Behind a fun festival season, legal lines in sand

For Coachella and other lucrative live music events, there’s no fiddling around in enforcing protections for brands, merchandise

Summer’s quickly approaching, and that means the music festival season soon will be rocking and rolling in its full glory. But there’s more than meets the eye in staging successful—read that highly lucrative—events, besides getting throngs out in Mother Nature’s splendor for a splendid series of hot performances by top artists of the moment.

For Entertainment Law counsel, protecting a festival’s name, brand, intellectual property, and associated merchandise can require a lot of non-musical movements, year-round overtures in copyright and trademark enforcement. They’re playing a big score, with events and goods representing a sizable part of pop music’s revenues these days.

That’s the prelude for this post, now on to seeing some of how it’s done, with a sampling of the legal fugues performed by a major player, the Coachella Music Festival LLC:


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Justices zip up a fashion copyright case

High court, in novel 6-2 ruling, extends legal protection to stripes, chevrons, zig-zags that adorn a major makers’ cheerleader uniforms

The three women donned dapper black for the colorful discussion. Their four male colleagues also appeared in sober, knee-length, noir-dominated attire. After weeks of chatter no doubt about stripes, chevrons, zig-zags, the sculpture of Marcel Duchamp, and multi-dimensionality in design, justices of the highest court in the land recently had their final hurrah in a battle over cheerleader gear, copyright, and fashion.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6-2 that graphics elements on uniforms designed by Varsity Brand Inc. (“Varsity”) can be protected under section 101 of the Copyright Act. Sis, boom, bah: That means Varsity now gets to pursue its infringement claim against Star Athletica, Inc., (“Star”). But who else might be cheering or jeering (in Bronx fashion) this decision, unusual even at a court that this term also has pondered the rights of kids and Wonder dogs. (more…)

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RIP, to a celebrated force in Entertainment Law


Let there be no doubt: the Purple Reign, which has ended tragically all too soon, affected Entertainment Law and many of its practitioners.

Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, not only played the role of path-breaking artist, musician, fashionista, and trend-setter, he also was, as various media have noted, an innovator deeply concerned about intellectual property and the legal protection of creative works.

He rocked the recording industry with his willingness to contest its talent representation practices and contracts, which he saw as creative constraints that kept him from controlling his own works. He fought, perhaps to excess, to ensure that his copyrights were enforced. He took a principled stand about the creator’s sovereignty, even in the face of rapidly changing technological advance, becoming one of the prominent hold-outs against what he saw as the penurious payments by online streaming services to musicians, lyricists, and composers.

In doing all this and much, much more, he generated lots of work for Entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. As he a client, just as he was a giant of his craft, he was sui generis, and he will be much missed, practitioners have recalled. RIP, sweet Prince.

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Privacy event to address celebrity issues, rights

Neville_L_Johnson_JJLLPLAW_2015DroozDeborahGary_BostwickProminent scholars, lawyers and government officials will gather on April 17 at Southwestern for the Second Annual Online Privacy Conference, presented by the law school’s Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute. Participants will explore a spectrum of privacy issues, including, notably for Entertainment Law practitioners, a session on  Celebrity and Privacy/Publicity Rights. (more…)

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A high legal kick for less than model conduct

Ever since a most-likely-to-succeed aspirant named Paula Abdul thrust herself from leaping about courtside with the Los Angeles Laker Girls into a considerable entertainment career, sneers have abated about the talent on professional sports teams’ cheerleader squads, be they the women who rah-rah-rah for the Dallas Cowboys, the Florida Marlins or whomever. But once cheerleaders also got into the 21st century business of promoting themselves and their entertainment endeavors online, was it inevitable, as recently occurred in Miami, that there would be instances of less than model behavior?


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Twilight Fashion? Not so fast B.B. Dakota

Summit Entertainment, creators of the Twilight movie series, has prevailed on its motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed in 2010 for copyright and trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution and unfair competition. The action involved B.B. Dakota, a retailer that sought to promote sales of a blue cotton canvas jacket by stating in its advertising copy:  “Bella Swann wears this jacket in Twilight and scores the hottest vampire in high school, and so can you!” (see full decision here) (more…)

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Tiffany’s blue in clash over Louboutin’s red

Tiffany’s, the top-end bangles-retailer, apparently feels blue enough to think out of and about its signature box and how it might be crushed in the trademark clash with Yves Saint Laurent over Christian Louboutin and his red-soled footwear. Yes, of course, this is intellectual property combat of more than passing interest to entertainment law practitioners — not just because their clients cache and adore these upscale baubles but also because the same big-spending crowd increasingly has ambitions to cash in, in the celebrity-named luxe goods markets. (more…)

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Fake Louis Vuitton items cost web host $10.8M

Legal teams for luxury brand goods have devoted much of their energy to fighting counterfeit goods, both in the brick-and-mortar world and in cyberspace.  The internet has made this battle difficult as access to consumers has grown easier.  Courts, still, have maneuvered through technological advances and “digital Fonovisa” type cases, developing and applying the doctrine of contributory infringement to online counterfeiters. In a recent U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Louis Vuitton Malletier SA v. Akanoc Solutions Inc., appellate Judge Ronald M. Gould affirmed the district court finding for Louis Vuitton, holding the online web host, Akanoc Solutions, MSG, and Steven Chen liable for contributory infringement of 13 of the plaintiff’s trademarks and two of its copyrights. The appellate court remanded the case with instructions that its reduced damage award be put in effect — $10.5 million for contributory trademark infringement and $300,000 for contributory copyright infringement. (more…)

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Why celebs, too, might see red beyond hip shoe

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision to deny Christian Louboutin’s injunction in Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent raises recurring issues regarding fashion’s place in U. S.  intellectual property law. The recent decision — with implications, too, for entertainment lawyers with celebrity clients wishing to extend their personal brands and build fortunes in lines of fashion items — was based on the reasoning that Louboutin’s color use  did not create a valid trademark, despite prolific evidence that proved it had acquired secondary meaning. As the company gears up to keep fighting claims of trademark infringement, the case proves that fashion continues to struggle in clearing the utilitarian and secondary meaning hurdles of copyright, trademark and in some cases patent law and to be seen as an innovative art form meriting IP protection. (more…)

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