Category Archives: IP Matter

The Most Important Question In The Michael Jordan First Amendment Case Was The One That Didn’t Get Asked

iStock_000015750550_Small By: Brian J. Meli

Last month, we looked at the Michael Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores Seventh Circuit appellate decision in some detail here. But there was more to this decision—a reversal of the district court’s finding that a tribute ad constituted fully protected First Amendment speech—than what was decided. The appeal had a favorable outcome for Jordan, who got the lower court’s decision tossed and his case remanded, and who will likely be compensated handsomely for his persistence. But did Jordan’s legal team miss an opportunity to double down on his chances for success and establish some important precedent in the process? Continue reading

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Italian Government Goes Ballistic, Claims U.S. Gun Ad Infringes Its Copyright

David-rifle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Brian J. Meli

Say what you will about copyright law, it can lead to some seriously entertaining (and absurd) disputes.

Take this week’s news story about American gun manufacturer ArmaLite Inc.’s use of an altered image of Michelangelo’s David in an ad promoting its .50 caliber AR-50 assault rifle. In the ad (reproduced above) the famous renaissance statue is depicted cradling the high powered rifle instead of its signature slingshot; a weapon which, had David had actually wielded it, would’ve allowed him to fell most of the Philistine army before lunch.

The image has drawn harsh rebukes from the Italian government, and led to the Italian Culture Minister to call for the ad to be pulled, claiming: “an image of David, armed, offends and infringes the [Italian] law.” (loosely translated).

Really?

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Michael Jordan Goes One-On-One Against The First Amendment

Jordan

By: Brian J. Meli

When Michael Jordan sued Jewel Food Stores, purveyors of the Jewel-Osco supermarkets, for running a full page ad in Sports Illustrated (see above) congratulating the retired basketball superstar on his induction into the Hall of Fame, reactions from Chicagoans ranged from bewilderment to outright resentment. What could arguably the greatest sports icon of the modern era possibly gain by trying to squeeze a few extra bucks (by MJ’s standards) from a local supermarket chain that just wanted to celebrate his achievement? The ad, after all, wasn’t really an ad, so much as a printed tribute to a basketball legend. It was a symbolic gesture of local pride and support; not a shallow attempt at promoting a half-off sale on paper towels, Jewel maintained. Well, Jordan and his lawyers disagreed. They argued that an ad is an ad. And whatever its purported intent, this ad misappropriated Michael’s valuable publicity rights, which Jewel used to its commercial advantage.

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Four Letters No Digital Content Provider Should Ever Forget: DMCA

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By: Brian J. Meli

If you make your living providing online content (read: publishing, entertainment, advertising, design, photography etc.) you’re already well aware that you can’t profit from someone else’s creative efforts without their permission. While you may find the intricacies of the various forms of intellectual property law elusive, it’s nevertheless likely you have a general grasp on the notion that it’s not ok to reproduce someone else’s images, songs, articles, or videos unless your compensating them for the right to do so. If you don’t understand that, you either aren’t in the online content business or you won’t be for very long.

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Demystifying The Mystery Shopper

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By: Brian J. Meli

The mystery shopper (or secret shopper in some circles) has long been used as a way for businesses to gain real-world consumer insight into their products and services. Mystery shopping gives company decision makers a customer’s-eye view into the purchase experience of their brands, and, among other things, a practical understanding of how those brands are regarded in the marketplace. More and more though, the clandestine tactic of mystery shopping is being used to gain a competitive advantage over the competition. What better way, after all, to figure out what your chief rival’s up to than by simply asking his employees? The question is, when does snooping on the competition cross the line? Continue reading

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Diller vs. Moonves – Media Right Meets Media Might

2007 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Tech Products

USA Networks CEO Barry Diller

By: Brian J. Meli

You’d be hard pressed to find two savvier media moguls than Barry Diller and Les Moonves. Diller, the charismatic, long-time industry heavyweight and brainchild behind the Fox Broadcasting Company has held executive posts at ABC, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures over the course his illustrious 50-year career. Among the many credits to his name: pioneering the made-for-television movie format, popularizing the QVC home shopping network and, most recently, founding IAC/InterActiveCorp, an Internet company whose properties include Vimeo and Match.com.

Leslie Moonves, meanwhile, the President and CEO of CBS, is well-credentialed in his own right, having served in executive-level roles at Warner Bros. Television, 20th Century Fox Television and Viacom.

The two men have been long-time competitors in the ratings wars, but now their rivalry has shifted from the small-screen to the courtroom.

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The World Wide What-If: How E.T. And Mickey Mouse Nearly Changed The Internet (And World) As We Know It – Part 2

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By: Brian J. Meli

This is Part 2 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 1 here.

In a temporary departure from our usual Legalmatter format, last week’s post contemplated a purely fictional hypo.

Lawyers love hypotheticals, in part because they make fertile ground for debate (and in part because it’s much easier to win an argument when it’s bring-your-own-facts). I deemed this particular hypothetical worthy of some ink however because it raises some thought-provoking questions about how IP laws have shaped our society.

The hypo involved going back in time and changing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in one of the most historic IP cases of all time, Sony v. Universal City Studios, so that plaintiffs Universal Studios and the Walt Disney Company came out on top. Such an outcome would have made Sony’s fledgling Betamax videocassette recorder (and the VCR in general) illegal due to its ability to allow users to impermissibly infringe copyrighted broadcasts. This would have had a profound affect on the evolution of consumer technology and the Internet, and fundamentally changed the ways we live, work and play today.

Last week we contemplated the online world of a parallel universe in which just such a thing happened. This week we conclude by taking a look at the equivalent off-line world.

Here’s how it might look:

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The World Wide What-If: How E.T. And Mickey Mouse Nearly Changed The Internet (And World) As We Know It – Part 1

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By: Brian J. Meli

This is Part 1 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June 2012 edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 2 here.

The Universal Studios logo is a computer-generated rendering of a rotating planet Earth, partially circumscribed by the company’s name in giant block letters. It’s an iconic image that instantly invokes the might and magic of Hollywood. It’s also unintentionally allegorical, because had things turned out a little differently for Universal 30 years ago, today’s world—particularly the parts that relate to commerce and technology—might be very different.

The date was January 17, 1984—a year many associate with Apple Computer’s famous “1984” Macintosh commercial, and the George Orwell book that inspired it. But a lesser-known, and even more significant event in the history of the human race’s relationship with technology occurred that same year, and it had nothing to do with Apple. That event was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios, better known in legal circles as the “Sony Betamax” case.

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