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5-a-day: Cyber attacks, 3D printing and Batman v Batsman

James Nurton

US-China tensions, a withering put-down from a US judge, the latest on 3D printing, WIPO’s Global Brands Database and a victory for DC Comics figure in today’s IP news round-up

Are Chinese spies stealing US IP?

Are China and other countries stealing US IP and trade secrets through cyber attacks? The White House seems to think so, and has formed a new strategy to deal with the alleged threat. The LA Times reports that the strategy aims to improve coordination between US intelligence agencies and the state and justice departments. It comes one day after Alexandria, VA-based security company Mandiant released a report claiming that a Chinese military unit stole data from at least 141 North American companies over a six-year period.

Weak mark plus no confusion equals bad odds

Phifty-50When an opinion starts out with a jab at the plaintiff, you know how it’s going to end. Judge Easterbrook of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit began his refreshingly brief (five-page) ruling in Eastland Music Group v Lionsgate Entertainment observing that Eastland-owned rap duo Phifty-50 “according to its web site, has to its credit one album (2003) and a T-shirt”. Things only got worse for the music company from there. With respect to Eastland’s claim that Lionsgate’s 2011 film 50-50 infringes its rights in the mark Phifty-50, Easterbrook said: “If there is any prospect of intellectual property in the phrase 50/50, Eastland Music is a very junior user and in no position to complain about the 2011 film. Phifty-50 entered a crowded field, and its rights are correspondingly weak and narrow.” The fact that there was zero evidence of confusion didn’t help much either.

The next dimension

3D printerNPR ran a nice piece this week on the IP implications of 3D printing (video and article). The same topic was addressed by Annie Lachmansingh of IP firm Rouse on the Construction Digital website and by Public Knowledge (It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology). Managing IP subscribers may also recall an article we ran on A five-step strategy for the 3D revolution in November 2011. The NPR feature is titled “As 3-D Printing Becomes More Accessible, Copyright Questions Arise”. Indeed. But if 3D printing is half as good as is being suggested, it’s not only copyright issues that will arise, but also trade mark, design and even patent.

10 million and counting

10.9 million – that’s the number of trade mark (and other) records now on WIPO’s Global Brand Database. With six national collections added, it now has 12 databases including Canada, the US and of course WIPO itself, but no European offices. To remedy that, WIPO intends to link the Global Brand Database to TMview, which has just under 10 million records from OHIM and most national offices in Europe. The ability to search for trade marks in most of the developed world for free on one site is not far off. That has to be welcome for brand owners, but it also makes it harder for trade mark service providers to differentiate their products.

BatmanBatman’s latest victory

The UK’s Daily Mail brings news that DC Comics has successfully opposed two applications for the mark Batsman for cricket-related goods, based on likelihood of confusion with its CTM registration for Batman (decision dated December 19 2012). The story gains a bit in the telling (will UK IPO hearing officer Oliver Morris be flattered or horrified to be described as a judge?) but it’s a good read for a Friday. Of course, we may have a sequel if the applicant Adelphoi appeals. For those readers unfamiliar with the differences between the game of cricket and a Batman film, here goes: one lasts for hours, involves silly outfits and is difficult to make sense of; the other is a game of cricket.

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