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Court: Fox Show 'Empire' Doesn't Infringe Trademark

Fox News is in the news these days largely because of fake news.

Discerning the real news is becoming as confusing as distinguishing trademarks, particularly where Fox News is concerned. In Twentieth Century Fox v. Empire Distribution, the company said its "Empire" show did not violate Empire's trademark.

In a word, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, "correct." The explanation, like sorting out fake news, is a little more complicated.

'Comic Con' Gag Order Vacated by 9th Circuit

Did you hear the inside joke about the Comic Con case?

Didn't think so. That's because a judge issued a prior restraint in the pending litigation.

The joke's on the judge, however, because the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn't think that was funny in Dan Farr Productions v. United States District Court.

This past week, a three judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for the Blurred Lines appeal filed by Pharrell and Robin Thicke. If you're just now learning of the case, it is more than just a relatively juicy piece of legal celebrity gossip, there's actually some fascinating IP law behind the pop star gravitas.

In short, a jury found that Thicke and Pharrell ripped off Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" in their song "Blurred Lines." Apart from the generational gap between the performers, there is a rather large and legal difference between music copyrighted prior to the mid-70s.

After a four-month wait, the Central District Court of California has finally issued its ruling on the motion to dismiss in the Spinal Tap v. Vivendi lawsuit. While the band's fraud claim has been dismissed, along with three of the four band members, the breach of contract claims and plaintiff Christopher Guest (a.k.a. Nigel Tufnel) still remain.

Fortunately for the band, the dismissal of both members and the fraud claim were without prejudice. Additionally, the members appear to have been dismissed on a technicality as their "loan-out" companies were not parties to the original contract, and therefore do not have standing as third party beneficiaries. Even though the case was dismissed, District Court Judge Dolly Gee left the door wide open for the members and the fraud claim to be amended back in properly.

'Selfie Monkey' Settles Copyright Case

There's a problem with the settlement in the selfie-monkey case: the monkey did not consent to it.

If the monkey took a full-on, toothy selfie, he ought to be able to put a signature on a simple agreement. Don't laugh. Elephants can do it.

Even a sloppy, banana smudge would do. Come on, is there no justice in the urban jungle?

Studios Win Against Streaming Movie Filters

You gotta respect video-streaming companies that clean up movies for family-friendly viewing.

After all, they are trying to to protect kids from profanity, sex, nudity, violence, and substance abuse depicted in original movies. Parents will pay to block those cringey moments when the family sits down for viewing.

But that's not a good reason to violate copyright laws, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said in Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. VidAngel, Inc. It was a victory for Hollywood studios and a benchmark in their battle against copyright piracy.

Monkey Can't Get Money From Selfies

It's hard to report this story with a straight face. I mean, even the monkey was smiling.

If you haven't seen them before, the pictures are definitely worth seeing. The macaque, who snapped his own selfies, has a great simian smile.

According to a federal judge, however, the animal doesn't have a copyright to the photos. It's not a joke, although more than a few lawyers say it is.

Urban Outfitters, the specialty retail chain geared towards hip teens, has a bit of a reputation for ripping off others' designs. It's not hard to find an artist who claims that the chain has picked up their designs -- sans permission, of course -- turning their art prints into miniskirts or their necklaces into knockoffs.

Now, at least one allegedly wronged party has gotten some justice. On Monday, the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court's ruling (on summary judgement no less) that UO had infringed on a fabric company's copyright, selling a textile that was a "near duplicate" of the original.

More and more Americans are cutting their cables and ditching their TVs, choosing to consume their video entertainment through online streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. But as online streamers begin to encroach on the realm of cable and broadcast TV, are they entitled to the same treatment as companies like Comcast or Viacom?

Not according to the Ninth Circuit. In a ruling this Tuesday, Fox Television Stations v. Aereokiller, the court rejected an attempt by FilmOn, an internet-based TV rebroadcaster, to obtain a compulsory cable license under the Copyright Act of 1976. The court must defer, it explained, to the Copyright Office's determination that internet rebroadcasting just wasn't the same as cable.

Smut Trolling 'Prenda Law' Firm Gets No 9th Cir. Sympathy

Trolling is the ultimate business model -- until it finally comes to a grinding halt. This appears to be how things are rolling out for the now defunct Chicago outfit Prenda Law that made a name for itself in recent years by buying up porn copyrights via shell companies and extracting settlement monies out of lonely downloaders.

In the words of Alison Frankel of Reuters, misusing copyright law and deceiving the courts are good tactics to enrage judges and turn sentiment against you. Not a good strategy at all for law firms.