7th Circuit Intellectual Property Law News - U.S. Seventh Circuit
U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Intellectual Property Law Decisions

Frivolous lawsuits like this have to be the bane of studios' existence. (Get it? Bane!) In "The Dark Knight Rises," Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) sought a computer program ("Clean Slate") that would wipe all traces of her sordid criminal past from the world's computers. The fictional program was mentioned twice, and viral marketing websites were set up for "Clean Slate" and the fictional company behind it, in order to promote the movie.

In real life, a company called Fortres Grand has a program called "Clean Slate." It resets a computer back to default settings whenever the computer is restarted -- the sort of program that would come in handy on public computers (libraries, hotels, schools) to wipe out user changes to the system, downloaded junk, and personal data.

Fortres Grand sued, claiming that the fictional product created "reverse confusion" with its trademark on "Clean Slate," harming its sales in the process.

In June, the Seventh Circuit ruled on a case involving the copyrights of the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, a/k/a the creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Judge Posner ruled against the estate, and the Seventh Circuit recently issued a sequel opinion.

In what may be the next Sherlock Holmes series, let's take a closer look at Judge Posner's follow-up opinion: Sherlock Holmes and the Declaratory Judgment Attorney's Fees.

Am I the only one whose ears perk up when I hear "porno copyright trolls"?

Let's back up. The Prenda Law saga began several years ago when a law firm began suing for copyright infringement on behalf of Lightspeed Entertainment, which makes adult films. Prenda Law alleged that many thousands of John Does were illegally downloading copyrighted material and tried to use the discovery process to get their real names.

Courts around the country collectively raised their eyebrows when each one eventually learned that the principals of Prenda Law were also, coincidentally, the principals of the companies holding the copyrights to the works being allegedly infringed. Prenda Law not only failed to disclose this fact, but also used possibly every procedural tactic in the book to avoid having to disclose this information. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars and referrals to various state authorities later, Prenda Law's tactic of making money by suing file-sharers is toast.

The Seventh Circuit recently heard a case involving the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, better known as the creator of our favorite British detectives Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, reports The Washington Post. The question before the court was whether copyright protection, which had already expired, can be extended because the author later "altered the character in a subsequent work."

As Judge Posner explains, it's all "elementary."

So a lady in a banana costume, known as the "Banana Lady," walks in to a court room ... This is not the start of a joke. This is real.

Thankfully, this happened in the "Benchslappy" Seventh Circuit, and Judge Posner was on the panel assigned to this case, and wrote the opinion. You can probably guess where this is going.

In September 2009, Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and to commemorate the event, Sports Illustrated devoted an issue to highlighting Michael Jordan's legendary career. Sports Illustrated offered Jewel-Osco supermarkets ("Jewel") a free ad in the magazine, in exchange for Jewel selling the magazines in its store.

Jewel's ad was a full-pager, placed on the inside back cover, and featured a pair of basketball shoes bearing Michael Jordan's number 23, with a congratulatory note, as well as Jewel's logo and slogan, reports the Chicago Tribune. What was meant as a congratulatory note was instead seen as a misappropriation of identity and resulted in a lawsuit, reports ESPN.

In the battle of the Cracker Barrels, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of preliminary injunctive relief against Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. ("CBOCS"), reports the Chicago Tribune.

The Cracker Barrel Names

Kraft has been selling low-cost, processed cheese under the Cracker Barrel name for over 50 years, to thousands of grocery stores across the country. CBOCS is a chain restaurant with 620 locations across the country. When Kraft learned that CBOCS planned to sell prepared foods to grocery stores under the CBOCS name, Kraft initiated a trademark infringement suit under the Lanham Act, and requested a preliminary injunction. The district court granted Kraft's motion, and CBOCS appealed.

Elton John Didn't Copy Man's Cold War Love Ballad: 7th Cir.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's decision to "12(b)(6)" a man's claim that pop star Elton John stole his lyrics for a love song.

Guy Hobbs, the allegedly wronged songrwiter, claimed his lyrics referenced the Cold War and a Communist woman with a name starting with "N."

Hobbs sued Elton John in federal court in Illinois, alleging Elton's 1985 song "Nikita" (which was written by lyricist Bernie Taupin) infringed on a song Hobbs wrote called "Natasha."

Seventh Circuit: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Rip Off Nietzsche

Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, and Nietzsche (figuratively) walk into the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Hilarity ensues.

The Seventh Circuit ruled this week that aspiring hip-hop artist Vince P. can't sue Kanye West for ripping off his song, because both West and P. were ripping off Nietzsche.

No, folks. We can't make this stuff up.

Cheapskate Porn Viewers Dodge Bullet in 7th Cir myVidster Appeal

Copyright holders can be rather prickly about their protecting their works. For example, Flava Works, a porn production company, gets antsy when people copy their pay-to-play content and host it for free on other websites. When Flava Works discovered its flava-ful content on MyVidster.com, it joined forces with the Motion Picture Association of America to sue MyVidster for copyright infringement.

Last year, U.S. District Judge John Grady agreed with Flava Works and the Motion Picture Association of American that myVidster, a social video bookmarking site, infringed on copyrighted material by embedding Flava Works' videos and reaping the ad revenue rewards. Judge Grady concluded that myVidster was not protected under Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor provision.