intellectual property

Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are Real Too

ChannelWeb reported that “[t]he Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) could be $1.92 million richer after a federal jury Thursday ruled a Minnesota mother of four who downloaded 24 songs violated music copyrights.” Yeah, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy could be real too. And, O.J. still could be searching for the real killer of his ex-wife. In all likelihood, none of the above will be happening. Unless Jammie Thomas-Rasset has $2 million stuck in her freezer, I doubt that the RIAA will be seeing $1.92 million any time soon.

intellectual property

Ore-gone Wild

You can’t make this stuff up. The State of Oregon Legislative Counsel Committee sent a cease and desist letter to Justia a couple weeks ago claiming that a copy of the Oregon Revised Statutes that Justia had published online infringed on the State of Oregon’s copyright to the statutes. While Oregon conceded that the text of the law itself, it did assert that “the leadlines and numbering for each statutory section” were protected. This is a no-win situation. If the government doesn’t act like a business, people complain. When the government acts like a business, people complain.

Some legal experts see this as a copyright issue. Me? I see this as a tax issue. If the state collected a 10 cent royalty every time someone cited an Oregon law, just think what it will do for the Oregon budget. Cha-ching! Personally, I’m waiting for a YouTube video showing someone reading the Oregon Revised Statutes with leadlines and numbering. 🙂

intellectual property Technology

Top 10 Ways Not to Sue Google

Mishak v. Google, Inc. et al. is quite a head-scratcher. I found the complaint on the Justia Federal District Court Filings and Dockets website. Unfortunately, the complaint was a scanned and split into three parts. Breaks the flow when you have to hop around. I pieced the complaint together and OCR’d it. Here it is.. (PDF – 15.3MB) The high (or low) lights:

  1. Search Engines. Plaintiff sued a long list of defendants, which allegedly operate various Internet “search engines.” Of course, the Plaintiff sued the big three: Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. What do they say on informercials? But, that’s not all? Plaintiff also sued Excite (which I last used in the 1990s), as well as AltaVista (ditto). Then it got weird. Craigslist? Earthlink?
  2. Banner Ads. “All Defendants … sell advertising space on the [s]earch result pages known as Banner Ads.” Google does banner ads? I haven’t punched the monkey on Google yet. Advertising (of any kind) on Craigslist? Gasp!
  3. Copyright or Trademark. “Plaintiff has a copyright. (Exhibit 1). trademark. [sic]” Exhibit 1 is a certificate of registration with the United States Copyright Office for HTML web pages entitled “I Need a TV.” I thought this was supposed to be a trademark claim.
  4. Weak Trademark. “Plaintiff contends that in utter disregard to [Plaintiff]’s intellectual rights, Defendants have sold ‘keywords’ identical to certain of [Plaintiff]’s trademarsk to various third parties and have deliberately manipulated Defendant’s search engine “results” so that, when consumers use these search engines to find [Plaintiff]’s products and services, the consumers are unwittingly diverted to competitors’ products and services.” So, what exactly is Plaintiff’s trademark? “I Need A TV.” See the problem? Weak trademark with generic terms.
  5. Best Buy Beware. “MISHAK d.b.a. INEEDATV.COM is one of the largest direct-to-consumer retailer of custom order televisions, appliances, and personal property in the United States and on the Internet.” Now I want to see the sales figures to back up that statement!
  6. Money Quote. “The dollar amount of sales in the United States of MISHAK’s televisions, commercial and home appliances products and related services under the MISHAK Marks offered for sale and sold under the MISHAK Marks since the original adoption and use are well in excess of many tens of thousands with reasonable growth projecti ons into the tens of millions of dollars.” Many tens of thousands? Considering that consumers are looking to spend about $1,000 on a television nowadays, that means that Plaintiff sold tens of televisions. One of the largest retailers? Not likely.
  7. Keyword Advertising. “Google et al. refuses … to cease selling other keywords comprised, in whole or in part, of the MISHAK Marks….” Somehow, I don’t think Google is going to ban companies from buying advertisements for the keyword TV even if it is in the Plaintiff’s service mark.
  8. Fill in the Blanks. “For example, Google and the other listed defendants continues to sell to MISHAK’s competitors the keywords ….. Accordingly, if a consumer using Google’s et al.’s search engine types ‘…..’ in the search window, competitors who have purchase ‘…..’ or even just ‘…..’ can still appear at the top or in the margins of the results page.” No, I didn’t redact the search terms above. The blanks exist in the original complaint. Really. Fails to state a claim?
  9. Metatags. In metatag / trademark cases, plaintiffs usually sue the parties who have used plaintiff’s trademarks in their metatags. Plaintiffs usually don’t sue the search engines for returning results based on potentially infringing keywords found within a third parties’ metatags.
  10. More Fill In the Blanks. “The Defendants’ search engines are designed and intended to divert and lure consumers from the websites that they intend to visit – e.g., the MISHAK websites – to other websites owned by competing advertisers such as ‘…..'” Damn fill in the blanks. I really want to know who are the competing advertisers. I’ll have to wait for the amended complaint.
  11. More Fill In the Blanks. “The Defendants’ search engines are designed and intended to divert and lure consumers from the websites that they intend to visit – e.g., the MISHAK websites – to other websites owned by competing advertisers such as ‘…..'” Damn fill in the blanks. I really want to know who are the competing advertisers. I’ll have to wait for the amended complaint.
  12. Alta la Vista, Baby! Exhibit 2 shows search results for the search term “I Need a TV” from January 8-14, 2006. And, Plaintiff finally filed suit on December 20, 2007? What’s up with the two-year delay? Also, the complaint primarily appears to target Google, but the search results are from AltaVista. Actually, Exhibit 2 is split into two parts. The first section shows the sponsored matches (i.e., ads) that appear when someone searches AltaVista for the term “I Need A TV.” Because AltaVista bolds the text in the ads that match the search query, you can see that the only matching word is TV. The next section is the same query “I Need A TV” with the modifier “” This search will return matches for “I Need A TV” at the website AVS Forum is a discussion and review forum for home theater products. So, AltaVista returned results showing the following matching discussion threads: “Need a TV with 2 DVI inputs,” “Does MCE need a TV tuner card to run?” and “Need a tv for family room going over a fireplace.” I think this is the smoking gun. 😉
  13. Missing Home Page. “Plaintiff has been careful, skillful and meticulous in the conduct of their television, home and commercial appliances and related services under the MISHAK Marks. Included herein as Exhibit 3 is a copy of Plaintiff’s Home Page.” I couldn’t find Exhibit 3 in the electronic filing. I really wanted to what the Plaintiff had attached because when I visited the Plaintiff’s website, I saw this:


P.S. I learned this from Guy. Call it a Top 10 list even if I have 13 items.

intellectual property

Corbis Sued for Copyright Infringement

When the RIAA sues some teenager for sharing music on Kazaa, it’s no longer news. After a while, the legal machinations gets old. Quick. So, when a media company gets sued for copyright infringement, that’s news. Or is it? While browsing through Pravda Studios, LLC v. Corbis Corporation et al., I came across a lot of the standard boilerplate:

This action is brought in response to a classic case of copyright infringement, specifically the unauthorized copying and commercial, for-profit use, copying, display and distribution of Plaintiff’s live action, motion picture, film footage entitled PRAVDA B-STOCK: SPAIN. 

This is a serious accusation. So, I had to find out what exactly Corbis had done to engage in a classic case of copyright infringement. To me, a classic case would involve Corbis ripping the video off someone else’s website and using it in their own marketing material. That’s classic. Instead, what really occurred was that Pravda allegedly submitted their video to Corbis, and Corbis allegedly lost it. Huh? That doesn’t sound like a classic case of copyright infringement to me.

intellectual property

Copyrighted Cease and Desist Letter

Public Citizen blogged about a <a href=””>cease-and-desist letter</a> that counsel for DirectBuy, Inc. had recently sent.  The letter states, “Please be aware that this letter is copyright by our law firm, and you are not authorized to republish this in any manner.  Use of this letter in a posting, in full or in part, will subject you to further legal causes of action.”  That’ll be an interesting law suit.  Any lawyers out there trading cease-and-desist letters on peer-to-peer file sharing networks?

intellectual property

Evel Knievel v. Evel Kanyevel

The New York Times reports that Evel sued Kanye West for infringing his trademark in the music video Touch the Sky. In the video, Kanye appears as Evel Kanyevel, dons a star-studded jumpsuit and attempts to cross a canyon in a rocket-powered motorcycle.

If you visit the USPTO website, you will find that Robert Craig Knievel is the owner of the trademark Evel Knievel for entertainment services, namely conducting entertainment exhibitions in the nature of motorcycle stunt shows and motorcycle related exhibitions, and personal appearances by sports celebrities, namely motorcycle stunt artists.

For those too young to remember Evel Knievel, here’s a video courtesy of YouTube.

Related Resources:

intellectual property

iPod + iBuzz = iSue

PowerPage reports that Apple has threatened iBuzz for using silhouette-style ads to promote its music-activated sex toy. While iBuzz has pulled those ads off its UK website, they remain visible on the iBuzz US site.

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