IP Top 10 – September: Peloton’s Wheels Come Off
A warm welcome to all our readers, as October draws in and temperatures begin to drop – we have a number (10, specifically) of IP stories that you might have missed this month. Without further ado, here’s October’s IP Top 10.
LFC Attempt to Trade Mark “LIVERPOOL” Fails
The Independent (and many others) report that Liverpool FC’s controversial attempt to register the mark ‘LIVERPOOL’ has failed after the application was rejected by the Intellectual Property Office.
The club attempted to register the mark ‘in the context of football products and services’, in an effort to combat counterfeit merchandising.
However, there was some push back from many in the area who believed a registration would have restricted local businesses from utilising the city’s name in the course of their business.
Unsurprisingly, the IPO ruled that the mark could not be registered due to its geographical significance.
The decision has been lauded as somewhat of a victory for common sense, however, in spite of the decision Liverpool FC maintain that they will continue to defend their intellectual property aggressively.
As with many trade mark proceedings, media coverage has suggested this is a definitive verdict – however, the process will rumble on as LFC seek to identify what exactly they can achieve registered protection for.
US Defence Secretary: China Undertaking “The Greatest Intellectual Property Theft in Human History”
At the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Summit, Mark Esper cautioned European allies against allowing Chinese companies to develop 5G cyber networks within their borders, warning that this poses a huge risk to national security.
His warning came with some stern wording, representing a new peak in the rhetoric aimed toward China from US officials.
Such comments demonstrate the growing fear in the United States that China is continuing to use cyber espionage to steal information and technology to further its geopolitical power in recent years.
Stan Lee’s Daughter Files Against His Former Company
Stan Lee’s IP rights have been subject to lengthy legal proceedings over recent years, following his lawsuit filed against POW! Entertainment shortly before his death.
Lee claimed that he never agreed to any licencing deals with the company as part of its acquisition by Camsing International. However, the suit was dropped in July 2018 with the situation seemingly resolved; with an acquiescent statement from Stan Lee apparently marking the end of the matter.
Despite this, following his passing, Stan Lee’s daughter has intimated that the company had coerced the comic book veteran into the agreement and that he was vulnerable and had been taken advantage of in negotiations surrounding the lawsuit.
This latest development has been dismissed by the defendants as ‘nothing more than family drama’, as fresh claims from Lee’s daughter allege that Lee was misled into assigning his intellectual property by his former ‘trusted partners’ in 2001.
CJEU Rules Only Requirement for Copyright of Designs is Originality in COFEMEL (C-683/17) Decision
On the 12th September, following the opinion of Advocate General Szpunar, the CJEU held that the concept of ‘work’ must be applied uniformly across all EU member states, thereby confirming that the only applicable criteria to determine whether designs are eligible for copyright protection is originality.
This opinion has wide reaching implications, and provides some clarity in what was previously a profoundly grey area.
Peleton Hit the Brakes as Copyright Claim Against them Ramps Up
The exercise start-up Peleton are subject of a lawsuit from the National Music Publishers Association for using unlicensed music as part of their digital exercise videos.
The smart exercise bike company had been found to have used a host of unlicensed music in the workouts it had streamed to audiences worldwide.
In September, following the initial complaint, the NMPA asked the Courts to allow it to double its claims, having found further use of unlicensed music from Taylor Swift and Kesha.
The NMPA are now currently seeking $300 million in damages, on this basis.
Tinder Swipes Left on Rival App’s Logo with Trade Mark Infringement Notice
Online dating app “Wild” has received a complaint from dating app giant Tinder, who are claiming trademark infringement for the use of its iconic “flame” logo as a part of it’s own logo design.
Wild has owned a trademark of its logo including the flame for over four years, however Tinder are demanding that Wild cease to use a flame within their logo altogether.
Wild previously modified their logo once at the request of the industry giants – changing the original flame, to something less reminiscent of Tinder’s own.
However the latest demands to remove the “flame” altogether are being met with resistance by the dating upstart.
Wild’s marketing director Catherine Malone has slammed Tinder’s actions as classic “bully tactics” in relation to the flame, arguing that it is entirely unreasonable for a company to lay claim to such a universal symbol.
Transsion Met with Huawei Lawsuit for IP Infringement
Chinese smartphone company Transsion, who currently dominate the African market, have been met with a lawsuit from rival Huawei for intellectual property infringement.
Notably, this filing occurred on the eve of Transsion’s public filing with Shanghai’s STAR board.
The lawsuit looks to be something of a warning shot from the tech giant, as Transsion look to diversify from its dominant position in the African market and move beyond dated technology patents.
Transsion are now in a position where they can no longer benefit from outdated 2G patents. As such, they must seek to strengthen from their current intellectual property portfolio of only 630 patents from the Chinese Intellectual Property Office.
This number represents a mere drop in the ocean for competitors Huawei, whose patent numbers currently range at around 100,000.
Entering into a crowded innovation space without the right patents (or without licensing them) will be difficult for Transsion, who now might find themselves otherwise “landlocked“.
Pilot who Broke the Sound Barrier Sues Airbus for TM Infringement
Retired U.S. Air Force pilot famed for breaking the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager, is suing Airbus SE for using his name and likeness without permission in order to promote a new helicopter.
The infringing article was posted on the Airbus website in June 2017, which quoted Airbus’ chief executive officer Guillaume Faury as saying; “seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier”, in comparison to Airbus who were then “trying to break the cost barrier…” with the introduction of their new helicopter.
96-year-old Yeager has form for filing lawsuits of this sort having quickly pursued other such claims in the past.
He is currently seeking compensatory, punitive and reputational damages against Airbus SE, on the basis that previous negotiations for use of his likeness and name had broken down.
“Duke Nukem” Composer Sues “Borderlands 3” Creators and Valve for Copyright Infringement
Composer Bobby Prince is suing Gearbox, its CEO Randy Pitchford, and game developer Valve for unpaid royalties due for music used in the infamous video game Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.
Prince argues that Gearbox breached copyright laws when it remastered the game, as the publisher only had ‘limited rights’ to use his work when the original was released in 1996.
The claim alleges that CEO Pitchford effectively strung Prince along once the game was remastered, using his music without compensation and encouraging the infringing actions.
Prince further argues that Valve ignored his requests and continued to distribute the game, therefore waiving their immunity from his claim.
Prince is seeking maximum damages for the infringement, along with an injunction to prohibit any further infringement from Gearbox.
Travis Scott Settles with Three 6 Mafia over Copyright Claim
Rapper Travis Scott has agreed a settlement with hip hop group Three 6 Mafia, following the start of proceedings earlier this year concerning Scott’s ‘No Bystanders’ song from his latest album.
Three 6 Mafia member DJ Paul sued Scott for damages amounting to $20 million, arguing that Scott’s song infringed his copyright in 1995 song ‘Tear Da Club Up’.
The basis for the claim concerned the main hook of the song, which Paul argued was clearly lifted from his earlier song, describing it as ‘blatant infringement.’
On September 27th lawyers for both parties filed at the US District Court for the Central District of California, reasoning that the parties had managed to reach a general settlement agreement.