In the first trial involving non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, trademark rights and a First Amendment defense, a jury in New York City earlier this month found an artist had violated the trademark rights of Hermés, the iconic French fashion house.
At issue was the artist’s NFT depictions of Hermés’ Birkin bags and his use of the BIRKIN mark in connection with his art. NFTs are digital depictions of art that reside not on walls or shelves of collectors but in the cloud, accessible via the owner’s computer.
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It’s the rare celebrity, whether sports or Hollywood, who has not acted as an advertiser’s spokesperson, or even as an endorser. The deals run from Jimmy Walker hawking Medicare insurance on late night TV to William Shatner, who made $13 million to promote Priceline. That’s not bad money for a few hours on the sound stage every year. Rapper Travis Scott is said to have made $20 million promoting McDonald’s on social media.
Not all of these deals pass legal muster, however, and when a celebrity endorses a product in his field of interest, such as a celebrity racecar driver pushing tires, the public has a right to believe the celebrity means what he says and actually uses the product. Where it is obvious the actor, or celebrity, is merely being paid to act as a spokesperson, product use is not needed. And, when the celebrity is given something of value to add an endorsement, disclosure is required. If these rules are not followed, the result may be a claim by a state attorney general, the FTC, or group of consumers that the celebrity endorser engaged in deceptive trade practices. Continue reading →
Decades back when we first represented advertising agencies, the proliferation of titles involved executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents…well, you get the point. Someone once quipped “hand out titles, not raises.” Today, new positions abound in agencies. There are creative directors, chief experience officers, strategy officers, branding directors, and chief marketing officers. The latest misery to befall the maker of M&M candies evidences the need for a strategy king (or queen) in charge of sensitivity. Continue reading →
The FTC claims its latest effort to promote competition will increase the wages of America’s workers by “nearly $300 billion per year,” but what will this effort do to employers and the sellers of businesses?
The subject of the FTC push is a proposed rule that would ban the use of non-compete clauses except where they are imposed, with limitations, on the sellers of a business. The FTC seeks public comment through March 6 on its January 5, 2023, proposed rule. The rule was “encouraged” by President Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order promoting competition. In it, he encouraged the FTC to use its authority under the Federal Trade Commission Act to curtail what he called the unfair use of non-competition clauses and other agreements that may “unfairly limit” worker mobility. Continue reading →
The rapper formerly known as Kanye West is in a dump truckload of trouble for, among other things, his display of a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. The slogan’s so-called owners are calling him out for trademark infringement.
As bad as the politics might be, Ye, as he is now known, did no trademark harm. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as a general rule, will refuse to register a trademark if the submitted specimen shows that use of the mark is decorative or ornamental. A trademark must indicate a source of goods. Continue reading →
Chief Justice Warren Burger admonished the ABA in 1984, “Our litigation system is too costly, too painful, too destructive, too ineffective for a civilized people.” The Chief added, “For many claims trials by the adversarial contest must in time go the way of the ancient trial by battle and blood.” Copyright trademark and trade secret trials may be among the most expensive legal contests, and I am pretty sure the Chief would have recommended mediation.
The number of civil cases that reach trial in the federal courts is a very small percentage of the total cases filed; probably less than 5 percent. The road to settlement, however, can be long and very expensive. We can get these cases settled early on! Continue reading →
The federal Lanham Act goes beyond trademark protection and establishes causes of action, as well, for unfair competition, false advertising, and false association. Section 43(a), however, does not contain a statute of limitations for claims that arise under the Lanham Act for any of these improper activities. That’s different from the Copyright and Patent Acts which each provide for limitations and apparently that’s the way Congress wants it.
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The Texas Legislature enacted HB 20, a gobsmacking law, in September 2021, declaring social media platforms and interactive computer services to be “common carriers,” charged, as the bill reads, with a public interest of being “central forums for public debate.”
HB 20 defines social media as an internet website having more than 50 million users that is open to the public and allows users to create accounts to communicate with others through the posting of information, comments, and messages or images. Media giants like YouTube and Twitter are affected. A few days ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held the law to be constitutional and enforceable.
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