3rd Circuit Intellectual Property Law News - U.S. Third Circuit
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The Third Circuit clarified trademark confusion standards under the Lanham Act last week. In a case involving two financial services firms, the court re-emphasized that a trademark is infringed when another mark is so similar that it is likely to cause confusion.

That's just confusion itself, not confusion to purchasers or confusion to customers, the Third Circuit ruled. This ruling reversed a lower court's determination that a trademark was unlikely to be infringed because evidence of confusion was not from "actual customers."

Led Zeppelin Faces 'Stairway to Heaven' Lawsuit Thanks to 'Raging Bull'

One of the most legendary rock songs of all time, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, might just be a copy-and-paste job. That's the claim of the heirs of Randy Craig Wolfe (aka Randy California), a legendary guitarist in his own right, a protege of Jimi Hendrix who formed the band Spirit when he was still a teenager and was a pioneer in the psychedelic rock category.

Spirit released the instrumental interlude "Taurus" two years before "Stairway to Heaven." Zeppelin toured with Spirit and often covered the latter band's songs when they opened for them.

Now Wolfe's estate, decades after the songs were released, is raising a copyright infringement claim over the issue.

This week the Third Circuit decided two issues of first impression in the circuit: (1) when a claim of joint authorship arises and accrues under the Copyright Act; and (2) whether courts are imbued with the authority to cancel copyrights.

Tina Lindsay and Peter Brownstein worked for a direct mailing list company. While there, they began working on their own venture: an ethnic identification system for purposes of direct marketing. Lindsay developed the step-by-step rules, and she enlisted Brownstein to develop the code.

Throughout the process the two considered each other joint-owners, though afterward, in a series of agreements, Lindsay tried to act as the sole owner of the copyrights. The court found that Brownstein and Lindsay were indeed joint owners, and that Lindsay's claims that Brownstein worked for hire were without merit, because among other things, he was never compensated.

There’s not much in the way of outstanding jurisprudence coming out of the Third Circuit this week, but there are two interesting cases, and one of them comes with fries.

You Can't Copyright the 'Cliches of Hip Hop Gangsterism'

Drug-dealing, guns, money, and vengeance have become part of the urban narrative. So have phrases like "yo, where's my money at," "let's keep it popping," and "the strong take from the weak but the smart take from everybody."

According to a recent unpublished opinion from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, such themes are "either common in general or common with respect to hip hop culture, and do not enjoy copyright protection." That's good news for 50 Cent, who was the defendant in this copyright dispute.

Merck Takes 'Pay for Delay' Appeal to SCOTUS

Merck wants the Supreme Court to resolve the circuit split regarding pay-for-delay arrangements, reports Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

In July, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pay-for-delay arrangements are presumptively anti-competitive. It was the first appellate court to reach that conclusion.

This week, the pharmaceutical giant filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Court to reverse the decision.

Third Circuit Issues Landmark Decision in Pharmaceutical Antitrust Suit

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark opinion on pay-for-delay deals involving pharmaceutical products, reports Businessweek.

The decision involved Merck & Co’s Schering-Plough branch, which entered into pay-for-delay agreements to delay the entry of generic versions of the K-Dur drug into the market.

Havana Club Rum Label Not False Advertisement

Booze. Exotic locations. Communism. This case has it all.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that consumers are smart enough to figure out that Havana Club Rum is made in Puerto Rico, not Havana.

In a geographic battle for the ages, French liquor producer Pernod Ricard sued Bacardi, the Bermuda-based rum giant, alleging that Bacardi's Havana Club rum label was a false advertisement and misleading.

Naked DJ's Have Summary Judgment Thrown Out by 3rd Circuit

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had an interesting week. Or rather, they had a very interesting copyright lawsuit.

See if you can wrap your legal minds around the following scenario:

A photographer does a photo shoot of two local radio hosts, Craig Carton and Ray Rossi. In this photo, the radio hosts are wearing nothing.

That's right -- buck naked, in the buff, in their birthday suits -- call it what you will, but it's really nothing more than a bit of spice to the case, since the nudity wasn't the issue.

The issue was homosexuality. Or at least allegations of it and a subsequent defamation claim.

Barefoot Architect, Inc. v. Bunge, 09-4495

Action for violation of a copyright in a home design

Barefoot Architect, Inc. v. Bunge, 09-4495, concerned an architect's suit against former clients and an architectural firm for violation of the Lanham Act and breach of contract and a claim that defendants had violated its copyright in a home design.