ISP ordered to pay $32 million for contributing to trademark infringement

This is an interesting story especially because the amount of damages awarded are so high. The ISP was a host to a number of sites that were selling counterfeit fashion goods like Louis Vuitton handbags. The ISP had claimed an exemption under the DMCA, however the court correctly concluded that that only applied to copyright not to trademark infringement. Something for any ISP or hosting service to keep in mind.

Here is the link.

Hat tip to @EvansIPLaw for posting a link to this article on Twitter.


Local branding or borrowing trade dress?

See this story from the SeattlePI.com.

This is a little bit of old news by now, but apparently Starbucks has been “localizing” its stores by minimizing the Starbucks branding an giving them an independent coffee shop look and feel. I have heard some people say that this is proof that Starbuck’s brand is toast, but I don’t think so. Its not uncommon for large businesses to diversify their products and sell them under different brands. Aldi and Trader Joe’s are the same company with different brands that reflect different portions of the grocery market.

Trade dress is the overall “look and feel” of a business. I can’t tell from the pictures, but if Starbucks did in fact copy the trade dress of another local store they could be in trademark trouble. The look and feel of a business can be protected as trade dress. See for example this classic case between two rival taco restaurants, Taco Cabana and Two Pesos. Anything that identifies your business, and your business alone can be protected because customers will come to associate that thing with your business. Names and logos are most popular, but trade dress counts as well.


Copyright damages and a new William Patry blog

There have been several commentaries on various blogs already about the jury verdicts against Jammie Thomas here in Minnesota and against Joel Tennenbaum in Massachusetts. My two cents: both verdicts were correct in that they both were infringing copyrights, but the amount of damages may be excessive when applied to individuals. We’ll see if the amount of damages can be limited on appeal.

That said it is great to see that copyright expert William Patry has started blogging again and he and Ben Sheffner have several great posts on these two cases and the broader issue of what is fair payment for creative works and fair punishment for infringing those works. Patry’s new blog is Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars.


ABA Annual Meeting – Cyberlaw Committee

I have been having a wonderful time this weekend at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. I met a number of great people within the Cyberlaw Committee and have been learning so much from all the great presentations. In particular there were great presentations on bankruptcy and technology license agreements, anonymity and libel in social media, and the legal risks in cloud computing.