Author: Sheba Sheikh

Gaga fan site wins against Fame Monster

Ms. Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, has just lost a legal dispute over the domain name, a fan site created by the Respondent, oranges arecool XD.  Lady Gaga in August had submitted a complaint to the National Arbitration Forum alleging that the Respondent registered the website in bad faith and in violation of her trademark. A series of claims and additional submissions followed: Lady Gaga’s Claims Respondent registered the domain name with actual knowledge of complainant’s career and with intent to capitalize on her career Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name The domain name is identical in sight, sound, and meaning to Lady Gaga’s trademark and circumstances surrounding registration of the disputed domain name “amply establish registration in bad faith” Respondent is competing with Complainant and preventing her ability to promote herself Complainant had established her common law rights in and to her name prior to Respondent’s illegal registration of it as a domain name Complainant has registered 2 years before Respondent’s site Respondent’s Contentions The disputed domain name resolves to a noncommercial, unofficial fan site for Lady Gaga The web site “does not have any sponsored links or links to third-party websites which market and sell merchandise bearing Complainant’s trademark.” She is making a legitimate, noncommercial fair use of subject domain name, without any intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert...

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Fake Louis Vuitton items cost web host $10.8M

Legal teams for luxury brand goods have devoted much of their energy to fighting counterfeit goods, both in the brick-and-mortar world and in cyberspace.  The internet has made this battle difficult as access to consumers has grown easier.  Courts, still, have maneuvered through technological advances and “digital Fonovisa” type cases, developing and applying the doctrine of contributory infringement to online counterfeiters. In a recent U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Louis Vuitton Malletier SA v. Akanoc Solutions Inc., appellate Judge Ronald M. Gould affirmed the district court finding for Louis Vuitton, holding the online web host, Akanoc Solutions, MSG, and Steven Chen liable for contributory infringement of 13 of the plaintiff’s trademarks and two of its copyrights. The appellate court remanded the case with instructions that its reduced damage award be put in effect — $10.5 million for contributory trademark infringement and $300,000 for contributory copyright infringement. In late 2006, Louis Vuitton discovered a number of websites selling goods it believed infringed its copyrights and trademarks.  After investigation, plaintiff determined the websites were hosted by Akanoc and MSG. Steven Chen managed the web hosting businesses. Its structure was such that MSG would lease servers, bandwidth and some IP addresses to Akanoc, which, in turn, operated the servers and otherwise ran the business.  Akanoc leased packages of server space, bandwidth and IP addresses to customers, some of which were...

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Lotto gimmick a costly bust for Idol, Deal

American Idol and Deal or No Deal seem to possess the Midas touch — except when it comes to texting.  Since 2007, NBC Universal, Fox Broadcasting companies and other media production companies have fought a class-action lawsuit claiming they conducted an illegal lottery under California Penal Code § 319. They also were accused of violating California’s unfair business practices law, Cal Bus. & Prof.Code § 17200.  After a federal district court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss consolidated, punitive class actions, the defendants  appealed to the U.S.  Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, only to have the case remanded to the district courts. The defendants finally settled earlier this month. So what got the TV shows in so much trouble? During broadcasts of the two hit shows, viewers could participate in two cash giveaways. In American Idol, they were presented with a trivia question. In Deal or No Deal, they were shown briefcases and were asked to pick one corresponding to a winning number. In both games, they were to submit answers via SMS text for a 99-cent fee, or free via the internet. Viewers could submit up to 10 entries; each correct submission entered the viewer  in a drawing, whose winner was chosen at random. Under California Penal Code §319, an illegal lottery has three elements: (1) distribution of a prize, (2) based on chance, (3) to an individual who...

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Reality TV: a boom season, a legal bonanza?

This summer has been a good season for reality TV. Whether you Keep Up with the Kardashians, settle upon The Jersey Shore, pay a visit with the Real Housewives franchise, or try to completely avoid the fodder altogether, it is evident that reality television has grown exponentially since its inception with MTV’s The Real World.  Forbes magazine’s June issue, “The New Celebrity Money Makers,” noted the successful business model of reality TV as itsstars leverage the platform to build major business empires. What does this mean for attorneys? With the sale of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl brand for $120 million, the Kardashians raking in $65 million in 2010, and Jersey Shore’s The Situation bringing $5 million in endorsement deals, not including the additional $1 million “nonendorsement” deal from Abercrombie & Fitch, television network attorneys are scrambling to insert contract clauses in talent deals to ensure a stake in any business venture created out of the talents’ time on the TV shows. The attorneys for the reality stars also have kept busy helping them protect their brands: Kim Kardashian’s counsel recently filed a lawsuit against Old Navy for unfair competition and violations of publicity rights after the company ran an ad featuring an actress whose look hewed, the plaintiffs say, too closely to that of Kardashian. There’s online legal analysis arguing the lawsuit may be an attempt to protect Kardashian’s recent apparel licensing deal with...

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Why celebs, too, might see red beyond hip shoe

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision to deny Christian Louboutin’s injunction in Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent raises recurring issues regarding fashion’s place in U. S.  intellectual property law. The recent decision — with implications, too, for entertainment lawyers with celebrity clients wishing to extend their personal brands and build fortunes in lines of fashion items — was based on the reasoning that Louboutin’s color use  did not create a valid trademark, despite prolific evidence that proved it had acquired secondary meaning. As the company gears up to keep fighting claims of trademark infringement, the case proves that fashion continues to struggle in clearing the utilitarian and secondary meaning hurdles of copyright, trademark and in some cases patent law and to be seen as an innovative art form meriting IP protection. The case also shows that trademark protection, long the most relied upon legal strategy for the fashion industry, also may fall short. While Louboutin’s debatable use of color as a trademark may be unique to this case, that such an industry power player may be at risk of losing its legal protections makes vulnerable a legal strategy underpinning the development of emerging fashion lines, many of which get launched today by celebrities. Licensing deals in footwear, fragrance, handbags, accessories and apparel have become an integral part of personal — and profitable — branding. Rachel Zoe, Mary Kate and Ashley...

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