Ninth Circuit Holds “Bad Spaniels” Dog Toy Is an “Expressive Work”

By Anne Bolamperti and David G. Barker The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. that the “Bad Spaniels” dog toy is an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection. The court vacated the United States District Court for the District of Arizona’s judgment that the toy infringed the Jack Daniel’s trade dress and registered bottle design. VIP Products designs and sells rubber dog toys that employ entertaining adaptations of various beverage brands.  Beginning in July 2013, VIP began selling the “Bad Spaniels” version of the toy, which resembles the iconic   Read More »

Posted in Trademark Litigation | Tagged ,

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Supreme Court: Statute Exposing States to Claims of Copyright Infringement Must Walk the Plank

By Daniel M. Staren and David G. Barker Today a unanimous Supreme Court struck down the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”), which sought to expose States to copyright infringement suits. See 17 U.S.C. § 511(a). The Court’s decision in Allen v. Cooper affirmed a Fourth Circuit decision holding that neither Congress’s Article I powers nor Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment granted Congress constitutional authority to enact the CRCA. In 1996, North Carolina hired Frederick Allen to document the State’s efforts to recover the shipwrecked remains of Queen Ann’s Revenge, the flagship vessel of pirate Edward Teach—Blackbeard. Allen   Read More »

Posted in Copyright Litigation | Tagged

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Led Zeppelin Ruling Overturns Ninth Circuit’s ‘Inverse Ratio Rule’

By Shalayne L. Pillar and David G. Barker On March 9, 2020, Led Zeppelin won a major copyright battle over claims that they stole part of their signature song “Stairway to Heaven.”  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling en banc, upheld a 2016 jury verdict that cleared the band of infringing a 1967 instrumental ballad titled “Taurus” by the band Spirit.  The ruling overturned a 2018 decision by a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges that held the trial judge failed to inform jurors that unprotectable elements could be protected by copyright law when arranged in creative ways (see   Read More »

Posted in Copyright Litigation | Tagged ,

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Supreme Court Holds “Expenses” Exclude PTO Employee Salaries in Civil Action Challenges Under the Patent Act

By Daniel M. Staren and David G. Barker The Supreme Court unanimously held that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) may not recover the salaries of its legal personnel as “expenses” in a civil action challenging an adverse decision by the PTO under the Patent Act. The Court’s decision in Peter v. NantKwest affirmed a Federal Circuit en banc decision that premised its holding on the American Rule, which provides that each litigant is responsible for its own attorneys’ fees unless a statute or contract provides otherwise. NantKwest owned a patent application directed to a method for treating   Read More »

Posted in Patent Litigation | Tagged , , ,

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Solicitor General Weighs in on Section 101, Prompts High Court to Grant Review in Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services

By Andy Halaby At the Supreme Court’s request, the Solicitor General on Friday, December 6, weighed in on two pending cert petitions dealing with patent subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  Though the Solicitor General urged on behalf the United States that both those cert petitions be denied, he seized the opportunity, in both briefs, to maintain that the Supreme Court should accept review in yet another case, Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services, and use that opportunity to straighten out what the Solicitor General maintains is a recent, deviant strain of Court decisions interpreting § 101. In   Read More »

Posted in IP and Technology Litigation, Patent Litigation | Tagged , ,

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