Frederick Bouchat created a “Flying B” Baltimore Ravens football team logo in 1996. Bouchat won a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Ravens when the team adopted a logo that strongly resembled the one designed by Bouchat. Bouchat subsequently sued the Ravens and the NFL several times over their use of the Flying B logo. In the most recent case, Bouchat sued the Ravens and the NFL over the appearance of the Flying B logo in three NFL documentaries and in the Club Level of the Ravens’ stadium. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s fair use ruling in favor of the Ravens and the NFL. The Fourth Circuit ruled that since the Ravens no longer use the Flying B logo to identify their team, incidental views of the Flying B logo in videos and displays about the team now serve a historical, not an expressive, function. The uses by the Ravens and the NFL were fair uses because they were transformative.
Watch out, but don’t pout or cry, because the grantee of the copyright to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” owns the copyright until it expires in 2029. This case is full of action, involving an ineffective termination notice, two agreements transferring copyrights, termination notices filed under §§304(c), 304(d) and 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976, and the application of both the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Act of 1909, the precursor to the 1976 Act.
John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie co-authored “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” (the Song) in 1934, transferring their copyrights in the Song that year to Feist. In 2012, Coots’ heirs, Gloria Coots Baldwin, Patricia Bergdahl, and Christine Palmitessa, brought suit against grantee EMI Feist Catalog (EMI). The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that their copyright grant termination notices were valid and enforceable, terminating EMI’s interest and returning the rights to themselves. This case demonstrates both the complicated process of terminating a copyright grant and the complicated analysis involved in determining ownership in copyright grant termination dispute cases. This matter was decided in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
Can a state law assist heirs of Jews whose fine art was removed from their possession during the Nazi regime in recovering that fine art? The California Code of Civil Procedure 338(c)(3) specifies a six year statute of limitation for the recovery of fine art against a museum, gallery, auctioneer or dealer, when the work is unlawfully taken or stolen, including by fraud or duress. The statute of limitations starts to run when the identity and whereabouts of the fine art is discovered by the claimant. The district court dismissed the heirs’ complaint without leave to amend, ruling that the statute intrudes on the federal government’s foreign affairs powers by creating a remedy for wartime injuries and is therefore unconstitutional.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that §338(c)(3) does not intrude on foreign affairs, that the increased statute of limitations does not, by itself, violate the possessor’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and that the statute does not violate the possessor’s First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.
Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas), a major oil and gas company, owns the trademark PETRONAS. GoDaddy.com, Inc. is a domain name registrar, “Helping you kick ass in your venture. Like you always knew you could, like you told ‘em you would.” Petronas sued GoDaddy for contributory cybersquatting when GoDaddy took no action regarding an alleged cybersquatter using GoDaddy’s registration and forwarding services in the cybersquatting activities. A cybersquatter is someone who registers “a domain name associated with a protected trademark either to ransom the domain name to the mark holder or to divert business from the mark holder.” (Opinion pdf page 8). In this case, the cybersquatter registered the domain names “petronastower.net” and “petronastowers.net” and forwarded traffic to those domains names to an adult website.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals:
We hold that the ACPA [Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act] does not include a cause of action for contributory cybersquatting because: (1) the text of the Act does not apply to the conduct that would be actionable under such a theory; (2) Congress did not intend to implicitly include common law doctrines applicable to trademark infringement because the ACPA created a new cause of action that is distinct from traditional trademark remedies; and (3) allowing suits against registrars for contributory cybersquatting would not advance the goals of the statute.
(Opinion pdf page 8).