Well, this is an interesting one. Do-it-yourself legal forms website LegalZoom.com (founded in part by former OJ Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro) has sued a rival, Rocket Lawyer, which seems to provide similar services, but for free. LegalZoom charges ordinary individuals various fees for giving them access to legal forms to help them form businesses, prepare Wills, or prepare other divorce, adoption, or similar legal paperwork. Continue reading
Google has been sued again for trademark infringement resulting from its AdWords program, this time by Cybersitter. Cybersitter sells software that blocks adult content on computers so they are not accessible by children.
This problem has been going on for years. Here is what happens (and actually what seems to be partially encouraged by “SEO Maximization” companies): predatory companies who use AdWords register not only the keywords pertinent to their business, but the trade name, mark, or brand of their competitors. When consumers do searches for one company, its competitor’s ads show up. Continue reading
MTV’s Real World/Road Rules star Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio has lost the lawsuit against HBO, over the rights to the nick-name “Johnny Bananas.” Devenanzio alleged that HBO’s “Entourage” used his nick-name when referring to the fake cartoon gorilla played by Kevin Dillon’s character.
The New York judge overseeing the suit dismissed the case. Apparently, Devenanzio didn’t file the “Johnny Bananas” lawsuit until 14 months after the first air date of the episode – in New York, the statute of limitations (the time frame in which a lawsuit for Devenanzio’s claims can be brought) is only 1 year.
Some news sources are calling Devenanzio a crybaby for suing over this, but owners of trademarks, copyrights, and other brand-names often must sue to protect their intellectual property rights.
In the intellectual property legal world, failing to enforce rights that you believe are yours can lead to “dilution,” meaning that your mark or brand becomes so diluted or commonplace that the rights become lost. Some good examples are Band-Aid or Kleenex. Someone needing a finger bandage or tissue paper would likely say “Give me a band-aid,” or “Give me a kleenex.” But these product names are actually brand names - “Band-Aid brand bandages” and “Kleenex brand tissue paper.” But because the brand names have been used as substitutes for the product names for so long, it is difficult to separate the two – leading to a loss of the ability to enforce the intellectual property rights associated with “Band-Aid” or “Kleenex.”
If Devenanzio really intends to secure for himself the intellectual property rights to “Johnny Bananas,” then he needs to focus on strengthening that brand, filing the necessary trademark applications, and confirming that he is the rightful owner of the “Johnny Bananas” brand — before he sues anybody else again.
Last month we reported about the Department of Justice’s anti-trust / price-fixing lawsuit against e-Book publishers. Well now, a federal court judge in New York has ruled that the civil lawsuit against the e-Book publishes by consumers may go forward.
The e-Book publishers attempted to dismiss the civil lawsuit. The Judge denied that request, ruling, “In short, Apple did not try to earn money off of eBooks by competing with other retailers in an open market. Rather, Apple accomplished this goal by [helping] the suppliers to collude, rather than to compete independently.”
To recap, the allegations are that Apple and other e-Book publishers conspired together to create artificially high prices for e-Books, to generate more profit, at the expense of Americans.
According to the papers uncovered thus far, late Apple visionary Steve Jobs was directly involved with and at the heart of the price-fixing scheme.
“Cramming,” for those who may not know, is the practice adopted by cell phone and telephone companies that permits third-parties to access customer billing accounts and place charges on them. Sometimes, those charges are not authorized by the customer, leading to infuriated customers who have to spend hours on the phone with the telephone/cell phone providers to get the charges removed.
In the FCC’s open-meeting agenda last week, Senator Charles Schumer (D) called for the FCC to ban cramming altogether. Since cellphone/telephone companies of course make a lot of money through cramming, especially when customer bills are “auto-paid” and not closely scrutinized, some degree of campaign contributions resistance from both vendors and cell phone conglomerates should be expected.
In today’s news, Sandra Bullock is suing watchmaker ToyWatch and several others for using her name and photograph to advertise their watches without seeking her permission. A visit to the Christine Jewellers’ website does seem to display a picture of Bullock with a “ToyWatch” that she supposedly “wore in her recent movie Blind Side.”
In California, individual privacy rights include the “right of publicity,” which provides individuals with an avenue of recovery if their names or likenesses are misappropriated by others.
To be successful, claimants must generally demonstrate that there was a use, for profit, of the individual’s identity, without consent, that resulted in injury to the individual. There are several exceptions, such as the use of or likeness to report news-worthy events, or a use that is so “transformative” that its primary value is not derived from the celebrity’s fame.
However, those defenses may not be vailable to ToyWatch – after all, Sanda Bullock seems to be displayed in a number of sites on the internet and used to promote the ToyWatch “Plasteramic” Collection.
The much-maligned Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its senatorial sibling, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) have, at least for now, met an abrupt demise. The huge public protests by internet trailblazonaires and activists, accompanied by “blackouts” staged by Google, Wikipedia, and other major sites, turned the tides against lawmakers almost overnight. As some reports noted, the rare display of public participation took lawmakers by surprise, and once anti-SOPA sentiments rippled through the country, the Congressional representatives who originally introduced the bill found themselves alone, without support, and abandoned the bill. By last Thursday, SOPA and PIPA were declared DOA, well in advance of the vote that was previously scheduled to take place today. In the end, the death of SOPA/PIPA was by some reports attributed to the power of public participation in the democratic process. These idealistic commentaries, however, may be ignoring the reality that the fight over SOPA/PIPA was very much a brawl between powerful corporate giants with strong conflicting interests. Caught in the fray, Americans would be wise to mute the rhetoric advanced by both sides when the next incarnation of SOPA/PIPA arises, and take a careful look at the true motivations fueling the debate, as well as the practical effects that stronger copyright enforcement laws would actually have for ordinary netizens.