Justia Intellectual Property Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Seltzer v. Green Day, Inc., et al.
Plaintiff filed suit against Green Day and others, alleging violations of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., because Green Day used plaintiff's illustration, "Scream Icon," in the video backdrop of its stage show. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Green Day on all claims and the grant of attorney's fees to Green Day under the Copyright Act. The court concluded that Green Day's use of the illustration was fair use under the Copyright Act where the purpose and character of the use was transformative and not overly commercial; the nature of the work included its status as a widely disseminated work of street art; Green Day's use of the work was not excessive in light of its transformative purpose; and Green Day's use did not affect the value of the piece or of plaintiff's artwork in general. In regards to plaintiff's claims under the Lanham Act, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish any trademark rights. The court concluded, however, that the district court clearly erred in finding that plaintiff's claims were objectively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment but vacated the award of attorneys fees. View "Seltzer v. Green Day, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
In re: NCAA Licensing Litig.
Former starting quarterback for Arizona State University, Samuel Keller, filed a putative class action suit against EA, alleging that EA violated his right of publicity under California Civil Code 3344 and California common law by using Keller's likeness as part of the "NCAA Football" video game series. EA moved to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) under California's anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. The court concluded that EA could not prevail as a matter of law based on the transformative use defense where EA's use did not qualify for First Amendment protection because it literally recreated Keller in the very setting in which he had achieved renown. The court also concluded that, although there was some overlap between the transformative use test and the Rogers v. Grimaldi test, the Rogers test should not be imported wholesale to the right-of-publicity claims. Finally, the court concluded that state law defenses for reporting of information did not protect EA's use. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to strike the complaint. View "In re: NCAA Licensing Litig." on Justia Law
Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
Retired Hall of Fame football player, James "Jim" Brown, filed suit against EA, alleging that EA violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), through the use of Brown's likeness in EA's "Madden NFL" series of football video games. The court rejected the "likelihood of confusion" test and the "alternative means" test, concluding that the only relevant legal framework for balancing the public's right to be free from consumer confusion about Brown's affiliation with "Madden NFL" and EA's First Amendment rights in the context of Brown's section 43(a) claim was the Rogers v. Grimaldi test. Applying the Rogers test, the court concluded that the use of Brown's likeness was artistically relevant to the "Madden NFL" games and that there were no alleged facts to support the claim that EA explicitly mislead consumers as to Brown's involvement with the games. In this case, the public interest in free expression outweighed the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of EA's motion to dismiss. View "Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc." on Justia Law
Oracle America, Inc. v. Myriad Group A.G.
This case stemmed from a dispute between the parties over license agreements which allowed Myriad access to Oracle's Java programming language. On appeal, Myriad challenged the district court's partial denial of its motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the incorporation of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) arbitration rules into the parties' commercial contract constituted clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Myriad Group A.G." on Justia Law
Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network
Fox filed suit against Dish Network for copyright infringement and breach of contract, seeking a preliminary injunction. At issue were two Dish products: (1) "PrimeTime Anytime," which allowed a cable subscriber to set a single timer to record any and all primetime programming on four major networks; and (2) "AutoHop," which allowed users to automatically skip commercials. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that Fox did not establish a likelihood of success on its direct infringement claim. In this case, Dish's PrimeTime Anytime program created the copied program only in response to the user's command and the district court did not err in concluding that the user, not Dish, made the copy. Operating a system used to make copies at the user's command did not mean that the system operator, rather than the user, caused copies to be made. Although Fox established a prima facie case of direct infringement by Dish customers, Dish met its burden of demonstrating that it was likely to succeed on its affirmative defense that its customers' copying was a "fair use." Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Fox was unlikely to succeed on its claim of secondary infringement. Applying a very deferential standard of review, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a preliminary injunction based on alleged contract breaches. Finally, even if Fox was likely to succeed on its claims that Dish directly infringed Fox's copyrights and breached the no-copying clause of the contract at issue by making "quality assurance" copies, the court agreed with the district court that Fox did not demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm resulting from these copies. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network" on Justia Law
Kimble v. Marvel Enter., Inc.
Plaintiff sued Marvel for patent infringement and breach of contract, claiming that it had used his ideas in developing a Spider-Man role-playing toy called the "Web Blaster" without compensating him. The parties subsequently agreed to settle the case while appeals were pending and executed a Settlement Agreement. Thereafter, Marvel entered into a licensing agreement with Hasbro giving it the right to produce the Web Blaster. At issue was the calculation of royalties for subsequent iterations of the Web Blaster. The court joined its sister circuits in holding, pursuant to Brulotte v. Thys Co., that a so-called "hybrid" licensing agreement encompassing inseparable patent and non-patent rights was unenforceable beyond the expiration date of the underlying patent, unless the agreement provided a discounted rate for the non-patent rights or some other clear indication that the royalty at issue was in no way subject to patent leverage. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Marvel, concluding that plaintiff could not recover royalties under the Settlement Agreement beyond the expiration date of the patent at issue. View "Kimble v. Marvel Enter., Inc." on Justia Law
Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn
Plaintiff filed separate copyright infringement suits against defendants for posting articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal online without authorization. In consolidated appeals, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff lacked standing in both cases because agreements assigning plaintiff the bare right to sue for infringement did not transfer any associated exclusive rights under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq. Because plaintiff lacked standing, the court also concluded that the court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the fair use claim. Therefore, the court affirmed the motions to dismiss in both cases, but vacated the portion of the district court order in Hoehn granting summary judgment on fair use. View "Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn" on Justia Law
Luvdarts LLC, et al v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, et al
Luvdarts sued mobile wireless carriers, who own multimedia messaging networks (MMS networks), for copyright infringement. At issue was whether the carriers could be held liable for copyright infringement that allegedly occurred on their networks. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct, the district court properly determined that they could not prevail on their claim of vicarious copyright infringement. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary specific knowledge of infringement, it could not prevail on its claim of contributory copyright infringement. Accordingly, Luvdarts failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted and the district court properly dismissed its complaint with prejudice. View "Luvdarts LLC, et al v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, et al" on Justia Law
Columbia Pictures Industries v. Fung
Plaintiffs, various film studios, alleged that the services offered and websites maintained by defendant and his company, isoHunt, induced third parties to download infringing copies of the studios' copyrighted works. This case concerned a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol known as BitTorrent. The court affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiffs had carried their burden of proving, on the basis of undisputed facts, defendant's liability for inducing others to infringe plaintiffs' copyrights. The court also affirmed summary judgment to plaintiffs on defendant's claims that he was entitled to the safe harbors provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 512(a), (c), and (d). The court concluded that portions of the permanent injunction were vague or unduly burdensome, and therefore, modified the injunction in part. View "Columbia Pictures Industries v. Fung" on Justia Law
SOFA Entertainment, Inc. v. Dodger Productions, Inc., et al
In this copyright infringement suit, SOFA claimed that Dodger infringed its copyright in using a seven-second clip of Ed Sullivan's introduction of the Four Seasons on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and could not justify its unlicensed use of the clip as "fair use." The clip was used in Dodger's musical about the Four Seasons, "Jersey Boys," to mark a historical point in the band's career. The court held that, by using the clip for its biographical significance, Dodger has imbued it with new meaning and did so without usurping whatever demand there was for the original clip. Dodger was entitled to prevail on its fair use defense as a mater of law and to retain the attorney's fees award granted by the district court. View "SOFA Entertainment, Inc. v. Dodger Productions, Inc., et al" on Justia Law