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Category: Blog

Legal Challenges of Modifying Video Games: Stifling Creativity in new Media Forms

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.

Pooch Over Hooch: Why Parody Prevailed in VIP Products, LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc.

By: Hannah Hall

In a recent Ninth Circuit case, the court cited the need to protect the plaintiff’s right to free speech. The defendant promptly petitioned for certiorari, calling the court’s protective move “egregiously misguided.” What kind of newsworthy controversy would spark such weighty concerns and yet also garner such strong criticism? Dog toys, of course. In this post, the JIPL Blog takes a sniff at VIP Products, LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc., why trademark law allows parodic products to proliferate, and whether the Ninth Circuit’s decision really changes the law on parody.

WHY THE SUPREME COURT’S DENIAL OF CERTIORARI IN ERICSSON WAS PROPER

By: Sloane Kyrazis

In TCL Comm’n Tech. Holdings v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, 943 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2019) (“Ericsson”), the Federal Circuit held that Ericsson’s Seventh Amendment rights guaranteed a jury trial in its suit against TCL involving the royalty dispute between the two parties related to the fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) licensing of Ericsson’s patent portfolio. The case was closely watched because many thought it was finally the time when the Federal Circuit, and possibly the Supreme Court, would provide some guidance over what constitutes a FRAND licensing scheme for standard essential patents. Instead of providing much needed guidance, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court decision below, holding that the district judge’s announcement of a FRAND royalty in a bench trial violated Ericsson’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. The Supreme Court denied certiorari on appeal. This blog post discusses why such a denial was well-founded.

STAY ON TARGET: MODERN ADVERTISING, THE TORT OF PUBLIC DISCLOSURE, AND THE CASE FOR EXPANDED PRIVACY PROTECTIONS

By: Jake Knanishu

Advances in advertising delivery and targeting technology pose a new, unique, and rapidly developing threat to individual privacy. Now, you can safely assume any advertisement you see on television or on a webpage has in some way been targeted at you—and so can anyone else who happens to see the ad. The finer points of this interaction among an advertiser, you, and a secondary audience prevent this invasion of privacy from being actionable under traditional common-law theories. The novelty, scope, and probabilistic nature of the harm suggest that regulation should be handled by an administrative agency, but which one? And how? Although not quite an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” in the familiar sense, this seems to be a modern twist on exactly the kind of thing the FTC was commissioned to police. Regardless of whose responsibility it becomes, something must be done before this practice gets too far out of hand.

A FREDDY KRUEGER BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A FREDDY KRUEGER: WHY HAVEN’T HALLOWEEN STORES BEEN SUED FOR SELLING COSTUMES THAT MIMIC WELL-KNOWN FICTIONAL CHARACTERS?

By: Kristen Van Dyke

Halloween stores sell costumes that clearly mimic the appearance of well-known fictional characters. Profiting from consumers’ association of these costumes with the fictional characters they resemble potentially infringes trademark rights. So why haven’t these Halloween stores been sued yet? This blog explores how the uncertainty of fictional character trademark law and additional non-legal considerations may be tipping the scales away from litigation.

TURNING CHARACTER COPYRIGHT ‘INSIDE OUT’: THE MOODSTER CO. V. WALT DISNEY CO. CASE

By: Taylor Pernini

The Supreme Court recently received a petition for a writ of cert from the Moodsters Company, which sued Disney for copyright infringement over the emotional characters from the movie “Inside Out”. The Supreme Court has never ruled on character copyright, making the jurisprudence a mess of conflicting circuit tests. The Moodsters lost at the Ninth Circuit under the stringent Towle test and now allege that none of the current circuit tests fit the key purposes of copyright. They might be right—the Supreme Court’s focus should be on uniqueness and originality—but it is still unlikely that they win under that standard. This blog will address the differing circuit tests, why each one suffers weaknesses in copyright law, and what the appropriate standard should be going forward.

GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS: TRADE SECRET LAWS DON’T ACTUALLY PROTECT TRADE SECRETS FOR USERS OF CLOUD COMPUTING

By: Abbey Duhé

Cloud computing, whether that refers to data storage or service models like Software as a Service (SaaS) offers businesses an attractive cost-saving opportunity but leaves users at risk of losing valuable trade secrets. This blog post argues that the current avenues for legal recourse, though bountiful, are not enough to actually protect the value of these assets. The cloud computing industry imposes expanding demands on the reasonableness requirements to keep trade secret information confidential, but merely provides as a default the opportunity to litigate once the trade secret has already been lost. Solutions for companies may include keeping trade secret information out of the cloud altogether, but also more formalized standards to adapt to growing cybersecurity concerns.

ALL DRESSED UP WITH NO PLACE TO GO: WHEN THE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT PLEADING STANDARD CONFUSION MEANS CASES CAN’T GET BEYOND THE COMPLAINT AND ANSWER

By: Brittany Blanchard

The pleading standard for copyright infringement claims is shockingly unsettled. It is unclear what elements must be pled to establish the claim and what proof is required for those elements. Despite this ambiguity in the law, the Supreme Court has not clarified this issue. This lack of clarity has resulted in a Ninth Circuit case being stuck in the complaint stage for four years. H&M and Malibu Textiles have spent the past four years litigating the issue of what is required in pleading copyright infringement claims. This case exemplifies the harm in a lack of a judicially establish pleading standard for copyright infringement claims. The Ninth Circuit decision in the H&M case lowers the pleading standard beyond what is established in Supreme Court precedent and argues that the Supreme Court decision not to review this case means that the law in this area will continue to be ambiguous.

STATE COPYRIGHT PIRACY: AN ANALYSIS OF ALLEN V. COOPER AND ITS IMPACT ON LEGISLATIVE ATTEMPTS TO ABROGATE STATE SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY IN COPYRIGHT SUITS

By: Grant Daniel Cole

The power struggle between the federal and state governments is a hallmark of the American Legal system. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Allen v. Cooper, 140 S. Ct. 994, (2020), the balance of power has shifted back to the states. The Court in Allen held that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to abrogate States’ Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and allow States to be sued in federal court for copyright infringement. Thus, the CRCA, the statute Congress passed that purportedly abrogated States’ sovereign immunity from copyright suits, was deemed unconstitutional. However, the Court in Allen should have held the statute was constitutional as applied underUnited States v. Georgia rationale.Furthermore, despite holding that the CRCA was unconstitutional, the Court lays out a blueprint for further legislative action. This post explores both the alternative arguments in Allen and the impact the case will have on future legislative action in this area.

YOUR FACE IS THE PRODUCT: FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY AND THE RIGHT OF PUBLICITY

By: Emily Hanson

Tech companies like Google, Amazon, and IBM have developed facial recognition technology by feeding the enormous number of publicly available photos on social media through highly advanced machine-learning algorithms. Facial recognition technology has serious implications for privacy both when it malfunctions and when it functions as intended. Social media users need an extension of right of publicity doctrine to keep these companies from profiting from their images and using them to develop technologies that break down the right to move through the world without being recognized.