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Blurred Lines, plain packaging, Hewlett-Packard, Kraftwerk, Disney – the week in IP



Michael Loney


Marvin Gaye’s family winning the Blurred Lines copyright case, UK MPs approving plain packaging legislation, Hewlett-Packard having four of its patents invalidated, the co-founder of Kraftwerk suing a power charging company, and Disney’s trade mark fight over its Lotso character were in the IP headlines this week

Thicke and Williams can’t Give It Up

Intellectual property headlines were dominated this week - well, apart from Managing IP revealing the winners of its Global Awards - by the verdict in the Blurred Lines copyright case.

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered by a California jury to pay $7.4 million to the family of Marvin Gaye for infringing the 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" with their extremely popular "Blurred Lines" song.

Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $4 million in copyright damages plus profits attributable to infringement, $1.8 million for Thicke and $1.6 million for Williams.

An attorney for Thicke and Williams said his clients would be appealing the verdict. "We owe it to songwriters around the world to make sure this verdict doesn't stand," Howard King told Fox Business News. "My clients know that they wrote the song Blurred Lines from their hearts and souls and no other source… We are going to exercise every post-trial remedy we have to make sure this verdict does not stand."

There was much good analysis of the ruling online, including:

- The New York Times:  What’s Wrong With the 'Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling

- The 1709 Blog analysis of the New York Times article: What’s Wrong With the 'Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling?

- Hollywood reporter: Marvin Gaye Family Lawyer: How I Won the 'Blurred Lines' Trial (Guest Column)

- Vulture: A Copyright Expert Explains the 'Blurred Lines’ Ruling


UK moves towards plain packaging

UK MPs have voted in favour of introducing plain packaging for cigarettes in the UK, reports the BBC. If approved by the House of Lords, plain packaging would come into force on cigarette packs in 2016.

It was approved in the House of Commons by a 367-113 vote.

If enacted, the UK would join the Irish Republic, which passed a similar law earlier this month, and Australia, which introduced plain packaging in 2012.


HP feels Alice’s wrath

Hewlett-Packard had four of its patents invalidated by a California federal judge this week in a case against software company ServiceNow, reports Reuters.

The court said that four of the eight patents in the case were too abstract, citing the Supreme Court’s Alice v CLS Bank decision.

Hewlett-Packard responded in a statement: "We are disappointed in the court’s ruling, and are considering next steps as this is a rapidly evolving area of the law."

Alice has a long way to go to become one of the most cited-cases of all time, however. A Patently-O blog post this week revealed the most-cited Supreme Court decisions decided between 2005 and 2015. Alice sits 21st on the list at the moment, with 2007’s KSR Intern v Teleflex obviousness decision top.

Patently-O’s Dennis Crouch expects Alice to rise in the rankings but Nautilus (17th) to fall, based on the Federal Circuit’s treatment of the cases.

The blog post-added: "KSR has actually rocketed to the position of most-cited Supreme Court patent case of all time followed by Markman (1996); US Gypsom (1948) (antitrust-patent); Graham v Deere (1966); and Warner-Jenkinson (1997)."


 

Kraftwerk power up lawsuit

The co-founder of German techno pioneers Kraftwerk is suing a Dresden-based maker of a portable charger.

A company called eZelleron raised more than $1.5 million on Kickstarter for a portable power supply that can provide weeks of charge for mobile phones, tablets and other electronic devices. The problem: it called the product "Kraftwerk".

Ralf Hutter owns the trade mark registration on "Kraftwerk" for use in connection with music and related goods and services. He also owns the US trade mark for Kraftwerk for clothing, prerecorded music such as CDs, video cassettes and the like.

Hutter’s complaint, submitted by Venable, says eZelleron is taking advance orders for the Kraftwerk charging device, and that consumers are likely to assume there is a connection, association or relationship to the band.

Kraftwerk is German for "power station", which the Hollywood Reporter suggested means eZelleron can say makes its name descriptive and therefore Hutter will have to show secondary meaning.


Hugs all round

Disney this week was foiled by a Texas judge in its efforts to win on summary judgment a trade mark case arising from its Lotso evil bear character in Toy Story 3, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

Diece-Lisa Industries objected to the character because it owns a trade mark to "Lots of Hugs" and has been licensing it to stuffed bears. It initially objected to the character itself and sought an injunction on its future use. It then changed tack and targeted Toy Story 3 merchandise.

Disney argued that Diece-Lisa has not met the burden of proof on consumer confusion. It also claimed "Lotso looks nothing like Plaintiff's puppets".

Judge Roy Payne said: "Neither party disputes that the likelihood of confusion prong of trademark infringement is a question of fact that is almost always left to the jury to decide."



Also on the blog this week:

Global Awards Dinner 2015: your tweets and pictures

Guest post: How the Digital Single Market will affect brand owners

US patent litigation makes a comeback in 2015

International Patent Forum: five highlights from day 1

In our news and analysis this week:

BusinessEurope "seriously concerned" about Unitary Patent fee proposals

China’s trade mark teething problems

Baker & McKenzie scoops six Managing IP awards

Global Awards winners 2015

The impact of the UPC on life science companies

US patent litigation surges in February, driven by software cases

Michelle Lee confirmed as USPTO director by Senate

Todd Dickinson joins Novak Druce

EPO floats two options for Unitary Patent fees

UK to reform threats provisions

IPR filing up 64% in February compared with previous month

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