is a litigation partner, Co-Chair of the firm’s Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice, and a member of Debevoise’s Intellectual Property and Media Group. He frequently represents clients in litigations and government investigations that involve the Internet and new technologies. His practice includes litigation and counseling on cybersecurity, data privacy, trademark, right of publicity, false advertising, copyright, and defamation matters. In 2018, American Lawyer named him “Litigator of the Week” based on the right of publicity victories of Debevoise client Take-Two Interactive in Lohan v. Take-Two and Gravano v. Take-Two at the New York Court of Appeals.
For more information or to contact Jeremy, please visit his Firm Profile Page.
When an influencer is paid to promote a brand – and the brand’s name is trademark-infringing – can the influencer be on the hook for the infringement? A federal district court just said yes. The result could widely expand trademark litigation against influencers – and could reshape how companies and their influencers relate to one another contractually.
Sometimes a dog toy is just a dog toy. Maybe that’s how Sigmund Freud would have put it; certainly, that’s the message from our client, the International Trademark Association (INTA), to the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is a Ninth Circuit decision that extends First Amendment protection to ordinary commercial goods like dog toys, at the expense of trademark rights. INTA, Jack Daniel’s competitors, alcohol beverage industry associations, and other trademark advocates this week asked SCOTUS to step in and reverse.
The Lanham Act’s ban on federal registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. So held the United States Supreme Court on Monday, resoundingly, if a bit uneasily, in Iancu v. Brunetti. It’s a good result, and one that the trademark bar and the free speech community had broadly urged, including Debevoise’s client, the International Trademark Association (INTA), in an amicus brief that we had the privilege of writing.
Following our visit to the Supreme Court for Monday’s entertaining oral argument in Iancu v. Brunetti, we can report that the Court seems likely to strike down, on First Amendment grounds, the statutory restriction on federal registration of trademarks that are “immoral or scandalous.” It seems less likely that the case will generate a clear and ringing statement of First Amendment principles. Rather, the justices’ comments at argument seem to presage a limited, cautious opinion. The Court’s main legal concerns appear to be the facial overbreadth of the existing statute and its history of inconsistent application. Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may therefore be left with room to try again, seeking a narrower and more predictable approach to limiting the federal registration of dirty words as trademarks (especially given the Court’s main practical concern of the loss of civility represented by the proliferation of such marks).
On April 15, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Iancu v. Brunetti, a case the International Trademark Association (INTA) has remarked raises a critical issue for all trademark owners—namely, which trademarks reliably can be expected to obtain registration under the Lanham Act. At the heart of the case, and of the amicus brief we helped file for INTA this week, is whether free speech concerns should trump the statutory bar on registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” marks. INTA says the First Amendment should win out, and the statutory bar should fall. The category of marks at issue is exemplified by the FUCT apparel mark, owned by Erik Brunetti, to which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied federal registration. After the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that Section 2(a)’s bar on registering immoral or scandalous marks is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech, the U.S. government sought the Supreme Court’s review, and the Court granted certiorari. It must now decide whether the prohibition in Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act on the federal registration of “immoral . . . or scandalous” marks like FUCT is invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.