Articles Posted in Right of Publicity

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Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana trademark attorney for Bettie Page, LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana (“BPL”) sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Vibes Base Enterprises, Inc. of El Monte, California (“Vibes Base”) committed unfair competition under federal, California and Indiana common law. BPL has asked the court for the cancellation of a federal trademark registration belonging to Vibes Base.

BLP claims that it is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, voice, right of publicity and endorsement, worldwide trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property related to the late model Bettie Page. Among its intellectual property holdings are trademark registrations for BETTIE PAGE, trademark numbers 2,868,613 and 2,868,614 which have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Vibes Base develops, manufactures and markets lines of apparel products and accessories under various brand names, including “Bette Paige.” In May 1999, Sand K. Inc. obtained federal trademark registration number 2,244,182 for the mark BETTE PAIGE for women’s clothing. Sand assigned that mark to Vibes Base in 2011.

In March 2014, BPL filed a federal trademark application for the BETTIE PAGE trademark for “computerized on-line retail store services in the field of clothing…” and similar uses. The USPTO refused registration of this trademark on the grounds that a likelihood of confusion existed between BETTIE PAGE, for which Plaintiff had applied, and the trademark BETTE PAIGE, which had previously been registered.

Plaintiff contends that the registration and/or use of the BETTE PAIGE trademark is an illegal use of the Page intellectual property, including the right of publicity.

In this complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, the following counts are asserted:

• Count I: Unfair Competition Under 15 U.S.C. §1125(A)
• Count II: Unfair Competition Under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §17200 et seq.
• Count III: Common Law Unfair Competition
• Count IV: Unjust Enrichment
• Count V: Right of Publicity Infringement Under Cal. Civ. Code §3344.1
• Count VI: Request for Declaratory Judgment of No Trademark Infringement
• Count VII: Declaration that Defendant’s Registration is Invalid (Non Compliance with 15 U.S.C. §1052(c))
• Count VIII: Declaration that Defendant’s Registration is Invalid (False Designation of Origin, Sponsorship or Endorsement)

BPL asks the court to cancel Vibes Base’s BETTE PAIGE trademark; for an award of actual damages; for treble damages for willful and/or intentional use of an unauthorized trademark; for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses; to order Vibes Base to destroy or surrender to BPL all unauthorized products, including all products that Vibes Base is able to recall; and, in the alternative, to declare that BPL’s trademark, as contained in its trademark application, is not confusingly similar to the BETTE PAIGE trademark.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana trademark attorneys for Hoosier Momma, LLC (“Hoosier Momma”) of Brownsburg, Indiana sued Erin Edds (“Edds”) of Marion County, Indiana in the Southern District of Indiana. In this Indiana litigation, Hoosier Momma accuses Edds of violations of the federal Lanham Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Indiana’s Uniform Trade Secret Act, as well as computer tampering, misappropriation and attempted misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, tortious interference with business relationships, and conversion. Among its allegations, Hoosier Momma contends that Edds tarnished its “Hoosier Momma” trademark as well as its “Betty Design” trademark, U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 4584165 and 4584167, which have been registered with the U.S. Trademark Office.

In 2010, Kimberly Cranfill (“Cranfill”), Catherine Hill and Edds formed Hoosier Momma. They are the sole members of Hoosier Momma, which is in the business of developing and selling vegan, gluten-free products that are sold in more than 600 restaurants, stores and hotels in at least six states.

Hoosier Momma alleges multiple wrongs by Edds, including making damaging false statements, engaging in conduct that conduct negatively affects Hoosier Momma’s reputation and sales of its products, tarnishing its trademarks, and changing passwords to Hoosier Momma’s social media accounts without authorization, refusing to relinquish control of the accounts and continuing to post to those accounts.

Edds is also accused of accessing Cranfill’s e-mail account to obtain confidential information as well as sharing confidential information with Wilks & Wilson, a competitor of Hoosier Momma. Hoosier Momma also contends that Edds contacted Tone Products, Inc. (“Tone,”) a direct competitor of Hoosier Momma’s packer, and asked that Tone reverse engineer a Hoosier Momma product to allow Tone to determine the confidential recipe of such product, a trade secret of Hoosier Momma, and provide it to Edds for her personal use and/or a use that jeopardized the disclosure of Hoosier Momma’s trade secrets. Hoosier Momma also claims that Edds improperly contacted several of Hoosier Momma’s distributors, clients, manufacturers and other business partners.

Further, Edds allegedly attempted to sell her interest in Hoosier Momma without the consent purportedly required under the Hoosier Momma operating agreement. Finally, Hoosier Momma contends that Edds sold and traded Hoosier Momma product and improperly retained the proceeds.

In its Indiana trademark complaint, filed by trademark lawyers for Hoosier Momma, the following is claimed:

  • Count I: Violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051, et seq.
  • Count II: Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, et seq.
  • Count III: Computer Tampering
  • Count IV: Misappropriation and Attempted Misappropriation of Trade Secrets and Violation of Indiana Uniform Trade Secret Act
  • Count V: Breach of Contract
  • Count VI: Breach of Fiduciary Duties
  • Count VII: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
  • Count VIII: Conversion
  • Count XI [sic]: Unjust Enrichment

Hoosier Momma asks for injunctive relief; compensatory and exemplary damages; costs; expenses; and attorneys’ fees.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Illinois and Missouri trademark attorneys for James Dean, Inc. of James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause.jpgIndiana sued in Indiana state court alleging that Twitter, Inc. of California infringed the trademark James Dean, which has been issued by the U.S. Trademark Office by allowing the registration of the Twitter handle @JamesDean. The case was removed from the Superior Court of the County of Hamilton, Indiana to the Southern District of Indiana.

Plaintiff James Dean, Inc. filed a trademark complaint against Twitter, as well as the fictitious persons, John Doe Defendants 1-5 Company, in an Indiana state court. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that it is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, voice, right of publicity and endorsement, worldwide trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property including but not limited to visual and aural depictions, artifacts, memorabilia, and life-story rights, and/or trade dress of the late movie star James Dean.

James Dean, Inc. further alleges that Twitter has allowed the registration and operation of a Twitter account, using the handle @JamesDean, located at https://twitter.com/JamesDean, which is purportedly in violation of Plaintiff’s rights.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, James Dean, Inc. asserted nine causes of action against Twitter:

• Count I – Trademark Infringement Under Section 32(1) or 3(A) of the Lanham Act;
• Count II – False Endorsement Under Lanham Act § 43(A);
• Count III – Indiana State Statutory Right of Publicity;
• Count IV – Common Law Right of Publicity;
• Count V – Common Law Unfair Competition;
• Count VI – Unjust Enrichment;
• Count VII – Conversion;
• Count VIII – Deception; and
• Count IX – Indiana Crime Victims’ Act.

For relief, James Dean, Inc. sought damages, including treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees as set out in the Indiana Right of Publicity Statute, Lanham Act and other statutes. In addition, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief.

Twitter removed the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction). To support the former basis for federal jurisdiction, Twitter noted federal questions inherent in the filing of a claim under the Lanham Act. Twitter also claimed supplemental jurisdiction for the remaining claims under Indiana law.

To support the latter basis for jurisdiction in an Indiana federal court, Twitter asserted that the two prongs for diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction were met. First, James Dean, Inc. is a citizen of Indiana, as it has alleged that it is incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana with its principal place of business in Indiana, while Twitter claims to be a citizen of two states: Delaware and California. Second, while Twitter “strongly contests liability and does not believe Plaintiff is entitled to any relief whatsoever,” it indicated that, were liability to be found, the amount in controversy could exceed $75,000, given that James Dean, Inc. is suing for “all damages” allowed by the applicable statutes, which can include actual damages, treble damages, punitive damages, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.

Practice Tip:

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He grew up in Fairmount, Indiana, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Dean starred in East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, receiving two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.

In 1955, Dean died in an automobile accident. As a result of the nearly 60 years that have passed since his death, it is unlikely that those who follow @JamesDean believe that the tweets have been written by James Dean himself. Nonetheless, celebrity licensing agency CMG Worldwide, based out of Carmel, Indiana, is attempting to recover the James Dean Twitter account.

CMG, which also represents such celebrity images as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, has attempted “on numerous occasions” to make Twitter take action to block and identify owners of various unauthorized accounts. Those accounts could give the impression, it says, that the users have permission from the estates of the celebrities or CMG and “result in immeasurable and irreparable damage.”

Finally, most of the James Dean trademarks that were registered by the U.S. Trademark Office have been either abandoned or cancelled. It will be interesting to see to what degree this fact influences the court, should liability be established and a calculation of damages be appropriate.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana trademark attorney for Swag Merchandising, Inc. and DEVO-picture2.jpgDevo Inc., both of California, sued in Hamilton Superior Court alleging that Your Fantasy Warehouse, Inc. d/b/a T.V. Store Online and Fred Hajjar, both of Commerce Township, Michigan, infringed Devo’s Trademarks, Registration Nos. 3161662 and 3167516, which have been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office. The case has been removed from Indiana state court to the Southern District of Indiana.

Swag claims that it owns the exclusive right to license the various trademarks, copyrights and individual and collective rights of publicity of the musical group Devo. The group is best known for the song “Whip It,” which hit number 14 on the Billboard chart in 1980. Swag indicates that it licenses the Devo intellectual property to third parties around the globe.

T.V. Store Online is in the business of manufacturing, marketing and distributing apparel and memorabilia featuring classic and current television programming, movies and/or music. T.V. Store Online and Hajjar have been accused of manufacturing, producing, marketing, advertising and/or retailing a product known as “Energy Dome Hats.” Plaintiffs assert that these Energy Dome Hats are commonly associated with Devo but have not been licensed by Plaintiffs to Defendants. Plaintiffs further claim that consumers coming into contact with Defendants’ product would “immediately recognize the same as being associated with, sponsored by and/or endorsed by” the ’80s group.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark attorney, Plaintiffs assert the following:

• I: Violation of 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) of the Lanham Act
• II: Trademark Infringement – 15 U.S.C. §1114 and Common Law
• III: Counterfeiting
• IV: Dilution – 15 U.S.C. §1125(c) and New York General Business Law §360-1
• V: Common Law Unfair Competition
• VI: Statutory Right of Publicity [NB: under Indiana law]
• VII: Right of Publicity Infringement Under California Civil Code §3344
• VIII: Common Law Right of Publicity
• IX: Conversion [NB: under Indiana law]
• X: Deception [NB: under Indiana law]
• XI: Indiana Crime Victims Act

Plaintiffs ask for an injunction; the surrender of infringing materials; damages, including treble damages; costs and fees. An Indiana intellectual property lawyer for Defendants removed the case to federal court, although he noted that the removal was not a concession that the Southern District of Indiana was the proper venue for the California Plaintiffs or the Michigan Defendants.

Practice Tip:

This is at least the third case filed by Theodore Minch about which we have blogged. In at least two prior cases, LeeWay Media Group, LLC v. Laurence Joachim et al. and Leon Isaac Kennedy v. GoDaddy et al., Mr. Minch has filed in an Indiana court despite none of the parties having any connection to Indiana.

It can be surmised that perhaps the choice of Indiana as a forum might have been driven by an attempt to increase damages. I.C. §§ 35-43-4-3 and 35-43-5-3(a)(6) are criminal statutes, claimed in the complaint in conjunction with an attempt to parlay the accusation into an award for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. The Indiana Court of Appeals has discussed “theft” and “conversion” as they pertain to takings of intellectual property in several recent cases (see, for example, here and here) and has made it clear that criminal statutes often apply differently to an unlawful taking of intellectual property.

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Oakland, California District Judge Claudia Wilkin (pictured) issued a new order regarding in re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation, a putative class action involving theJudgewilkin.jpg Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”). The NCAA’s motion to dismiss on, inter alia, copyright and First-Amendment grounds was denied.

In this action, Plaintiffs, a group of twenty-five current and former college athletes who played for NCAA men’s football or basketball teams between 1953 and the present, pursued a putative class action against Defendant NCAA. They initially brought claims against Collegiate Licensing Company (“CLC”) and Electronic Arts Inc. (“EA”) as well, but agreed to settle those claims before this order was issued.

At the time of this order, four of the Plaintiffs (the “Right-of-Publicity Plaintiffs”) alleged that the NCAA misappropriated their names, images and likenesses in violation of their statutory and common law rights of publicity. In contrast, the other twenty-one Plaintiffs (the “Antitrust Plaintiffs”) alleged that the NCAA violated federal antitrust law by conspiring with EA and CLC to restrain competition in the market for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses. This order addressed only the latter set of claims, which arise under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.

To be eligible to compete, the NCAA required student athletes to release in perpetuity all rights to the commercial use of their images. The Antitrust Plaintiffs contend that the “purposefully misleading” release forms then allowed the NCAA to sell or license the athletes’ identities to others.

In addition to the release that the athletes had signed, a price-fixing conspiracy/group boycott prevented the athletes from being able to pursue compensation for the licensing of their identities even after they stopped competing. This allegedly interfered with their ability to market “group licensing rights” for their identities in game broadcasts, rebroadcasts and video games. Because many of these Plaintiffs also went on to play professionally, such rights could be of considerable value.

Intellectual property attorneys for the NCAA argued that assertions of a right of publicity of student athletes in the context of game broadcasts were barred by the First Amendment as well as California statute. The court was not persuaded by either argument. On the First Amendment argument, the court held that, while the original broadcast might enjoy protection, “subsequent unauthorized reproductions” did not.

Likewise, the California statute cited by the intellectual property lawyers for the NCAA was not persuasive to the court. That statute provided that the athletes had no right of publicity in the “use of [his or her] name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness in connection with any news, public affairs, or sports broadcast or account.” However, the court held that such right-of-publicity restrictions did not apply to licensing in other states that lacked similar statutes.

The court also rejected the NCAA’s copyright-preemption argument on two grounds. First, this was not properly considered under the law of copyright. The athletes were not asserting intellectual property rights under copyright law but rather sought to license their personas. As a persona cannot be copyrighted, copyright preemption did not apply. Moreover, the Plaintiffs’ claims were not of simple theft of intellectual property. They also asserted a broader antitrust right – to prevent injury to competition. Citing United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F.3d 34, 63 (D.C. Cir. 2001), the court stated, “[I]ntellectual property rights do not confer a privilege to violate the antitrust laws” and denied the NCAA’s motion to dismiss.

Practice Tip: The NCAA has been heard before on claims under the Sherman Act. NCAA v. Board of Regents, 468 U.S. 85 (1984). In that decision, the Court acknowledged that the NCAA must be given some leeway to adopt anticompetitive rules violating the Sherman Act, concluding that intercollegiate athletics is “an industry in which horizontal restraints on competition are essential if the product is to be available at all.”

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Indianapolis, Ind. – A trademark lawyer for American actor, minister, producer and writer Leon Isaac Kennedy of Burbank, Calif. sued alleging Lanham Act violations, unfair competition andKennedyLogo.JPG violations of various Indiana state statutes as a result of defendants’ purchase of the domain name Leonisaackennedy.com.  The defendants are GoDaddy.com, LLC of Scottsdale, Ariz., Spirit Media of Phoenix, Ariz., Arthur Phoenix of Phoenix, Ariz. and John Does 1-5.

In a complaint for damages and injunctive relief, Kennedy alleges that the defendants have violated his intellectual property rights by purchasing a domain name consisting of Kennedy’s first, middle and last name.  Spirit Media is the registrant and owner of the domain name.  goDaddyLogo2.JPGPhoenix is also listed as a registrant.  GoDaddy is the current registrar. 

Kennedy claims that no content has ever been placed on the domain website and that the defendants have offered the domain name for sale for $5,000 at a domain auction.  He asserts that this “use of the Domain violates the “Anti Cybersquatting Piracy [sic] Act.”

Kennedy asserts ownership of all interests in his name, image, likeness and voice (“Kennedy right of publicity”) as well as other intellectual property rights such as trademarks, copyrights and rights of association as associated with the Kennedy right of publicity.  He alleges that SpiritMediaLogo.JPGthe purchase constitutes unauthorized and illegal commercial use and registration of a domain name and violates his personal and/or property rights.  He further claims that this commercial use has siphoned the goodwill from his various property interests and asserts that he has been irreparably harmed as a result.  

The complaint lists seven claims:

·         Count I: Violation of Section 1125 (a) of the Lanham Act

·         Count II: Violation of Section 1125 (d) of the Lanham Act

·         Count III: Unfair Competition

·         Count IV: Violation of Indiana Right of Publicity

·         Count V: Conversion (I.C. § 35-43-4-3)

·         Count VI: Deception I.C. § 35-43-5-3(a)(6)

·         Count VII: Indiana Crime Victims’ Act I.C. § 35-24-3-1

Kennedy asks for the immediate transfer of the domain name to him; an injunction enjoining the defendants from future use of Kennedy’s intellectual property; an order directing the immediate surrender of any materials featuring Kennedy’s intellectual property; damages, including treble damages; costs and attorneys’ fees.

This complaint, initially filed in an Indiana state court, was removed by GoDaddy to federal court.

Practice Tip #1: The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act was enacted to create a cause of action for registering, trafficking in or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name.  Despite alleging malicious behavior on the part of all defendants, including GoDaddy, it will be tricky to pursue this count against GoDaddy, a domain-name registrar.  Under § 1125(d)(2)(D)(ii), the “domain name registrar or registry or other domain name authority shall not be liable for injunctive or monetary relief under this paragraph except in the case of bad faith or reckless disregard, which includes a willful failure to comply with any such court order.” 

Practice Tip #2: I.C. §§ 35-43-4-3 and 35-43-5-3(a)(6) are criminal statutes, claimed in the complaint in conjunction with an attempt to parlay the accusation into an award for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.  The Indiana Court of Appeals has discussed “theft” and “conversion” as they pertain to takings of intellectual property in several recent cases (see, for example, here and here) and has made it clear that criminal statutes often apply differently to an unlawful taking of intellectual property.

Practice Tip #3: This complaint was submitted by Theodore Minch, who is, coincidentally, also the attorney for LeeWay Media, about which we blogged yesterday.  As with LeeWay, none of the parties seems to have much connection to Indiana.  It will be interesting as the case develops to analyze the rationale behind the decision to file in an Indiana court.
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Indianapolis, IN – Today is the last day of the Indiana General Assembly’s legislative session, called Sine Die, and it looks like the session will end without passing of proposed changes to the Indiana Right to Publicity law.Seal-4.jpg The bill would have clarified that a person who died before 1994 does have the publicity rights provided by the law. This bill is co-authored by Representatives <a href="http://www.in.gov/h57/" font ShelbyvilleSean Eberhart of Shelbyville and Ralph Foley of Martinsville.   As we blogged, the bill was passed by the Indiana House, but did not make it through the Senate committee.

As we have previously blogged about Indiana Right to Publicity law is considered one of the strongest in the world.

Practice Tip: The authors of this bill are free to propose it again next year. This year’s legislative session was a “short session” and the law makers were focused on several high-publicity issues. It looks like the right to publicity bill had some initial momentum, but the lawmakers ran out of time to get it passed.

Indianapolis, IN – In an update to our earlier blogs, the Hollywood Report has published a long article about Indiana’s Right of Publicity Law, I.C. 32-36-1-8, and the pending bill to amend that law. Mmonroe.jpgThe article states that dead celebrities “enjoy phenomenal legal rights in the state.” Several Indiana intellectual property attorneys who represent the estates of deceased celebrities are quoted.

The article focuses on the recent decision of the John Dillinger case involving the Right to Publicity law, which Indiana Intellectual Property Law and News blogged about here.

As we have previously blogged about, Indiana’s Right to Publicity law is considered one of the strongest in the world.

Practice Tip: In order to pass this session, the bill must pass the Senate no later than March 14, 2012 since the General Assembly is in a short session this year. As we blogged, the bill has already passed the Indiana House. At this point, the bill is in a senate committee, but no hearings are scheduled for next week.
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Indianapolis, IN – In an update to our blog last week, a bill in the Indiana General Assembly that Thumbnail image for Indianaseal.jpgwould make changes to Indiana’s Right of Publicity Law, I.C. 32-36-1-8, passed the Indiana House, 85-7, on January 30. The bill is now before the Senate Committee on Public Policy. No hearing is scheduled at this time.

As we have previously blogged about, Indiana’s Right to Publicity law is considered one of the strongest in the world.

Practice Tip: Now that the bill has passed the Indiana House, it must pass the senate and be signed by Governor Daniels to become law. It looks like it is moving quickly enough that it could be enacted by the March 14 short session deadline.
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Indianapolis, IN – A bill pending in the Indiana General Assembly would make changes to Indiana’s Right of Publicity Law, I.C. 32-36-1-8. The bill would clarify that a person who died before 1994 does have the publicity rights provided by the law.

This bill is co-authored byindiana_seal.gif Representatives Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville and Ralph Foley of Martinsville. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The Indianapolis Star quoted Representative Foley as explaining the need for the law as confusion in federal courts regarding whether the publicity rights attach to persons who died before 1994.

As we have previously blogged about, Indiana’s Right to Publicity law is considered one of the strongest in the world. This bill, if passed, appears to strengthen that law even further. The Indiana Law Blog has compiled some recent blogs regarding the Right to Publicity law.

Practice Tip: The Indiana General Assembly has a “short session” this year, meaning March 14 will be the last day of the session. If this bill is to become a law this session, it must move quickly through the House and Senate committees in the next several weeks in order to get to Governor Daniel’s desk by March 14.
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