of provision played a large role in a lawsuit where 50 Cent sued Rick Ross for Rick Ross’s sampling of a portion of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” hit. Because 50 Cent’s recording agreement with Shady/Aftermath records left him without any copyright ownership in his masters, 50 Cent had to sue based on a state right-of-publicity theory since the record label had the exclusive right to enforce or not enforce the copyright ownership. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Rick Ross under the doctrine of implied and express preemption as federal copyright law preempted 50 Cent’s state right-of-publicity claim in this case. I use this result to show provisions in a recording agreement can impact litigation. I then explain how artists should negotiate more favorable provisions to give them the right to sue when their record label decided to tolerate infringement and not take legal action.
By: Audrey Harris
Illegal streaming currently causes an estimated $29.2 billion annual loss to the United States’ economy. This economic loss to the economy prompted the passage of the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (PLSA) on December 27, 2020. Prior to the passage of this law, the public performance of copyrighted material resulted in only misdemeanor liability, while the reproduction of copyrighted material resulted in felony liability, leading to what was known as the “streaming loophole.” The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act aims to close this streaming loophole by mandating that the public performance of copyrighted material will result in felony liability. This blog posting explores the economic implications that gave rise to the new law and the prior failed attempts to close the streaming loophole, while assessing potential repercussions of PLSA on the growing industry of DJs providing virtual concerts.
By: Jace D. Williams
The United States Supreme Court has never directly confronted whether patents are protected by the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are working together on a proposal with the automotive industry. This proposal is to reach the EPA’s emission standards for increased fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gases. Could the EPA use compulsory licensing under the Clean Air Act to accelerate the diffusion of patented technology to the rest of the automotive industry to satisfy the EPA’s emissions goals?
This blog argues that patents are, and have historically been, private property protected by the Takings Clause. Twentieth-century law created a distinction between land and patents that hinges on their tangible and intangible nature. This is incorrect. Distinguishing between property’s tangible or intangible nature is immaterial, but distinguishing between the rights and benefits conferred by Congress creates a stronger standard.
By: Charles Wells
Video games are a massive and rapidly developing industry with novel legal challenges are developing alongside those advancements. A key challenge in this developing area is the practice of “modding,” a process by which people other than the original video game developers access the software or hardware comprising a game and modify its contents. The unique technological character of modding stretches the conventional application of important intellectual property doctrines such as fair use and the treatment of derivative works. The current state of the law heavily favors developers and wealthy third parties, stifling the creative efforts of individual modders.