Yahoo vs. Facebook

Yahoo Patent Infringement Dispute with Facebook

Yahoo vs. Facebook

 

As Facebook readies itself for an initial public offering this spring, tensions are running high in Silicon Valley.  A bit too high, perhaps.  Yahoo has just sued Facebook for patent infringement over 10 patents that involve methods to advertise online.  A similar suit occurred in 2004, when Yahoo sued Google just prior to its IPO.  Yahoo has recently come under the management of a new CEO, and it looks like he means business.  After initially becoming the internet’s main source of networking and online searching, Yahoo has fallen in recent years to Google and Facebook.  A Facebook spokesman recently told the L.A. Times “We’re disappointed that Yahoo, a longtime business partner of Facebook and a company that has substantially benefited from its association with Facebook, has decided to resort to litigation.”

Apparently this kind of lawsuit has been on the rise in recent months in Silicon Valley.  Most of these suits come from firms that buy technology patents to create large IP portfolios.  The Yahoo suit is more of a surprise, although the cozy business relationship implied by Facebook’s statement is probably a bit of an exaggeration.

Pinterest Walking a Copyright Infringement Tightrope

 

The content sharing mega-site “Pinterest” is rapidly gaining online momentum.  The site features a virtual “pinboard” where users can post photos they find online and arrange them into albums, sort of like scrap booking.  The site is hugely popular to women under the age of 35; Pinterest’s Facebook page is “liked” by 97% women.  This site has been rapidly hailed a demographic marketing super-success, and with good reason.  But the site has also drawn an increasing amount of criticism and scrutiny.  Pinterest is coming under intense legal pressure; the copyright infringement issues seem blaringly obvious.  Unlike Facebook, Youtube, and other very popular social networking sites, Pinterest’s content is not primarily user-generated.  Instead, users are pulling copyrighted works from all over the web and reproducing them, mostly without attribution. 

Most content sharing and social networking sites are protected from the infringing actions of their users by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  But the DMCA specifies that sites must follow DMCA takedown procedures when they receive a proper takedown notice.  Pinterest has been lax in this regard, committing two key shortcomings in following DMCA.  First, they leave it up to their own discretion as to whether to remove the content or not, after receiving a DMCA takedown notice.  Secondly, there is no provision to ban repeat offenders.  Both of these flaws in their system fall short of DMCA guidelines.    And a quick stroll through the online galleries reveals that the vast majority of images are copyrighted works, by and large not attributed.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially if Pinterest decides to start advertising on its pages.  Currently it does not, which may be why would-be DMCA enforcers are turning a blind eye.

Apple iTV Trademark Infringement

Apple has been cooking up a new TV-like product for a while, and it’s been coming closer and closer to fruition.  Steve Jobs announced “iTV” a while ago, although it has not been launched, only hinted at, and talked about internally.  No doubt, consumers will be eager to jump on the iTV bandwagon, as soon as it arrives, and it is rumored to be on schedule for a Christmas 2012 launch.  Last week the New York Post reported that Apple was in communications with cable content providers to provide Apple users with some kind of cable-like service.

The only issue is that a company called iTV Entertainment, LLC, based in San Francisco, owns a trademark for “iTV.”  Today, iTV Entertainment issued a press release preemptively warning Apple of trademark infringement issues that would be raised if they go ahead with iTV.  Apple has a patent (U.S. No. 2011/0154394) that includes drawings displaying an iTV symbol.  The patent describes a visual and audio entertainment system.  This could play out similarly to the current iPad China debacle, but Apple will probably be relieved that litigation would take place in a court here in the U.S.

Copyright-Infringing Artist May do Hard Time

Obama Hope 2008

 

 

 

Is it possible to do jail time for copyright infringement?  If you destroy and falsify discovery information during your federal trial, the answer is yes.  You are probably familiar with the iconic Obama posters from the 2008 election.  The hugely successful posters were created by Los Angeles artist Shepard Fairey.  Fairey based the image off a copyright-protected image, owned by the Associated Press.  In 2009, perhaps in a preemptive move, Fairey sued the Associated Press in Federal Court, seeking a declaration that the poster constituted “Fair Use.”  The AP countersued.  Fairey claimed he had used a certain image of Obama with actor George Clooney, when in reality the image was based off a closely cropped solo shot of the presidential candidate.  As the proceedings rolled along, it was discovered that Fairey had created several fake documents and deleted others to try and support his claim.  This, of course, led to a criminal case, to which Fairey pled guilty on February 24th.  He now faces up to 6 months jail time, and $5,000 in fines.

Michael Jordan Trademark Issue in China

Michael Jordan can certainly relate to Apple’s trademark nightmare in China.  Jordan recently filed a law suit in China against the Chinese company Qiaodan for using his name without permission since 2000.  Qiaodan means “Jordan” in Chinese, and that name is synonymous with basketball there.  Qiaodan has actually filed trademark applications with a trademark attorney for many Jordan-related themes, even names of his children.

According to Michael Jordan:

“It is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the number 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children.”

Qiaodan has over 100 Jordan-related trademarks, and its sales are booming in China. Apple’s uphill battle is probably not a good indicator of how Jordan would fare in Chinese intellectual property court.

Newt, SOPA, and the Cybersecurity Act of 2012

 

Much of the hoopla regarding SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” has died down during the past month and half.  Why?  The huge outcry by just about everyone ranging from Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, petition drives, (one by Google claiming it received 7 million signatures), and on and on, has effectively drove the message to Congress that SOPA was something that people were not happy with, even my buddy Newt and his GOP comrades were all against it. (The exceptions were with many of the large entertainments studios and some other surprising SOPA proponents).  Towards the end of January, Reuters reported that Congressman Lamar Smith, one of the originators of the bill, retracted the measure “until there is a wider agreement on a solution.”  So is it dead?  Everyone thinks it is but there is some grumbling that it has evolved into an ugly version created by Department of Homeland Security, called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 just introduced on February 14th.  So has SOPA simply done a makeover with a new name?  Not really.  The bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, calls for DHS to “monitor” privately owned networks and systems for “disruptions” that “would cause mass death, evacuation, or major damage to the economy, national security, or daily life”.  At least for now, it appears that it aims to go after real bad actors, especially from hackers and foreign soil from committing cyberattacks, in spite of some of the Orwellian language as interpreted by opponents of bill.  SOPA/PIPA on the other hand was interpreted as giving a means to one industry to attack another or censoring it without due process.

So will SOPA come back?  I would expect so.  Although, on January 14, 2012, the Obama administration stated that while it would not support legislation with provisions that could lead to Internet censorship, squelching of innovation, or reduced Internet security, it encouraged “all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders…”

Proview Trademark Litigation with Apple Continues

The trademark dispute between Apple and the Chinese company, Proview Technologies, is intensifying.  If you remember, Proview secured the trademark for “iPad” in China back in 2000.  The chain of events is not clear, but the core of the dispute is whether Apple ever obtained a proper license or acquired the use of the iPad trademark in China from the correct owner.  Proview Officials in the Chinese province of Hebei seized Apple iPads from store shelves, as the battle over the iPad name in China continues to roll along.  Proview Technologies,  has continued to put road blocks in Apple’s way, filing complaints against Apple in over 20 Chinese cities, as Apple tries to market and sell its products in China.  The problem is  that the Chinese public are anxiously buying iPads or waiting to buy them.  In fact, apparently a riot almost broke out at the release of the iPhone 4S in Beijing.

Apple mistakenly thought they bought the rights in 2005 from Proview-Taiwan, but apparently Proview-Shenzhen still held the rights in China.  After Proview went bankrupt a few years back, they probably realized they were still holding a goldmine with this Apple trademark.  And now they want to cash in.  Apple has quit dealing with them formally, instead deciding to take them to court in China.  But it looks like China is siding with Proview for now.  At first, Apple was just barred from using the trademark in a few provinces, but now that ban has spread, and the latest development is that iPads are even being confiscated.  Store owners are jittery as local authorities have been making moves to ban or confiscate merchandise after the Proview complaint.

Initially, it looked as though Proview was a small company with a nuisance claim to the trademark, but as the situation has continued to escalate, it appears that their claim to the trademark rights is a lot more valid, at least to the Chinese government, than first suspected. Apple has continued to decline to comment throughout the ordeal.

Super Lawyers Michael N. Cohen, Rising Star 2012

Cohen IP Law Group, P.C. is pleased to announce the nomination of Michael N. Cohen  for inclusion in the 2012 Southern California Rising Stars Super Lawyers® publication.

Super Lawyers® is a listing of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, confirmation that nominees are properly licensed, in good standing with the state licensing agency, and, when possible, that they have no history of disciplinary action that would warrant removal from the list.  In addition to a general survey, an attorney-led research team reviews the credentials of potential candidates and assigns points based on a set of defined evaluation criteria, and those with the highest point totals are named to the Rising Stars list.  No more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.

 

Super Lawyers was first published in 1991 by Law & Politics and was acquired by Thomson Reuters, Legal in February 2010. Thomson Reuters is a leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

Apple Trademark Infringement in China Again

Apple Trademark Infringement China

The Shenzen, China-based company called Proview Technology is still after Apple, claiming that Apple is illegally selling iPads in China.  A new suit against Apple for trademark infringement was filed a few days ago, as Apple appealed a recent Chinese court decision in favor of Proview.  According to lawyers for Proview, Apple only bought the rights to iPad outside of China, but Proview still owns the mark in China. 

 

Apple officially began selling the iPad in China in September 2010, after months of gray market activity amid eager buyers and sellers.  But the launch was short lived and problematic due to the trademark squabble raised by Proview.  The Taiwanese company that owns Proview registered the iPad trademark in 2000.  They have already asked for 10 billion yuan from Apple ($1.6 billion U.S.) for the trademark infringement.  Undoubtedly, Apple would like to sell iPads in China, but this ongoing intellectual property dispute has greatly hindered their presence there.

NFL Trademark Use a no-no

Every year, about this time, businesses are unexpectedly sued for using two seemingly harmless words: “Super Bowl”. Any advertising, promotion or announcement that is not sanctioned by the National Football League is subject to swift legal action by the NFL. The NFL owns registered trademarks for “Super Bowl,” and “Super Bowl Sunday.” And they aggressively monitor and enforce those trademarks. “NFL,” “AFL,” and the names and nicknames of all NFL teams are also registered trademarks, owned by the NFL. In fact, even if the terms are not used, it could be considered a copyright violation if the game is broadcast on a screen larger than 55 diagonal inches, or requires payment by viewers. For this reason, the Super Bowl is often referred to as “The Big Game.”  The NFL’s trademarks have remained strong and consistent over the years.  Expect to get burned if you make any attempt to monetize off their goodwill.   If the term “Super Bowl” is used anywhere in advertising, it is strictly the result of high

NFL Trademark

dollar licensing agreements.