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Author: Digital Law Group

Patent Assignments to Native American Tribes: Brilliant or Bad Business?

allergan

The recent trend of companies transferring patents to Native American tribes has raised some concerns about anticompetitive business practices.  Lawsuits brought by patent-holding tribes as a result of these assignments have been popping up a lot lately, and major companies are fit to be tied. Essentially, companies are assigning their patents to tribes in order to take advantage of the tribes’ sovereign immunity, thus shielding them from the patent review process and potential patent invalidation.  The most recent targets of these lawsuits in the tech industry have been Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. The method works something like this.  A company files for...

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Jury Awards 9.4 Million to Quincy Jones in Michael Jackson Royalty Suit

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Remember the time when Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones were a power duo, churning out music that rocked our world? Jones produced Michael's Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad albums. Jones and the rest of musical world were devastated by the King of Pop's untimely death in June 2009. Luckily for fans, Michael's death spurred the release of new material from and inspired by MJ; material that Jones claimed he was owed royalties based on contracts dating back to 1978 and 1985. As producer of Michael's albums, Jones was granted rights and royalties to the music he...

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Update: The USPTO’s Slanted Viewpoint on Trademark Applications is Unconstitutional

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In January, we told you about how the Asian-American rock band, The Slants, had been making noise in the courts for years fighting for the right to register the band's trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO had denied registration of the band's name, citing Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which allowed the USPTO to refuse registration of marks that it deemed to be immoral, scandalous, or disparaging. However, the band is likely singing the Supreme Court's praises because just this week the Court ruled in an 8-0 onion that this...

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Bounding into Trouble: Trampoline Review Sites Launch Brothers into FTC Investigation

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Trampoline selling brothers, Sonny and Bobby Le, are prohibited from engaging in deceptive marketing practices after sending consumers to "independent" product review sites that were actually owned and operated by the brothers' company. According to the FTC complaint, the brothers advertised and sold Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines through various websites. These e-commerce websites displayed logos and seals for the Bureau of Trampoline Review, Trampoline Safety of America, and Top Trampoline Review. As a result, consumers were led to believe that these review sites containing ratings based on safety and performance, were comprised of unbiased, expert reviews. In reality, these...

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Truth in Advertising Going to the Dogs?

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Last week a class action lawsuit was filed in California against Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the owners of Rachael Ray™ Nutrish® dog food products for, among other claims, negligent misrepresentation and violations of California's false advertising law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act. According to the complaint, the defendants engaged in deceptive labeling practices by marketing the food as "natural" and containing "no artificial preservatives." The ingredients at the center of the lawsuit are synthetic versions of vitamins B, C and K, as well as caramel color. Although not proven to be harmful, and present in animal and human foods, the ingredients...

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Battle of the Copper Pans

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Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but such flattery is unwelcome when it comes to copying products. In the consumer product industry, hot items are quickly adapted by competing companies, resulting in consumer confusion as to the origin of the product; sometimes resulting in lengthy legal battles. We saw this most recently with retractable hoses (X Hose, Pocket Hose, etc.), which has been in litigation since 2013. Right now, the hottest product igniting lawsuits is copper. Copper pots and pans (or at least copper in color) are the latest sensation in cookware. Big sellers...

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Is ‘Made in China’ a Thing of the Past? What tariffs and trade relations mean for the consumer product industry.

Tariff article

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, China is our largest goods trading partner with approximately $579 billion in total trade during 2016. Imports from China totaled $463 billion, resulting in a $347 billion U.S. trade deficit for the year. This deficit, along with the goal of bringing manufacturing jobs back home, has the President Trump contemplating high tariffs on Chinese and other imports, including those from another major trade partner – Mexico. The World Trade Organization stipulates that tariffs can only be imposed when there is material injury to the domestic industry, such as the detrimental effects of...

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FTC shakeup may be welcome news for online product marketers

FTC Article - cartoon

The president appears to be making good on his promise to cut government regulations, as the Federal Trade Commission is the latest body to get “Trumped.” Maureen Ohlhausen of the FTC, a critic of government regulation, has been appointed the interim chair by President Trump. She replaces Edith Ramirez who will be resigning today, February 10, 2017. Ohlhausen will be bringing a new focus to the FTC; specifically, an emphasis on pursuing claims based on actual consumer harm, not just whether a regulatory violation occurred. For example, on a recent $2.2M settlement with Vizio regarding the software in...

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What’s in a name? The USPTO’s slanted viewpoint on trademark applications

Portrait of Asian-American band The Slants (L-R: Joe X Jiang, Ken Shima, Tyler Chen, Simon "Young" Tam, Joe X Jiang) in Old Town Chinatown, Portland, Oregon, USA on 21st August 2015. (Photo by: Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns)

For over 3 years now, Asian-American rock band, The Slants, has been making noise in the courts while fighting for the right to register the band's trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The band's battle started in 2013 when the USPTO determined that the "The Slants" was disparaging to Asian Americans and refused registration of the mark. For the past 70 years, the USPTO has used Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act to deny registration of marks that it deems to be immoral, scandalous, or disparaging. Perhaps most notably, the USPTO relied on section 2(a) when it...

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Lawsuits and Fines Plague Amazon to Kick off 2017

Amazon.com Inc. logos are displayed on laptop computers in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Amazon.com Inc. is scheduled to release third-quarter earnings on Oct. 24. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Despite its recent announcement of plans to create 100,000 jobs during the next 18 months, 2017 is off to a rocky start for Amazon. Just days before the new year, RUN-DMC Brand filed a lawsuit against Amazon (and others, including Walmart and Jet.com) seeking $50 million in damages for trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition. RUN-DMC’s complaint alleges that the defendants are advertising, manufacturing, selling, and distributing multiple products with the iconic 1980s rap/hip-hop group’s RUN-DMC trademark without the permission of RUN-DMC, which is owned by former band member, Darryl McDaniels. Run-DMC alleges that Amazon directly advertises and sells infringing products,...

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