Showing posts with label intellectual property. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intellectual property. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2021

SDNY rules against Locast, knifes beleaguered free TV

[UPDATE: At 9:47 a.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 2, I received word that Locast is suspending operations, effective immediately.]  

Locast, an online retransmitter of broadcast television, and the American public together suffered a major blow on August 31, as the federal district court in New York handed partial summary judgment to ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in the networks' copyright infringement lawsuit.

Locast has irritated me, but only for not expanding fast enough.  Where I live, near Providence, R.I., the service is not available.  It is available in New York to the south and Boston to the north, but access is strictly geo-fenced.  As a result, my family cannot see free broadcast TV without springing for an expensive subscription to a cable service or streaming-channel consolidator.

That's not really Locast's fault.  Broadcasters have reduced their power over the years, making free TV incrementally more difficult to access.  I live just nine miles from the broadcast towers that serve the Rhode Island state capital, but I cannot receive any signal with an interior or window-mounted antenna.

Indeed, the networks seem to want out of the broadcast game altogether.  Kickbacks from online consolidators such as Hulu Live and YouTube TV, and the networks' profits from their own services, such as Paramount+ (and Hulu Live, in part), are more lucrative than broadcasting and come with no FCC regulatory strings attached.  Local affiliates, including vital broadcast news outlets, fall through the cracks, wreaking further havoc in our information market, but that's no matter to the bottom line.  Locast threatened to breathe life back into the corpse of free TV, so the networks pursued the service with a vengeance. 

Locast is a non-profit, and its "business" model is simple.  It sets up a technology hub in a place such as Boston and converts local broadcast signals to online streams.  Home cord-cutters thus have their access to free TV restored through the internet service they already have, no antenna needed.

On the face of it, of course, this business model would constitute copyright infringement for copying and redistributing the broadcast signals.  But Congress, in a rare showing of commitment to the public interest rather than to the profit margins of our corporate overlords, built an exemption into the Copyright Act.  Governmental or nonprofit organizations are permitted to retransmit "without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage, and without charge to the recipients of the secondary transmission other than assessments necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs of maintaining and operating the secondary transmission service."

Locast is freely available and supported only by voluntary donations.  But streaming is interrupted at 15-minute intervals by 15-second pleas for donations.  Like the ad-free versions of pay-TV services, Locast offers absolution from these interruptions in exchange for a minimum "donation" of $5 per month.  The $5-donation model proved sufficiently successful that Locast was able to cover its operating costs and use the excess to expand to new markets.

And that, expansion, was Locast's sin, in the eyes of the district court.  Judge Louis L. Stanton opined that Congress could have written "maintaining and operating and expanding" into the statutory exemption, but did not.  So Locast's dedication of additional accounts received to expansion was fatal to its claim of copyright exemption.

I find the court's reading of the statute exceedingly cramped.  Locast plainly is spending money to do precisely what Congress intended: making free TV available to people who cannot receive it without hiring a contractor to install an antenna tower.  That the books must balance within each micro-market rather than across live markets, in the utter absence of evidence that a dime has been diverted to any other objective, absurdly splits hairs.

Locast lawyers, joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say they are examining the ruling.  Locast announced yesterday that it is for now ceasing streaming interruptions requesting donations. 

There are ways that Locast can work around its current predicament, I reason. Locast has been supported by some major corporate donors who are not old-school TV insiders, such as AT&T, which contributed $500,000.  Internet service providers such as AT&T benefit from Locast, because retransmissions are streamed into homes, rather than broadcast.  With more careful balancing of the books, it should be possible, if cumbersome, to parse operations between discrete markets and to raise capital to support expansion directly.

It's a shame that such gamesmanship should be required for what is clearly a public service.  And a bigger problem might remain for American information and entertainment consumers in the ongoing, if prolonged, death throes of free TV.  We might hope that Congress would obviate the fray with bold measures that would reinvigorate the landscape of electronic expression by enhancing public-interest limitations on digital intellectual property and guaranteeing access to the internet for all Americans.

We also might hope to see pigs take flight.

The case is American Broadcasting Cos. v. Goodfriend, No. 1:19-cv-07136 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2021). I bet Judge Stanton is one of those people who has both cable and Fubo and can't use either one unless someone helps him with the remote.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Genetic manipulation will transform humankind; Enríquez book aims to keep law, science in pace

Paul Enríquez, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D. (LinkedIn, SSRN) has published a must-have book for readers interested in the cutting-edge juncture of law and science.  A superb writer, Dr. Enríquez has geared the book for general audiences, while also offering plenty of thought-provoking flesh for lawyers and scientists alike to sink their teeth into.  And that's before science accidentally turns us into zombies.

Here is the précis of Rewriting Nature: The Future of Genome Editing and How to Bridge the Gap Between Law and Science from Cambridge University Press (2021).

History will mark the twenty-first century as the dawn of the age of precise genetic manipulation. Breakthroughs in genome editing are poised to enable humankind to fundamentally transform life on Earth. Those familiar with genome editing understand its potential to revolutionize civilization in ways that surpass the impact of the discovery of electricity and the development of gunpowder, the atomic bomb, or the Internet. Significant questions regarding how society should promote or hinder genome editing loom large in the horizon. And it is up to humans to decide the fate of this powerful technology. Rewriting Nature is a compelling, thought-provoking interdisciplinary exploration of the law, science, and policy of genome editing. The book guides readers through complex legal, scientific, ethical, political, economic, and social issues concerning this emerging technology, and challenges the conventional false dichotomy often associated with science and law, which contributes to a growing divide between both fields.

Besides being a family friend, Dr. Enríquez was, many moons ago, a student in one of my law classes: a rather impertinent fact I mention only to boast.  In truth, the student already had surpassed the mentor.  Nevertheless, he generously asked my feedback on some points of constitutional law for this book.  So I weaseled my way into the acknowledgments, and you can blame me if anything is wrong in the relevant chapter.

Here is the impressive About the Author:

Paul Enríquez, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is an intellectual property attorney and scientist who researches and writes at the intersection of law, science, and policy. He holds doctoral degrees in law and structural and molecular biochemistry. His research on law, science, and technology, genome editing, biochemistry, and the regulation of biotechnology, has been published in numerous scientific, legal, and popular-media publications, and has been presented at national and international conferences. He currently serves as a judicial clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Buy yours now in hardback, paperback, or Kindle from Amazon.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

'Right to repair' of Mass. Question 1 would close loophole, aid consumers; industry opposition misleads

Teen mechanic in Philippines, 2014
(Rojessa Tiamson-Saceda, USAID, via Pixnio CC0)
Massachusetts has a right-to-repair initiative (Question 1) on the ballot this Election Day.

Voter information explains: "Under the proposed law, manufacturers would not be allowed to require authorization before owners or repair facilities could access mechanical data stored in a motor vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system, except through an authorization process standardized across all makes and models and administered by an entity unaffiliated with the manufacturer."

Passing this initiative should be a no-brainer.  The provision is in fact only an update to an existing law that voters approved in 2012.  Extending the right to repair to "telematic" data, the new law would close a right-to-repair loophole, through which carmakers can shield vehicle data against access by transmitting data out from the vehicle to a proprietary server.  The only source of controversy here should be how we let corporations continuously try to exploit law and technology to evade accountability to consumers and line their pockets with monopolistic product strategies.

The initiative is opposed by the "Coalition for Safe and Secure Data."  The organization's tack is that if you vote yes on Question 1, you'll facilitate domestic violence, because vehicle information can be misused by violent ne'er-do-wells.  The threat is a repulsive red herring, especially considering that telematic data about consumers already are being relocated without subject sign-off.  The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data is not the sheep of consumer privacy advocacy it pretends to be, but a wolf of a trade group, funded to the tune of $25m by the motor vehicle industry to shut down Question 1, according to Commonwealth Magazine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Corcos probes symbiosis of law and pop culture

My colleague at Louisiana State University Christine Corcos has published "Three Ways of Looking at Law and Popular Culture," appearing in Propriete Intellectuelle et Pop Culture: Nouveaux enjeux, nouveaux defis (IRPI 2020) (conference proceedings) (Amazon France).  The full work is not available online at present, but, meanwhile, the abstract from SSRN is a worthy lesson in itself:

In 1989 the Stanford University Law School professor Lawrence Friedman offered a definition of “popular legal culture.” In an often-cited article, he wrote that, “In the first place, legal culture acts as an intervening variable, a mechanism for transforming norms of popular culture into legal dress and shape. In the second place, legal and popular culture, as images of each other, help explicate and illuminate their respective contents”. He notes that law and culture interact in two ways. Law is outward-looking; it depends on and interacts with the society from which it springs. At the same time it shapes that society. We can and do also talk about at least two current and differing uses of law and popular culture in legal education. We can use law and popular culture to teach legal principles. This use makes legal doctrine entertaining and accessible. We can also dig for the messages it gives us about the interaction of law and society. This second method requires us to interact with the texts of both law and popular culture.

Currently in legal education we can and do examine at law and popular culture in both of the ways Friedman identifies. I suggest that we can identify and should examine a third intersection of law and popular culture that scholars have begun to study, that I suggest we should formally acknowledge as a part of law and popular culture studies. This third intersection is the actual trans-formative effect or trans-formative turn that popular culture and law have on each other. I would suggest both that certain types of intellectual property studies and certain types of activity fall into this category. One example is law’s response to the creation of fan fiction and of fan use of copyrighted and trademarked materials that force a response from the rights holders, or force fans to cease a particular activity because the rights holders refuse permission to proceed. We have many examples of the legal responses and changes in norms that illustrate these interactions. What we don’t yet seem to have in the general theory of law and pop culture is a definition for this third intersection. It may be that this third intersection is now most obvious in intellectual property law, perhaps because of the accessibility and spread of technology as well as the overwhelming importance of social media in our lives today. It exists in other a
reas of law as well, for example in family law, in criminal law, in privacy law, and has for some time. I would suggest that this intersection creates the possibility for the working out of the tensions between law and culture, as the public through pop culture identifies how the law works, what the law is, and then reacts to the law, makes demands on the law, and in some cases, forces changes in the law.

Professor Corcos has been my role model for teaching law with popular culture since we met 20 years ago.  Recently she published, as editor and contributor, The Media Method: Teaching Law with Popular Culture (Carolina Academic Press 2019) (Amazon), to which I was fortunate to be able to contribute a chapter on 1L Torts (abstract).

Monday, May 4, 2020

UK football letter roils world sport, and real world, too

Letter posted on Twitter by the AP's Rob Harris
The English Premier League football (soccer) organization wrote to the U.S. Trade Representative in February urging that the United States put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the "Priority Watch List" of countries that fail to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.

The letter has been widely reported beyond the football world for its potential implications in foreign affairs.  Where the United States is concerned, IP piracy is regarded as a critical contemporary problem, on par with national security.  Much of that regard is warranted, as countries such as China, at least historically, have been linked to IP theft as a means to unfair economic advantage, to the detriment of American enterprise.  Some of the sentiment derives from the capture of Washington by IP-wealthy corporations, to the detriment of intellectual freedom.  Regardless, the gross result has been a paper war with nations that countenance IP piracy.  To put Saudi Arabia in those U.S. crosshairs adds a layer of complexity to our already impossibly complicated love-hate relationship with the KSA—read more from James Dorsey just last week—with ramifications from Yemen to Israel.

The letter has potential ramifications within the Middle East, too.  The Premier League's indictment calls out specifically a Saudi-based pirate football broadcaster that calls itself "beout Q" and seems to operate in a blind spot of Saudi criminal justice, even distributing set-top boxes and selling subscriptions in Saudi retail outlets.  The name seems to be a thumb in the nose of beIN Sports, a Doha-based, Qatari-owned media outlet with lawful licensing rights to many Premier League and other international sporting matches.  Saudi Arabia has led the blockade of Qatar since the 2017 Middle East diplomatic crisis, a high note of previously existing and still enduring tensions between the premier political, economic, and cultural rivals in the region.

A 2016 Amnesty International report
was not flattering to Qatar or FIFA.
Football and international sport are weapons in this rivalry.  Qatar has long capitalized on sport as a means to the end of soft international power, winning the big prize of the men's football World Cup in 2022, if by hook or by crook.  Saudi Arabia has more lately taken to the idea of "sportwashing" its image, especially since the Jamal Khashoggi assassination and amid the ceaseless civil war in Yemen.

The letter roiled the world of football no less, as Saudi Arabia has been in negotiation to acquire the Newcastle United Football Club.  That purchase requires Premier League approval.  So everyone and her hooligan brother has an opinion about what it means that the league is so worked up about Saudi IP piracy as to write to the United States for help.

This unusual little letter is a reminder of a theme, known to social science and as old as the Ancient Olympics, that, more than mere diversion, sport is a reflection of our world.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

UMass Law Review hosts vibrant media law symposium

Today, as advertised, the UMass Law Review hosted a symposium on media law. The program videos are all on Facebook Live.  Check my Twitter feed for hot links to speakers' handles.  Three panels were organized by media "platform," from politics to digital to entertainment, raising issues from the investigative journalism to data breach law to streaming music copyright.  The program concluded with a keynote address by Richard P. Flaggert, a DLA Piper media attorney.  Here are some highlights:

After a thoughtful welcome by UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick, UMass Law Professor Jeremiah Ho started the program with a discussion of why media matter.  The problem of law and policy, he said, is the gulf between "what matters" and "what excites us," with the media business model tending to cater to the latter.  Professor Ho is a co-adviser of the UMass Law Review.





  

Kicking off the first panel of the day, Rep. Christopher Markey, New Bedford, Mass., attorney, Commonwealth legislator, and UMass Law alumnus, gave the political perspective.  Money has distorted news from being an educational tool to being entertainment, he explained.  People must be media literate to elicit truth from what they see, hear, and read.  Recalling his years as a district attorney, Markey said that attorneys and judges were "better" when a beat reporter was sitting in the courtroom, that journalism "makes government better."  But those beat reporters are no longer there.

Jillian Fennimore provided her perspective from inside the busy office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.  A journalism graduate of the University of New Hampshire with many years experience in media, Fennimore explained the challenge of making the work of the state's law office intelligible and meaningful to citizens, whether the subject matter is investigation of the opioid crisis, antitrust enforcement, or protection of a consumer whose vacuum cleaner broke.  AG Healey cares about all of these things because she understands that these are things people care about, Fennimore said.  My Torts II class has been looking at the impact of the Healey opioid investigation on the crisis and litigation nationwide.

Peter Ubertaccio, a dean and political scientist at Stonehill College, gave an academic perspective on news and media law.  Those of us of a certain age remember the local TV news anchors of our youth, he observed.  That is not true for our children.  Journalism today is "atomized," lacking the "rhythm" of television before the information age, even if the internet is "democratiz[ing]."  There is more content available through more conduits than ever before, Ubertaccio explained, yet there is less availability of accurate information.  We are entering a golden age of television entertainment while at the same time entering a dark age of information, he said.  Incidentally, yes, I remember my anchors.  And I was privileged to have worked with Baltimore's great Al Sanders for a short time before he passed away.

A star of the first panel was Dee DeQuattro, UMass Law alumna, staff attorney for Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, and creator of the Boots on the Ground Heroes Memorial.  DeQuattro talked about her experiences in radio and television, most recently as an assignment manager for ABC6 News in Providence, Rhode Island, then her transition to a public relations and later legal capacity for the veterans organization, Operation Stand Down.  DeQuattro went to journalism school to hold power accountable in the tradition of Woodward and Bernstein, she said.  But "news doesn't work that way anymore," as bottom-line focused detracted from serious political reporting.  After covering the Boston Marathon bombing, she went to law school.  She still uses her familiarity with news media, driven by money savings and visual imagery, to manage public affairs in her nonprofit work.

Law Review co-adviser Professor Dwight Duncan moderated the second panel, on digital media.  Professor Andrew Beckerman-Rodau of Suffolk Law School and the Intellectual Property Center opened with a comprehensive overview of data protection, including data breach and Big Data analytics, in American law today.



Attorney Hollie Lussier of Bristol County Savings Bank told the audience about the large role data protection and privacy play in legal practice today, especially in the financial sector.  She warned attorneys to consider insurance liability limits, as $100,000, she said, won't cut it.  She cited a recent case of a "small" data breach that nevertheless generated a $140 million loss.  The breach could have been prevented, she said, with a $10,000 "penetration test."  Making matters more hazardous, she explained, many insurance policies will not cover consequential damages, which make up most of that mega-million loss.

Rhode Island attorney and legislator Stephen Ucci concurred on the importance of data protection to contemporary practice.  He referenced a recent in case in which only 300 records were exposed.  Despite seemingly straightforward facts, the exposure of data has different implications for each data subject, he explained; moreover, breach across state borders implicates the laws of 50 states as well as federal laws, such as the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.  The complexity of even a small case is thus multiplied.  Ucci discussed the data breach legislation adopted by Rhode Island in 2015 and plans to beef up education and implementation in the near future.

UMass Law Professor Dustin Marlan moderated the third panel, on the subject of entertainment law.  Attorney and educator Richard Kent Berger started off the afternoon program talking about music copyright.  He explained the significance of the Music Modernization Act of 2018 and related legislation and pending proposals.  Royalties are now owed for digital streaming, and some pre-1972 musical works that had lost copyright protection have had their authors' royalty rights restored.  The law also revamped the approach to orphan works and afford them greater protection against loss of copyright.  Previously large content providers such as Google's YouTube were able to use a notice process on a massive scale to shake potentially orphaned works free of their copyright protection.

Seattle University Law Professor Bryan Adamson, a mass media scholar, talked about the importance of framing in media, especially in news reporting, and especially in coverage of protest movements. Media frames tend to perpetuate social stability, he explained, and as a result, tend to perpetuate racial hegemony.  The portrayals viewers see might not fairly represent the facts, and, as a result, he said, rather than contributing to the public dialog, media narratives might "derail" meaningful discussion of sensitive topics such as race and social and economic equality.

Rhode Island attorney Richard E. Kühn talked about the importance of social media to attorneys.  Social media are part of contemporary legal practice across the board, he explained, touching on areas including lawyer advertising, client counseling, evidentiary investigation and spoliation, and trial practice and voir dire.  He recited recent case rulings demonstrating that failure to take social media into account, for example in evidentiary investigation, may result in a finding of legal malpractice.

DLA Piper attorney Richard P. Flaggert (not speaking on behalf of clients or the firm) gave the keynote address of the symposium, discussing contemporary media law practice.  Flaggert, who is licensed in California, Massachusetts, and England and Wales, started off by reminding that Shakespeare's "kill all the lawyers" lines was an admonition against unethical or incompetent practice, not actually an indictment of the professional.

He then spoke about two key doctrinal developments in media law practice.  First, he discussed the potential impact on free speech and commerce of the newly adopted EU Copyright Directive, in particular the article 11 "link tax" and the article 13 "upload filter measure."  Both threaten a chilling effect, he explained.  The former purports to give copyright protection to even a "snippet"—the actual word, undefined in the law—of content, putting at risk a range of content from Google news aggregation to "your blog."  Meanwhile article 13 imposes the burden of protecting against copyright infringement on ISPs, abandoning reliance on the notice-and-takedown approach of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  As a result, even "your blog" content might be tied up for weeks or longer as ISPs mull over whether you have violated copyright, likely prompting prophylactic censorship.  I note: not unlike Europe's approach to the right to be forgotten, now miring Google in a new administrative bureaucracy, not to mention the risk of Goliath gate-keeping under non-transparent private-sector control.  

Second, Flaggert talked about the problem of copyright and live fan captures of sporting events and the like.  As technology improves and recording devices become harder to detect and control, event providers such as sporting authorities will have a more difficult time policing the difference between the odd fan photo and the HD-streaming pirate.  The French solution has been to regulate, Flaggert explained, giving near absolute control to providers, a strategy of obviously problematic dimension.  Meanwhile in the United States, no body of intellectual property law, such as federal copyright or state common law, seems up to addressing the problem.  Event providers are confounded at the choice between loss of control of their intellectual property and alienation of their fan base with its abiding affection for social media.  Meanwhile the problem poses a threat to our fine-line precedents and the delicate balance between INS v. AP IP rights and the "hot news" doctrine, which has kept the peace for decades.

The village idiot moderated the first panel. Here
he is about to laugh at one of his own bad jokes.
Once a lawyer who represented ESPN before it ceded its design to bring Premier League coverage to America, I asked Flaggert 1:1 whether NBC, with its unsatisfying and impossibly expensive array of cannibalized Premiere League coverage for U.S. viewers, intends to be destroying soccer in America, or is just doing so indifferently.  He shared his frustration with access to Liverpool matches.  I'm not sure why one would necessarily want to see Liverpool, unless they were playing directly against ManC.  But I appreciate his empathy.

A big congratulations to the UMass Law Review, especially editor Casey Shannon, for executing a superb symposium, with my sincere thanks for bringing these talents to our campus.

Monday, November 26, 2018

CFP: UMass Law Review calls for papers, presentations in law and media

The UMass Law Review has issued the following call for papers. Download the call in PDF here, and please share it with any interested scholarly communities.

UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LAW REVIEW
CALL FOR SYMPOSIUM PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS

November 14, 2018

We are pleased to announce the 2019 UMass Law Review Roundtable Symposium, currently titled “Law and Media.” In the age where the 24/7 news cycle and social media have impacted current politics and where data protection, personal branding, and technology have affected entertainment and media as well as the rule of law, an investigation of the relationship between law and the media of our current times is timely and warranted. Accordingly, the UMass Law Review seeks thoughtful, insightful, and original presentations relating to the impact of the law on media as well as the impact of media on the law.

Interested participants should submit a 500-word abstract to cshannon@umassd.edu, with “Attn: Conference Editor – Symposium Submission” in the subject line by December 31st, 2018 for consideration. Selected participants will be notified by the end of January and invited to present their work at the 2019 UMass Law Review Symposium taking place in late March of 2019. Selected participants may also submit a scholarly work for potential publication in the 2019-2020 UMass Law Review Journal. If you have questions about submissions or the Symposium, please contact our Business/Conference Editor, Casey Shannon or Editor-In-Chief, Kayla Venckauskas (kvenckauskas@umassd.edu). We thank you in advance for your submission.

Sincerely,

Kayla Venckauskas
Editor-in-Chief

Casey Shannon
Business/Conference Editor

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Despite IP exclusion, insurer bound to defend in right-of-publicity case over running shoes, Mass. high court holds

Upon an underlying case involving the right of publicity coupled with consumer protection and equity claims, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today held insurers duty-bound to defend an insured running-shoe maker, despite the exclusion of intellectual property claims from coverage.

Abebe Bikila in Rome, 1960
Massachusetts-based Vibram USA, through its affiliate Vibram FiveFingers, named a line of "minimalist" running shoes after Ethiopian Olympic athlete Abebe Bikila, who ran barefoot when he set a marathon world record in Rome in 1960.  (See clips from 1960 and Bikila's 1964 marathon win in Tokyo on the Olympic Channel).  Seriously injured in a car accident in 1969, Bikila died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1973.  Since then, the family has made commercial use of the Bikila name in enterprises including a Spanish retail sporting goods chain, a Bikila biography, a Japanese commercial, and a biographical feature film.  The family objected to Vibram's association of its shoe with Bikila without permission.

The complaint comprised four counts: (1) right of publicity under the Washington Personality Rights Act, (2) violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, (3) unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and (4) unjust enrichment.  Vibram's general insurance and liability policies with two providers, Salem-based Holyoke Mutual and Maryland Casualty, covered "personal and advertising injury liability," without defining "advertising injury"; however, the coverage excluded intellectual property liability.  The insurers sought, and the superior court granted, declaratory relief from coverage.  The SJC reversed.

To trigger an insurer's duty to defend, the insured need show only "a possibility that the liability claim falls within the insurance coverage."  The duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify.  The Bikila complaint alleged that Vibram used Bikila as "an advertising idea."  Bikila family members alleged that they had "intentionally and specifically connected the name to running-related ventures, and the name itself conveys a 'barefoot dedication to succeed under any circumstances,' a desirable quality for any of these ventures."  The insurers were mistaken in arguing that the claim was limited to the right of publicity, or was synonymous with trademark infringement, both IP theories excluded from coverage.  Rather, the essence of the Bikila claim was that Vibram sought to profit from Bikila-associated ideas.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Running Shoes (by Fuzzy Gerdes, CC BY 2.0)
From the court's opinion, it is not clear to me which or what combination of claims ensures that a complaint such as this one rises beyond the coverage exclusion.  Count 1 right of publicity by itself would not have been covered by the policy, and it is informative to see that the privacy tort now resides firmly in the IP household.  I suspect that count 3 under the Lanham Act also constitutes an excluded IP claim.  So perhaps statutory consumer protection and equitable quasi-contract each could do the trick.  Yet those theories, in any given case, could overlap wholly with IP claims.  The court's opinion suggests that there is something special about the misappropriation of an "advertising idea" that sets this case apart qualitatively from IP claims.  I'm not sure I see it.

Apparently the "advertising injury" language of the insurance coverage here is not without precedent, and the court gave an informative catalog of the "wide variety of concepts, methods, and activities related to calling the public's attention to a business, product, or service [that have] constitute[d] advertising ideas":
  • logo and brand name, Street Surfing, LLC v. Great Am. E&S Ins. Co., 776 F.3d 603, 611-612 (9th Cir. 2014);
  • patented telephone service enabling sale and promotion of products, Dish Network Corp. v. Arch Specialty Ins. Co., 659 F.3d 1010, 1022 (10th Cir. 2011);
  • advertising strategy of "trad[ing] upon a reputation, history, and sales advantage" associated with Native American made products, Native Am. Arts, Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 435 F.3d 729, 733 (7th Cir. 2006);
  • concept of "Psycho Chihuahua" obsessed with Taco Bell food to advertise business, Taco Bell Corp. v. Continental Cas. Co., 388 F.3d 1069, 1072 (7th Cir. 2004);
  • word "NISSAN" to promote vehicles to public, constituting "quintessential example of trademark functioning to advertise a company's products," State Auto Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. The Travelers Indem. Co. of Am., 343 F.3d 249, 258 (4th Cir. 2003);
  • use of internet domain, CAT Internet Servs., Inc. v. Providence Wash. Ins. Co., 333 F.3d 138, 142 (3d Cir. 2003);
  • artwork and product model numbers designed to promote products (claim for trade dress infringement), Hyman v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 304 F.3d 1179, 1189 (11th Cir. 2002);
  • word "fullblood," connoting desirable quality, to advertise Simmental cattle breed, American Simmental Ass'n v. Coregis Ins. Co., 282 F.3d 582, 587 (8th Cir. 2002);
  • agent misrepresenting himself as working for another company for purposes of inducing customers to make purchases, Gustafson v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 901 F. Supp. 2d 1289, 1301 (D. Colo. 2012); and
  • patented technology used to market music for online sales, Amazon.com Int’l, Inc. v. American Dynasty Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 120 Wash. App. 610, 616-617, 619 (2004).
 "Advertising injury" is not "injury caused by other activities that are coincidentally advertised" (quoting Couch treatise).  "Otherwise stated, '[i]f the insured took an idea for soliciting business or an idea about advertising, then the claim is covered ... [b]ut if the allegation is that the insured wrongfully took a ... product and tried to sell that product, then coverage is not triggered'" (quoting Washington precedent and offering authorities in accord from other states).  Thus coverage is excluded in cases such as:

  • use related to manufacture and not marketing, Winklevoss Consultants, Inc. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 991 F. Supp. 1024, 1034 (N.D. Ill. 1998);
  • conspiracy to fix egg prices, Rose Acre Farms, Inc. v. Columbia Cas. Co., 662 F.3d 765, 768-769 (7th Cir. 2011);
  • disparagement of competitor's pineapples to undermine their advertising, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. v. Transp. Ins. Co., 500 F.3d 640, 643, 646 (7th Cir. 2007);
  • advertising another's patented method for cutting concrete, Green Mach. Corp., v. Zurich-American Ins. Group, 313 F.3d 837, 839 (3d Cir. 2002);
  • design of product, Ekco Group, Inc. v. Travelers Indemnity Co. of Ill., 273 F.3d 409, 413 (1st Cir. 2001);
  • misappropriation of product design, Frog, Switch & Mfg. Co. v. Travelers Ins. Co.,
    193 F.3d 742, 749-750 (3d Cir. 1999);
  • taking of customer list and solicitation of customers from it, Hameid v. National Fire Ins. of Hartford, 31 Cal. 4th 16, 19-20 (2003);
  • manufacture and sale of patented product, Auto Sox USA Inc. v. Zurich N. Am., 121 Wash. App. 422, 427 (2004).

So memorize those, and let me know when you're ready for the exam.

The case is Holyoke Mutual Insurance Co. in Salem v. Vibram USA, Inc., No. SJC-12401 (Mass. Sept. 12, 2018).  Suffolk Law has the oral argument video of Feb. 6.  The case was heard by the full court upon granting direct appeal, and the unanimous opinion was authored by Associate Justice David A. Lowy, a Boston University law grad and former ADA and Goodwin Proctor litigator.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Design Patent Infringement Needs a Free Expression Defense / La infracción de patentes de diseño necesita una defensa de libre expresión


From 2017:1 Juriste International magazine, available online now from the Union Internationale des Avocats.  Download issue 2017-1 here and find the whole article at page 44. Download the full research article on this subject here.

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Design Patent Infringement Needs a Free Expression Defense
/La infracción de patentes de diseño necesita una defensa de libre expresión 

Richard J. Peltz-Steele & Ralph D. Clifford

As elsewhere in the world, design patents are propagating copiously in U.S. intellectual property law. Notwithstanding their fertility, design patents face potentially prohibitive and as yet unexplored legal challenges. One possibility is that the U.S. Congress might lack the very power to authorize design patents. Another possibility – our subject here, with implications for design patents in Europe and around the world – is that design patents violate fundamental rights if there is not a defense to infringement founded in the freedom of expression.

Las patentes de diseño se propagan en abundancia en el derecho de la propiedad intelectual. Mientras tanto, las patentes de diseño enfrentan desafíos legales aún inexplorados. Enfocándose en la ley estadounidense, este artículo postula que las patentes de diseño violan los derechos fundamentales si no hay una defensa a la infracción fundada en la libertad de expresión. Diseño es único entre las patentes debido a su capacidad expresiva. Por lo tanto, debe acomodarse a la libertad de expresión con defensa de uso o trato justo, comparable a la ley de los derechos de autor.