HILARY J. SUMNER
Creating Assets from Innovations
Richland, PA 17087
1121 Stouchsburg Rd.

LAW OFFICE OF  

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IP In the News

Louis Vitton Doesn't See the Humor

Posted on December 15, 2017 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

A hand bag company called My Other Bag (MOB) has been engaged in a long legal battle with Louis Vitton.  The company claimed that MOB's canvas tote bags depicting images of Louis Vitton bags was an infringing use of their copyrights and trademarks and was diluting their brands. The District Court for the Southern District of New York held that such use amounted to parody and was an acceptable use.  The Second Circuit affirmed and the Supreme Court rejected Louis Vitton's appeal.  CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE





Can Culinary Creations be Protected by Copyright Law?

Posted on July 20, 2016 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

While copyright law will not protect utilitarian articles, it will protect the creative expression in making those articles.  As a result, expressive culinary works may be protected by copyright law. Additional IP protectections may also be available such as design patent, trademark and trade secret law.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE



How do we Protect Intellectual Property Law in Space?

Posted on March 5, 2016 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a lack of certainty when it comes to intellectual property rights in outer space.  Space Law is generally uniform in its application while intellectual property law varies from country to country. What happens when a patent is infringed in outer space? Currently, nothing as patent laws apply only within the territory of the granting country. And because the standards of copyright infringement vary from country to country there is an additional uncertainty of what artistic expression is protectable in space.  This is an area of the law that will require attention as our presence in space grows.  CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE



Are Tattoos Works of Authorship under Copyright Law?

Posted on February 18, 2016 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

LeBron James' tattoo artist recently filed suit against the makers of NBA2K16 claiming that their use of the tattoo in the video game constitutes copyright infringement. The Plaintiff asserts that LeBron James is a "medium of expression."  But whether a live body qualifies as a medium of expression is unsettled.  One would argue that the person exhibiting the tattoo should have some right to allow the use of that tattoo in conjunction with that person's likeness.  And if a tattoo is given copyright protection could the artist enjoin the destruction or alteration of that tattoo on a person's body?  CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE



Court Finds No Copyright Protection for Shapes & Colors in Recent Suit Against Starbucks

Posted on January 31, 2016 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The Plaintiff artist in this case claimed that she was approached to create an advertising campaign for Starbucks.  She declined but argued that Starbucks stole the core of her style, creating an ad that had the same shapes and colors as much of her art.  While "look and feel" claims are common in Copyright suits, "style" is not protectable under copyright law.  The fact that Starbucks used similar shapes and colors was not sufficient to support her claim and the suit was dismissed.  CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE



Google's Library Project Found a Fair Use

Posted on October 25, 2015 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Google's Library Project offers digital versions of books sent to the project by libraries. Google has not secured permission to use these works by the copyright holders; however, only certain portions or "snippets" of each of the works is viewable to the users of the project.  Once a search term is entered, the service provides the user with a list of books containing the search terms along with the frequency of those terms in each book.   The Author's Guild has been opposing this project for the past ten years and filed suit against Google for copyright infringement. In mid-October, the Second Circuit granted summary judgment for Google finding that the display of "snippets" constituted a fair use.  CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE

Woman Takes on Coca-Cola in Trademark Dispute and Wins

Posted on October 20, 2015 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

In 2005, an Australian woman named Annabelle Young wanted to start a tea company. In order to protect her IP she decided to trademark the name HONEST TEA in Australia.  Not too long after her trademark issued,  an American company using the same name brought suit against her claiming global rights in the name.  That company was unsuccessful but shortly thereafter, Coca-Cola bought the US based company and took aim at Young again, claiming that her product was not a tea.  After ten years of legal battles and immense legal fees, Young finally succeeded in defending her trademark.  This case highlights the importance of trademarking your names, logos and slogans early on in the business development stages in protecting your brand.  CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE


"Happy Birthday" Song in the Public Domain

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

A California judge hearing a copyright suit against Warner/Chappell music recently ruled that the "Happy Birthday" song is in the public domain.  The judge held that Warner could enforce its copyright only in certain arrangements of the song.  CLICK HERE FOR FULL ARTICLE



Be Careful When Submitting a Takedown Notice: "Copyright Law Does Not Authorize Thoughtless Censorship of Lawful Speech"

Posted on September 20, 2015 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

A Pennsylvania woman recently faced a copyright infringement suit when she posted a video of her child dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" in 2007.  Universal Music Corp. contacted YouTube after learning of the video and had the posting taken down for a period of several weeks.  The video was later restored after the mother argued that there were no litigimate grounds for removal.  She then filed suit against Universal claiming damages for the wrongful denial of access for her publication.

A federal judge in San Jose found for the Plaintiff and the Ninth Circuit upheld the opinion, finding that a copyright holder must consider whether the copyright use is "fair" prior issuing a take down notice.

Monkey's Selfie Creates Copyright Dispute

Posted on August 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

A photographer shooting wildlife in Indonesia recently left his camera unattended.  He returned to find that a crested black macaque had taken a few interesting shots of himself.  The photographer released the photos and one of them went viral.  When the owner of the camera asked Wikipedia Commons to remove the image from its site, Wiki challenged his copyright ownership.

According to U.S. law, copyright ownership is awarded to the individual who takes the photograph; but does that individual need to be human?  U.S. law also prohibits copyright ownership for "materials produced solely by nature, by plants, or by animals."   It poses an interesting legal question - who owns the copyright to this image?

CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE

UPDATE:  According to Section 306 of the Copyright Compendium requiring Human Authorship:

The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.

 

Examples:

 

A photograph taken by a monkey.

A mural painted by an elephant.

A claim based on the appearance of actual animal skin.

A claim based on driftwood that has been shaped and smoothed by the ocean.

A claim based on cut marks, defects, and other qualities found in natural stone.

An application for a song naming the Holy Spirit as the author of the work.

 

Similarly, the Office will not register works produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author.”

 

Examples:

 

Reducing or enlarging the size of a preexisting work of authorship.

Making changes to a preexisting work of authorship that are dictated by manufacturing or materials requirements.

Converting a work from analog to digital format, such as transferring a motion picture from VHS to DVD.

Declicking or reducing the noise in a pre-existing sound recording or converting a sound recording from monaural to stereo sound.

Transposing a song from B major to C major.

Medical imaging produced by x-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging, or other diagnostic equipment.

A claim based on a mechanical weaving process that randomly produces irregular shapes in the fabric without any discernible pattern.