How to Reduce a Copyright Liability from Major to Minor

A client recently had the good fortune to reduce its financial exposure for copyright infringement from $3 million to a little over $75,000. Still, $75,000 is a lot of money to pay for unauthorized reproduction of twenty photos that belonged to someone else. But on the down side, in addition to statutory damages of up to $150,000 per photo, there also was the possibility of an award of attorney’s fees, and because the facts as known pointed to the conclusion that this client was aware that the photos were not its to borrow, it was quite likely a jury would have found the infringement to be willful and would, and could, have awarded $150,000 per photograph.  Continue reading

Unlawful Use of a Trademark in Commerce and the Affirmative Defense to Infringement

The Lanham Act imposes on a trademark’s owner the requirement that the mark be used lawfully in commerce. If it is not, the USPTO should refuse to register it, and if registered the registration should be canceled. As well, unlawful use of a trademark in commerce has been applied as an affirmative defense to infringement in the case of registered marks, and there is no basis to distinguish, for this purpose, registered and unregistered marks. It’s just that the tested cases have been with registered marks.

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Licensee Estoppel and Naked Licensing

Federal courts are prone to apply licensee estoppel to prevent a trademark licensee from challenging its prior licensor’s rights in the mark. If, of course, a licensee can establish that the prior licensor has no rights in the mark-at-issue, that licensor will not be able to enforce its rights in the mark. Those circumstances will often arise when the prior licensor sues it prior licensee because the latter continues to use the mark following expiration of the license.

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An Award of Statutory Damages Under the Copyright Act for Post-Registration Infringements? It Depends.

Goodell DeVries partner Jim Astrachan published this article in the Drake Law ReviewFull text is available here.

ABSTRACT

In many cases of copyright infringement, the plaintiff is only able to afford to bring an action for infringement if they are entitled to ask the court to award statutory damages and attorney’s fees should they prevail in establishing infringement. While there might be a connection between the amount of statutory damages a court may award, in its discretion, the profits of the infringer and the actual damages, if any, suffered by a copyright owner, 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) allows a court to award between $750 and $150,000 for each work infringed.1 The statute does not require the plaintiff to establish what actual damages they may have suffered from the infringement or what profits the defendant reaped.2

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