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Sony, Ricky Martin Win, but Not Exactly

'Prevailing party,' like the word 'success,' is a relative term.

In the music world, Ricky Martin is a success. He won even more fame singing "Vida" at the World Cup in Brazil," but a lawsuit says he stole the song from a lesser-known artist.

Luis Adrian Cortes-Ramos, a finalist on "Idol Puerto Rico," sued Martin and his producers in Cortes-Ramos v. Sony Pictures of America. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals said the defendants succeeded on a motion, but that's not the same as being a prevailing party.

Bad Review? Removing It Is More Complicated Than You'd Think

Do you own the copyright to posts that flame you? And if so, is it proper to use your ownership of those flame posts to have them removed from ISPs? Can you?

These and others are the issues at the center of a debate that has been roiling around in the courts for some time. Are defamed professionals allowed to own the comments that malign them? The First Circuit will chime in on this issue when it decides who owns the user comments in Ripoff Report reviews.

Sorry gourmands, chefs, fast food line cooks, you cannot copyright a sandwich, no matter how tasty it might be. One forward-looking Puerto Rican gastronome learned that the hard way last Friday, when the First Circuit tossed his copyright violation suit over a chicken sandwich.

Way back in 1987, Norberto Colon Lorenzana convinced his employers at Church's Chicken to add a simple chicken sandwich alongside their deep-fried thighs and wings. The idea took off and the "Pechu Sandwich" soon became a staple in Puerto Rican Church's franchises. Almost twenty years later, seeing the continued sale of his sandwich, Colon Lorenzana cried fowl, arguing in court that the Church's chains were violating his copyright.

Circuits with interesting cities within their jurisdiction always churn out interesting cases -- and with Boston in its purview, the First Circuit is an example of that.

With Boston making the news quite a bit this year, the First Circuit had its fair share of headlines. Not limited to newsy pieces, we also saw some law coming out of the First that is currently under review by the Supreme Court.

As we reflect on 2013, here's a quick rundown of the big issues of the past year, as we move forward into 2014:

Travel-Related Trademarks Extend Beyond Physical Region: 1st Cir.

For trademark attorneys with clients in the travel industry, life is good. Last month, we discussed the First Circuit Court of Appeals' recent ruling in Dorpan, S.L. v. Hotel Melià.

But let's take a look at another major takeaway of the case: That a senior trademark user of a mark related to travel is entitled to trademark protection that goes beyond its immediate geographic region.

The Hotel Meliá ("HMI") has been in business since the 1890s, in the same location in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and hosted the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt. It never registered its mark with the USPTO, or with the Puerto Rico Department of State.

Dorpan, a subsidiary of Sol Meliá, a Spanish company that owns hotels around the world, owns the rights to several marks including the word "Meliá" (referenced together as "Dorpan"). In 2007, Dorpan opened the Gran Meliá, a luxury resort in Coco Beach, Puerto Rico.

HMI sued Dorpan in Puerto Rico Superior Court, Dorpan sued HMI in federal court and removed the state claim to federal court, where both cases were consolidated. The district court granted Dorpan's motion for summary judgment on its declaratory judgment claim that, under the Lanham Act, Dorpan had the right to use the Gran Meliá mark in Puerto Rico, except in Ponce where HMI was located. HMI appealed.

$675k For Illegal Downloading Not Excessive: 1st Circuit

Is it a violation of due process when a jury issues a judgment against you for more than half a million dollars, all for illegally downloading thirty songs?

This is the question Joel Tenenbaum put before the First Circuit, but his hopes were dashed when the Court affirmed that this monetary award was not excessive in light of his conduct in its Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum decision on Tuesday.

Illegal downloaders beware, the Tenenbaum Court has some scolding words for those who take advantage of the Internet's bevy of pirated music.

Half-Measure in Trademark Nominal Use Case: No Clear Test

In the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad's third season, Mike warns the chemistry teacher turned meth-cooker protagonist, "No more half-measures, Walter." Half-measures leave behind loose ends and can lead to confusion or worse.

Though we're certain that the judges of the First Circuit have very demanding schedules, they ought to take a day off and watch a few episodes. In a per curium decision released last week, they passed when given a chance to clear up confusion regarding the proper test for nominal use of a trademark. While some might laud them for exercising judicial restraint, others will wonder if it would have been more prudent to clarify the law once and for all.

Supreme Court Won't Hear Joel Tenenbaum's Music Downloading Case

The First Circuit Court of Appeals takes a firm stance on illegal downloads.

Or at least it seems that way in light of the Tenenbaum ruling. Now, the Supreme Court has denied certiorari in his case, and it looks like the $675,000 penalty against the former Boston University graduate student will stand.

Play it Again: Court Upholds $675K Judgment Against Joel Tenenbaum

Joel Tenenbaum should resume penny-pinching.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a $675,000 judgment against Tenenbaum in an illegal downloading case last week, after District Court Judge Nancy Gertner reduced the sentence to $67,500.

Sony sued Tenenbaum in 2007 for willful infringement of copyright laws after Tenenbaum downloaded and distributed copyrighted music. Sony sought statutory, rather than actual damages. The jury found that Tenenbaum had willfully infringed each of Sony's 30 copyrighted works at issue in the case, and returned a damage award, within the statutory range, of $22,500 per infringement, totaling $675,000.