U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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If you've never heard of Sturgis before, either you're allergic to two wheeled motor vehicles, or you just haven't known anyone who just won't shut up about it. Sturgis, South Dakota is home of the largest, and longest running, annual motorcycle rally in the country, and probably the world.

Over the decades, merchandising, licensing, and commercialization have slowly crept into the annual rally. But unfortunately for the group purporting to hold all the rights, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the organizer's Sturgis trademark was invalid.

The Federal Communications Commission has just filed an amicus brief in a case pending before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that could change the VoIP game. And who the feds have chosen to support may (or may not) surprise you.

The case involves a rather significant battle over whether VoIP providers, like Vonage, should be regarded as traditional telecom companies, like Verizon, and subject to regulation by state run public utilities commissions. Right now, as the law currently stands, depending on whether a VoIP provider offers other more traditional communication (phone) or data (internet/cable) services, or not, the FCC regulations that apply are different. For standalone VoIP services, it is even less clear, despite the position of the parties.

Politics. We can't seem to respect each other's differences when it comes to politics. Some of us are also having a hard time drawing a line between politics and religion. As these issues come up constantly in the news, two cases in the Eighth Circuit bring up these issues.

And in less divisive news, the Eighth Circuit recently upheld a trade dress verdict for Hallmark Cards. Should we send the company a congratulatory card?

Quite a few cases making the rounds in the Eighth Circuit are making headlines and deal with everything from Wizard of Oz merchandise, to kosher hot dogs. Here's a breakdown in the latest news out of the Eighth Circuit.

Iowa Campaign Finance Ban

In 2013, the Eighth Circuit upheld an Iowa law that "allow[s] for independent expenditures by corporations and unions but ... ban[s] ... direct contributions to candidates and committees by corporations," reports Reuters. An anti-abortion group challenged the ban, and petitioned for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on Monday. This is highly interesting light of the Court's ruling last week in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission; it shows the Court has said all that it wants to for now on campaign finance.

Ministry of Sound Sues Spotify: Why It Matters to the 8th Cir.

Is a compilation album sufficiently original to merit copyright protection? It's a provocative question that has rattled courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ministry of Sound has brought the issue back into the limelight with its recent lawsuit against Spotify. The electronic music giant contends that Spotify users are creating playlists on Spotify that are rip-offs of their compilation albums.

Albeit filed in the UK, the Ministry of Sound's case may pique the attention of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and renew the copyright debate over "sweat of the brow" versus originality.

Don't Stop Believin' in Copyright Infringement Damages

In Jonathan Larson's Tony-winning musical Rent, we learned that a year is 525,600 minutes. That number was repeated throughout the song "Seasons of Love," which lasts for approximately 3 minutes, (or 0.00000571 years). And if you illegally download "Seasons of Love," those 3 minutes could cost you $9,250, (or $51.38 per second).

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Jammie Thomas-Rasset is on the line for $220,000 for peer-to-peer file sharing. Thomas-Rasset shared 24 songs on Kazaa, including Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' and Green Day's "Basket Case" The Wall Street Journal reports. Now she'll pay a six-figure sum for songs she could have heard second-rate cover bands play for free at almost any bar or frat party

So why did this case need to be resolved in an appellate court?

Trademark or Title? The Difference Can Affect Duty to Defend

What's in a name?

That which we call a "trademark" will not -- in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals -- be automatically deemed a "title or slogan."

When we're talking about an insurer's duty to defend, the distinction is critical.

Tribes Sue NCAA Over Right to Use 'Fighting Sioux' Name

A Native American tribe in North Dakota indicated that it may be planning to bring its lawsuit to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Bismarck Times.

The Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes sued in the federal district court against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its policy banning the use of Native American imagery. The lawsuit didn’t get very far on the merits, given the reaction of the district judge.

More Players Join Battle Between File Sharer and Record Company

More players have entered the appellate ring in the first individual file-sharing case to go to trial.

A coalition of libraries, public interest groups, and online privacy advocates filed a joint amicus brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a reduced damage award against file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset.

The Minnesota mom of four was originally sued by Capital Records in 2006 for copyright infringement. She was accused of posting 24 popular songs on the peer-to-peer file-sharing program Kazaa. After the initial trial and two re-trials, the jury ultimately awarded Capital Records with $1.5 million in damages. The judge, however, called the verdict “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportionate to the offense and obviously unreasonable” and slashed the award to $54,000.

Masters v. UHS of Del., Inc., No. 09-3543

Trademark Infringement Action

In Masters v. UHS of Del., Inc., No. 09-3543, an action claiming that defendant breached the parties' trademark license agreement, and committed trademark infringement, the court affirmed judgment for plaintiff where 1) defendant's equitable defenses presented fact-bound inquiries that were properly submitted to the jury; 2) the jury properly found that defendant used the mark at issue for unlicensed purposes; and 3) the district court did not err when it determined that monetary relief was appropriate, were the jury to conclude that defendant willfully infringed the mark.