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State Not Liable for Using Film of Sunken Pirate Ship

A federal appeals court rejected a filmmaker's complaint that North Carolina pirated his footage of Blackbeard's sunken ship.

In Allen v. Cooper, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the state was immune from liability for using the film of Queen Anne's Revenge. It ran aground in 1718 near Beaufort, North Carolina, where the plaintiff's crew filmed the underwater wreckage.

The state used some images of the pirate ship for tourism and educational purposes, a fair use under copyright law. Besides, not even Blackbeard's ghost claimed it.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has an easy lesson for those individuals looking to set up fantastically named shell companies to funnel their money and lives through: You can still get reverse pierced just like It's Thundertime LLC.

Reverse piercing of the veil applies to situations where a third party is seeking to hold the corporation liable for the member's action. As the owner of It's Thundertime LLC learned the hard way, if you commingle, then the courts will pierce it, in forward or reverse. Direct TV's case against Randy Coley, aka, the owner of It's Thundertime, had a $2.3 million judgment that reverse pierced the veil upheld on appeal.

Sunken Pirate Ship Raised in Copyright Case

Bloody Blackbeard and his ship perished off the coast of North Carolina, but they nearly appeared before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Paul Niemeyer summoned up the notorious pirate during oral arguments about underwater footage of his wreck, Queen Anne's Revenge. The vessel sunk in Beaufort Inlet, the scene of the ship's last voyage.

At one point, the judge said he checked the internet for the disputed images of Blackbeard and his ship but couldn't find them. Oddly, it may determine whether the lawsuit lives or dies.

Redskins' Lawyers File this Year's Raunchiest Brief in 4th Circuit

If someone were to tell you that the term "JIZZ underwear" would be used to argue for the very core of copyright and trademark, you'd think you'd stumbled onto a dirty website, right?

That term, including many other equally racy or offensive trademarks were cited as examples by the Redskin's legal team in their appellate brief filed with the Fourth Circuit. The argument: the 2014 PTO's canceling of six trademarks for the "Washington Redskins" amounts to unequal treatment under the law.

The Washington Redskins keep getting tackled in court. The controversially-named NFL team lost another legal battle today when a federal district court ordered the cancellation of their trademark registrations, rejecting their claims that the Lanham Act was overbroad and unconstitutional.

The decision by the E.D. Va. tracked with a previous ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, finding that the Redskins trademark violated the Lanham Act's prohibition on registering marks which "may disparage" others or "bring them into contempt or disrepute." So, touchdown for Native American activists who have long criticized the NFL team for using what many consider to be a racial slur as its name.

The District Court of South Carolina can't avoid hearing a dispute over who is the proper leader of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the Fourth Circuit held on Tuesday. The unusual case pitted two rival Bishops, the Reverend Mark J. Lawrence and the Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, against each other, with each claiming that they were the rightful leader of the church and thus entitled to use its trademarks.

The controversy, like all great religious disputes, stems from a schism in the Church. The conservative Diocese of South Carolina split from the more liberal Episcopal leadership over the national denomination's increasing acceptance of gay and lesbian church members. At stake are not just the souls of Southern Episcopalians, but also $500 million in church property and the right to Church trademarks.

Epic's Victory Over Silicon Knights in Video Game Dispute Affirmed

A bit of background for all of you non-gamers out there. Epic Games is the creator of the Unreal Engine (and the criminally-underrated Jazz Jackrabbit), industry-standard software used by many developers to make video games. To date, there have been three versions of the engine released, with a fourth planned for release soon.

Silicon Knights licensed Unreal Engine 3 for use in creating video games for the seventh-generation of PC hardware and consoles (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360), but was unsatisfied with the engine and Epic's support and documentation. They sued, but were slapped with a countersuit for failure to pay royalties, theft of trade secrets, copyright infringement, and breach of contract.

Guy Who Designed Ravens Logo Still Isn't Getting Paid

This guy got screwed. We can all agree on that, right? Frederick Bouchat designed a "Flying B" logo, faxed it to the Baltimore Ravens offices, and when the franchise began play, they used a logo that is pretty much indistinguishable from his design. If you've heard about this before, it's because he has sued. Repeatedly.

Bouchat actually won, but was awarded only nominal damages. He's made multiple trips to the Fourth Circuit and during the last trip, he prevailed on claims that the team's in-stadium videos, which employed the "Flying B" logo, were not fair use. This time, he's upset about fleeting views of the logo in archival videos and pictures. (The team switched to its current raven profile logo in 1998.)

And this time, he loses, because 10 seconds of less of footage in a documentary, or in a picture documenting the history of a team, is fair use.

If The Claim is Precluded, Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Georgia Pacific makes paper towels and paper towel accessories. It's a glamorous life -- especially when you design some spiffy new automatic paper towel dispenser that uses its own proprietary premium paper towels. Of course, premium paper towels come at a premium price, and when that happens, other companies, like von Drehle, rush in to fill the cheap-paper void.

The inevitable result of such competition is litigation. GP accused VD of contributory trademark infringement. Shortly thereafter, they also attempted to enforce their rights against numerous other manufacturers in other venues and jurisdictions. The VD litigation proceeded through summary judgment in their favor, a Fourth Circuit reversal, and a remand before von Drehle sought to amend their answer to reflect preclusion issues.

Defendant Can't Explain Bootlegged Blueprints, Still Wins

Building Graphics, Inc., designs family homes. In the 1990s, BG designed three plans that were later sold to other builders. Two of the designs were used to build a pair of houses (one per design) in the Charlotte area. The designs were also available online for purchase as “stock” plans. The third design’s plans were available offline for sale. All three were copyrighted.

Lennar Corporation builds homes in 18 states. Before jumping into a market, they conduct “due diligence” of recently built homes in the area, which includes analyzing floor plans, features, and prices. However, Lennar maintains that it is limited to homes currently being built and sold, not completed examples.