Saturday, September 11, 2010

Three recent trademark and copyright decisions of note

In the past week or so there have been a few appellate trademark and copyright decisions that, while not earth shattering, probably merit a brief note.

In Seller Agency Council, Inc. v. Kennedy Center for Real Estate Educ., Inc., No. 08-56791 (9th Cir. Sept. 3, 2010), the Ninth Circuit officially defined the equitable defense of acquiescence in a trademark case with the three-part test other circuits have used: (1)the senior user actively represented it would not assert a claim; (2) the delay between the representation and the assertion of the claim was not excusable; and (3) the delay prejudiced the defendant.

In the ongoing saga of the copyright-infringing Baltimore Ravens football logo design, the 4th Circuit held that the fair use defense insulated the Ravens—who discontinued the infringing logo several years ago—from liability for displaying the infringing logo in a pictorial collage of the organization’s history in its corporate office, but not for selling highlight films from the years when the players wore the infringing design on their helmets. Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens L.P., No. 08-2381 (4th Cir. Sept. 2, 2010).

In a patent/trademark case in which the district court made some seemingly bizarre trademark rulings, the Federal Circuit held that a trademark invalidity declaratory judgment cannot be dismissed for lack of an Article III case or controversy where the mark owner has actually sued the party seeking the D.J. for infringement. (One would have thought that this is not a concept that needs to be rectified at the appeals level.) In another part of the opinion, the Federal Circuit also used imprecise nomenclature when it repeatedly referred to a demand for a disgorgement of profits as a “damage” claim—an imprecision that could cause confusion down the line since the principles applying to each remedy are quite different. Green Edge Enters., LLC v. Rubber Mulch Etc., LLC, No 2009-1455 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 7, 2010).

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