As star marks abound, are they too ordinary?

With billions of dollars at stake, celebrities’ lawyers have been beating down the door at a surprising government office in hopes of advancing clients’ economic interests by staking exclusivity claims on everything from dolls to dresses to perfumes. That gold rush-style boom, not in copyright requests but rather in mark applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office, (shown right) also keeps bumping against some hard realities that may make some female stars, especially, and their counsel rethink the supposed advantages of marks versus copyrights.

Although conventional wisdom among barristers may hold that marks may be the better way to build a brand because they permit legal protections for phrases that aren’t exactly unique, it may be that some names, words, sayings, and coinages are just too common or close to material that Uncle Sam already has allowed to be stamped with the signature TM.

This legal speed bump may be especially timely and pertinent for Entertainment Law practitioners to ponder in the wake of the recent decision by a federal court in Manhattan, asking if the intellectual property rights of screen legend Marilyn Monroe, for her estate, may be too generic for protection. Other celebs also have hit some TM woes worth noting.    (more…)

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Podcasts? Here are 3 on entertainment law

If you’re looking for a way to stay up to date in easy, convenient fashion with key developments in entertainment and media law, why not try a novel, different technology: Podcasts, which hit big in the early 2000s then seemed to fade a decade or so later, have reemerged to become all the rage again. We’re talking Serial, This American Life, Fresh Air, and the many offerings available through National Public Radio and Apple.

There also are at least a trio of Entertainment Law podcasts worth considering for some reasons described below: It’s a subjective call, and there may be options to add.

But in the upcoming downtime connected to the holidays, it may be worth devoting some moments to: the Entertainment Law Update Podcast, Laws of Entertainment with Lisa Bonner, and the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal Podcast. Here’s why, for those with long commutes or the need for informative diversion, to listen up! (more…)

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Judge dissects, discards a ‘Machete’ claim

Danny Trejo, a Los Angeles native with a troubled past, has transformed himself into a Hollywood franchise by portraying some mean hombres all too willing to dispense rough vigilantism. But a Utah federal judge, weighing in on a copyright infringement claim vaguely tied to Trejo’s first starring role, has shown how tough the real law can be on unsupported claims.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer took a legal machete and whacked apart a lawsuit filed by filmmaker Gil Medina, claiming Univision and its El Rey Network  infringed on his 2006 indie movie Vengeance, which he wrote and filmed. It also was the first movie in which Trejeo starred as the lead.

Medina claimed that the broadcasters’ 2010 televising of Machete, a different movie also starring Trejo, infringed on his Vengeance copyright because the two works shared a similar plot and had the same star. No es cierto, the judge ruled. (more…)

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Ollivierra, Lind named Institute co-directors

biederman-leadersSouthwestern Law School has announced that faculty members Neil Ollivierra and Robert Lind will serve as the new co-directors of the nationally recognized Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute.

Lind is a Southwestern icon, renowned entertainment law expert, prolific author of preeminent texts and treatises, and a mentor and champion of students and alums alike. Prior to his appointment at Southwestern,  Ollivierra served as in-house counsel to various motion picture and television studios at the highest level of business and legal affairs, including Lionsgate Entertainment (The Hunger Games, The Twilight franchise, Orange Is the New Black, Mad Men) and EuropaCorp (Lucy, Taken, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita).

Together, their combined expertise, experience, passion and industry affiliations will help to ensure the continued success and growth of the Institute in the spirit of its beloved namesake, Donald E. Biederman. He was a highly admired teacher, scholar, and pioneer in the world of entertainment and media law and the Institute’s founding director. (more…)

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Duude, parody serves as ‘sword’ in drama appeal

Pointbreaktheatrical

This guest post was contributed by Travis J. Sabaiti, a J.D. candidate in the Southwestern Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 Fall, 2015, class:

When two funny friends in New York decide to riff in a theatrical production, Point Break LIVE!, on Point Break, a surfer-detective film that many critics found to be more than a few waves on the side of awful, comedy ensued. For awhile. But the legal tangle that then followed after the comic duo had a falling out required the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to unsnarl.

Before anyone cues a laugh track over this case’s conclusion, Entertainment Law practitioners well-versed in copyright might want to look again at this case and see if it changes conventional wisdom about protections for parody. (more…)

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Q.-&-A.: Bert Fields on post-mortem rights

Bertram FieldsGGcomWhen legendary Entertainment lawyer Bert Fields recently addressed the Harvard Law Association at the Beverly Hills Bar, he, of course, brought down the house, delighting his audience with his comments on an array of topics. His views on a particular subject resonated for the editors of this blog, because it has arisen in posts before (see here and here): Are there legal rights that need protecting for deceased entertainers? Fields was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by email by Biederman Blog Editorial Board member Jessica Villar regarding this topic:

Question—When you spoke recently to the Beverly Hills Bar, you mentioned new kinds of entertainers’ rights, particularly as these might apply to their post-mortem performances as what you called synthespians. Were you specifically addressing the advent of holographic characters performing entertainers’ known works in shows? Or are there other technologies you had in mind?

Answer—I was talking about buying the rights of living performers to use their computer generated images to make new movies or perform in new concerts when they’re too old to do so or after their deaths.  Synthespians are a stage later.  They are computer generated actors and performers who will appear human, but are not.  They never die and when the audience tires of them, we create new ones. (more…)

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Three’s company? Make room for dark parody

threes company pix3CA cheery, chipper, Seventies sit-com that turned on a naughty-cute lifestyle-linked plot  has, in its own fashion, allowed a federal district court in Manhattan to hand down a copyright infringment decision with its own twist.

Based on a Rule 12(c) motion, Loretta A. Preska, chief judge in the Southern District Court of New York, has found that playwright David Adjmi‘s dark, off-Broadway work, 3Cwas non-infringing of the copyright held by DTL Entertainment for the popular television farce Three’s Company, which starred the late John Ritter, actresses Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt, (shown in right photo) and the late comedy legend Don Knotts. (more…)

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