A short article I wrote summarizing the Costco v. Omega case was published in the Minnesota Intellectual Property Law Association’s New Matter™ Newsletter.
The case is about the “first sale” doctrine in copyright law and specifically, whether goods manufactured and sold abroad can be imported into the United States without the permission of the copyright holder. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and it should have interesting implications for retailers, distributors and copyright owners.
MIPLA New Matter June 2010
A group called the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG) has filed a lawsuit against thousands of as yet unknown people who may (or may not) have downloaded or uploaded movies on file sharing networks. The strategy, which has been employed by others in the past, is to file or threaten to file a lawsuit and then offer to settle for a few thousand. Defending a copyright lawsuit will almost certainly cost much more so the offer is tempting. Plus, copyright law allows statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work, so the potential risk can be severe.
One problem with employing this strategy on the scale that the USCG is doing is that it will almost certainly result in a large number wrongly identified people who feel compelled to pay up because its cheaper than fighting. It undermines rights to privacy and anonymity. Furthermore, it doesn’t get to the real issue of how to compensate artists for their work. Lawsuits can’t possibly be a realistic long-term business model.
As far as I know, the USCG only has a large list of suspect IP addresses and is currently attempting to obtain the identities of people so they can give them the pay up or go to court offer. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a resource for people who are faced with responding to a subpoena and would like advice with responding. I have volunteered to work with people in Minnesota who are faced with this situation. There are other attorneys in other states who have volunteered as well.
The EFF Subpoena Defense Attorney List
The EFF’s press release about the case.
One of the several reasons your trademark might be refused registration by the USPTO is that your proposed mark is scandalous or immoral. Without too much further explanation you might guess that a certain word starting with “F” and rhyming with “duck” might be problematic as a trademark. You would be right. Trademarks can be refused registration for being scandalous or immoral. Now you might think that this is America and you can say what the F— you want, and you can. But at least for now, you aren’t going to get the US government to help you protect that as a brand name.
But many people do try anyway. In fact, if you search the USPTO for applications for marks containing that word, you will see nothing but refusals (were 0 for 53 so far), probably causing the applicants to shout . . .
The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned. But it does, and week after week, those zany Glee kids rack up the potential to pay higher and higher fines.
Check out the rest of Christina Mulligan’s post at Balkanization.