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CBS, Proview, Premier League, Fairey: Intellectual Property

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CBS Corp. persuaded a federal judge to toss out a trademark-infringement case involving a costume a character wore on “The Bold and the Beautiful” soap opera.

The case was filed in February 2011 in federal court in Manhattan by Robert John Burck’s Naked Cowboy Enterprises. Burck is known for playing his guitar in New York’s Times Square while clad only in underwear, a cowboy hat and cowboy boots.

He claimed that his trademarks were infringed initially when a character appeared on the show singing and playing a guitar while wearing only a cowboy hat, boots and underwear. He also objected to CBS’s posting a clip from the show on Google Inc.’s YouTube video-sharing site in which “The Bold and the Beautiful Naked Cowboy” was used as an identifier.

U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones wasn’t impressed with Burck’s claims. She said that “even an unsophisticated viewer” wouldn’t confuse the source of the soap opera with Burck’s street performances or the Naked Cowboy souvenirs he sells.

She also noted that while Burck has appeared numerous times on television, “none of his television appearances suggests a desire to transition into creating and producing a daytime soap opera.”

Burck’s “Naked Cowboy” costume is distinctive, she said, through its inclusion of “Naked Cowboy” on the hat, guitar and underwear, and “Tips” and “$” on his boots. The soap opera character’s costume contained “none of the distinctive characteristics of the Naked Cowboy costume,” and therefore didn’t infringe, she said.

CBS was represented by Robert Penchina of Washington-based Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP. Naked Cowboy’s counsel was Joey Jackson of Koehler & Isaacs LLP of New York. The case is Naked Cowboy v. CBS, 1:11-cv-00943-BSJ-RLE, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Proview Sues Apple in U.S. Court Over 2009 IPAD Trademark Deal

Proview International Holdings Ltd., seeking to block shipments of Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer in and out of China, separately asked a court in California to stop the U.S. company from using IPAD trademarks.

A December 2009 agreement in which a Proview unit agreed to sell IPAD trademarks to Apple’s IP Application Development Ltd. should be canceled, Proview said in a Feb. 17 filing to the California Superior Court in Santa Clara. IP Application made “false” statements to Proview in correspondence before the agreement, the filing said.

Apple acquired Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 countries, including China, the Cupertino, California-based company said Feb. 14. Proview is refusing to honor an agreement with Apple in China, Apple said. Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman at Apple, declined to comment on Proview’s U.S. lawsuit beyond the statement last week.

Graham Robinson, an agent for IP Application, used the name Jonathan Hargreaves in correspondence with Proview before the Dec. 23, 2009 agreement to acquire all of Proview’s IPAD-related trademarks for 35,000 pounds ($55,267), the court filing said.

“This statement was false and untrue,” according to the filing. Proview is seeking unspecified damages from Apple, according to the document.

Proview applied to China’s Customs Bureau to block exports as well as imports of the iPad tablet computer, Roger Xie, a lawyer for Proview, said last week.

On Feb. 23, a court in Shanghai’s Pudong district rejected Proview’s application for an injunction against sales of the iPad tablet in the city, Xie said on that day.

The iPad tablet was introduced by Apple in 2010 and is now the second-biggest revenue generator for the company, the world’s biggest by market capitalization.

Proview shares have been suspended from trading in Hong Kong since Aug. 2, 2010, and reported a HK$2.91 billion ($375 million) loss in 2009. The company last published its results in March 2010.

The case is Proview Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc. and IP Application Development, 12-cv-219219, California Superior Court, Santa Clara County.

For more trademark news, click here


Sony Sued in Russia, PlayStation Vita Accused of Infringement

Sony Corp. was sued for patent infringement in a Moscow court by two Russian inventors, Russia’s state news agency reported.

The suit is related to intellectual property covering a rear touchpad on Sony’s PlayStation Vita game console, according to the news agency.

The inventors asked for a court order halting sales, and for the destruction of all allegedly infringing products, the news agency reported.

The case will be reviewed by the court March 21, according to the agency.

Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell Accused of Infringing Design Patent

Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell unit was sued for patent infringement by a Florida inventor.

According to the complaint filed Feb. 23 in federal court in Tampa, Florida, the Mexican food unit is accused of infringing patent D643,474. This patent, issued in August 2011, covers the design of a coin-drop game.

According to the patent illustrations, the device is a clear plastic cylinder that appears to contain a central stalk from which clear plastic vanes protrude.

The inventor claims Taco Bell is using an infringing device, and the public is likely to confuse it with similar product the inventor makes that is covered by his patent.

He asked the court to bar Taco Bell’s use of the device and for an award of money damages “no less than a reasonable royalty.” Claiming the infringement is deliberate, he asked that the monetary award be increased.

Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch said in an e-mail that the company hasn’t yet been served with the complaint, so it can’t respond to the allegations.

The inventor, Wayne Spencer of Hillsborough, Florida, is represented by Edward P. Dutkiewicz of Dade City, Florida.

The case is Wayne Spencer v. Taco Bell Corp., 8:12-cv-00387-SDM-TMB, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa).

For more patent news, click here.


Pub Manager Wins Battle Over English Premier League Broadcasts

A U.K. court overturned the conviction of a pub manager from Portsmouth who used a Greek decoder card to show English Premier League soccer matches.

The ruling by a High Court judge in London in Karen Murphy’s favor follows a similar decision by a European Union court last year. The court ruling still gives the League the right to prevent the unauthorized use of its copyrights by bars and clubs, the League said in an e-mailed statement Feb 24.

The Premier League, home to some of Europe’s most successful clubs including Manchester United and Liverpool, started a three-year, 1.8 billion-pound ($2.8 billion) U.K. television contract in August 2010, and receives a further 1.4 billion pounds from the sale of international broadcast rights.

Murphy spent years fighting attempts to stop her from showing live soccer at her Red, White and Blue Pub without a subscription to British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc’s Sky Sports. She spent 800 pounds a year on a Greek decoder card to show games rather than 700 pounds a month for a Sky package.

The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled last year that territorial licenses are “contrary” to competition law “if the license agreements prohibit the supply of decoder cards to television viewers who wish to watch the broadcasts.” While the court said anyone can watch such broadcasts, pubs can’t show the feeds via foreign decoder cards without the permission of the copyright owner, such as the broadcasters and the league.

“Unauthorized use gives rise to both civil and criminal penalties,” the League said in the statement. “Should Mrs. Murphy, or any other publican, use European Economic Area foreign satellite systems to show Premier League football on their premises without our authority and outside the scope of our authorization, they make themselves liable for us to take action against them in both the civil and criminal courts.”

Fairey Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges Involving Obama Image

Shepard Fairey, the artist who created an iconic 2008 election poster of Barack Obama based on an Associated Press photo, pleaded guilty to criminal counts of destroying documents and manufacturing evidence.

Fairey, 42, of Los Angeles, entered his plea Feb. 24 before Magistrate Judge Frank Maas in federal court in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in an e-mailed statement. Fairey faces as long as six months in prison.

The criminal plea stems from a civil copyright case Fairey and AP settled last year, Geoffrey Stewart, Fairey’s lawyer in that case, said in an interview. The plea doesn’t jeopardize the settlement, Stewart said.

Fairey “went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantage in his civil litigation, creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process,” Bharara said in the statement.

Dan Gitner, Fairey’s lawyer in the criminal case, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the plea.

In support of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Fairey made posters using a stylized likeness of the candidate with the words “Hope” and “Progress” below the images, relying on a photograph copyrighted by AP, according to the statement.

Fairey sued AP in 2009, seeking a ruling that his poster didn’t infringe the copyright because his use of the photograph was protected by “fair use.” The news organization countersued.

In his complaint, Fairey claimed he used as a visual reference an AP photograph of then-Senator Obama and actor George Clooney taken at an April 2006 National Press Club event, according to Bharara. In fact, Fairey used another image from the same event -- a tightly cropped image of Obama gazing up, which was also an AP photograph, Bharara said.

To cover up his false complaint, Fairey created multiple false and fraudulent documents attempting to show that he had used the photograph of Obama and Clooney, and tried to delete electronically stored documents that demonstrated that he had used the tightly cropped image, Bharara said.

Maas is scheduled to sentence Fairey July 16.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Fairey, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The civil case is Fairey v. Associated Press, 09-cv-01123, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For copyright news, click here.

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