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Beth Hutchens

is a contributing author on IPWatchdog.com. Beth’s recurring, feature column typically focuses on Internet, trademark, copyright and/or privacy issues. She brings her unique perspective and witty writing style to subject matter that could otherwise be dry. Her insights, along with a “take no prisoners” attitude, work to provide a fun, entertaining and always informative column.

When not writing she is an attorney based in Seattle, Washington. can be reached at [email protected].

Recent Articles by Beth Hutchens

The Abandonware Conundrum: Can you modify games if publisher shuts down the server?

The EFF wants an exemption for people who want to modify their purchased games in order to bypass access controls when a publisher shuts down the server. Specifically, the EFF would like for any piece of software with server-based functions that are shut down by a publisher or developer to be considered “abandoned” six months later. This means that someone who owns a copy of a game that no longer has an online play component would be able to modify the game to eliminate authentication checks or access controls in the game itself so they can still play online using a third party server. This may also include reverse engineering and making intermediate copies of the game, which goes well beyond the skill set of the casual user.

Confusion Preclusion: SCOTUS Says TTAB Has Preclusive Effect

There was a split in the circuit courts as to what effect a TTAB decision will have, and this depends heavily upon where the litigation is happening. The weight of a TTAB decision will vary depending on the jurisdiction, ranging from none at all to complete preclusion. Here, the issue was whether one mark was confusingly similar to another, which the Supreme Court determined was exactly the same as what was being litigated.

Jury Tells Robin Thicke to Give it Up

Thicke maintains that the Gaye family doesn’t own a genre, a style, or a groove and he’s right. The Gayes point out no other musicians or songs of the era were compared with “Blurred Lines,” and they’re right, too. A viable criticism of the verdict is that it could have a chilling effect on new music for fear of overzealous copyright owners attempting to expand this concept to their cases. Is it possible that a ruling of this nature would stifle creativity? Perhaps, but people were saying the same thing when the music sampling cases happened, and the industry adapted just fine.

How Sweet it is to be Sued by You (for copyright infringement)

Marvin Gaye enjoyed tremendous success during this decade and his song Got to Give it Up topped the charts in 1977. Fast forward nearly forty years to 2013, when the tremendously popular singer / songwriter, Robin Thicke recorded his number one hit, Blurred Lines. Got to Give it Up was recorded in 1976 and released in 1977, which means its copyright is governed by the 1909 Act. Now, under the 1909 Act, a work had to be published with notice or a deposit had to be made in the Copyright Office. Mere distribution of a song did not meet the publication requirement. Blurred Lines, however, is protected under the 1976 Act. A notable difference between the two statutes is that the 1976 Act gives automatic protection to any original work fixed in a tangible medium.

Seattle Football and The Twelfth Man Trademark

As part of the settlement agreement, Seattle can use the number 12, and whatever rendition of 12 it wishes, so long as it sufficiently distinguishes whatever mark it comes up with from “12th MAN”. They can use “12th MAN” in advertising and promotional items provided proper notice is used but they may not, however, use “12th MAN” on merchandise, including the flag. Ever notice that the “12th Man Flag” at CenturyLink Field is just the number 12? Now you know why. The Seahawks can refer to it as the “12th Man” flag, but can’t put the word “man” anywhere near the number 12.

We Are Just Too Pretty to get Sued for Infringement

Firefly was a briefly lived television show that aired on Fox in 2002. It only lasted for a few months before Fox yanked the plug (a most egregious decision that I shall never EVER forgive them for). In the years that followed, Firefly – the best space western you didn’t watch – gained a cult following that gives Trekkies a run for their money. In one of the episodes, the character Jayne Cobb receives a care package from his mother containing a homemade orange and yellow poofball hat. The hat wasn’t a focal point of the episode but fans of the show, known as Browncoats, can easily be identified at conventions by wearing this most cunning hat. Now FOX wants unauthorized sellers to cease and desist.

Going Gaga for Music Samples

A Chicago musician called Rebecca Francescatti says that Lady Gaga stole part of her song “Juda” for the hit song “Judas”. More specifically, the complaint alleges that a particular portion of “Judas” violates Francescatti’s exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, performance, and preparation of a derivative work. But before we get to that, we’ll need to wade through a bit of a semantics morass. This suit is being couched in terms of plagiarism.

Nike v. YUMS: Covenant Not to Sue Prevents Jurisdiction

The Court went to the actual terms of the Covenant to determine if Nike had met this very tough burden burden. In this case, though, Nike did. The terms of the Covenant were unconditional and irrevocable. They prohibited Nike from making any claim or demand, and even went so far as to shield YUMS’ distributors and customers. This coupled with the fact that YUMS did not provide a shred of evidence that it had plans to market a shoe that the Covenant wouldn’t cover was enough to convince the Court that the possibility of future harm was just too remote here.