The most active defendants in copyright lawsuits include department store chain Ross Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ:ROST), which was named as a defendant in 276 cases. Following Ross Stores are a series of retailers: TJX Companies, Inc. (NYSE:TJX), named a defendant in 123 cases; Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), a defendant in 84 cases; Burlington Coat Factory (NYSE:BURL), a defendant in 74 cases; and Rainbow USA Inc., a defendant in 66 cases. Except for Amazon, these are primarily off-price department stores offering brand name goods at discounted prices. Music publishers like Universal Music Group, Inc. (65 suits) and education publishers like Pearson Education, Inc. (NYSE:PSO) (50 suits) are also among the top defendants in copyright cases.
On the menu this week for Other Barks & Bites… Video game systems developed by Nintendo and Sony are targeted in a patent infringement suit filed in Delaware federal court. The infamous scan-to-email patent giving rise to the patent troll debate has finally been invalidated at the Federal Circuit. A multi-billion dollar copyright suits between two American tech giants gets new life from Oracle. California’s state legislature moves to create trademark protections for marijuana products at the state level, circumventing federal restrictions on such trademarks. And Zillow gets hit with a copyright infringement verdict.
On Thursday, January 26th, Burbank, CA-based entertainment giant Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and movie production firm DreamWorks of Universal City, CA, were named as defendants in a copyright infringement suit involving the 2016 romantic drama The Light Between Oceans. The suit, which also targets the screenplay author and NYC-based book publisher Simon & Schuster, Inc., charges that both the 2016 movie and the 2012 novel upon which it is based were both plagiarized from a 2004 screenplay written by the plaintiff, Joseph Nobile. The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.).
A copyright infringement battle of intergalactic proportions between Plaintiffs CBS and Paramount Pictures, and the company (along with its principal Alec Peters) looking to produce the crowdfunded Star Trek fan film Axanar (“Defendants”) is heating up. The parties have filed numerous motions in the past month, and the Court’s recent ruling on the parties’ motions for summary judgment means the case is inching closer and closer to its January 31 trial date… The Court then concluded that the “Axanar Works have objective substantial similarity to the Star Trek Copyrighted Works,” and therefore it “leaves the question of subjective substantial similarity to the jury.”
A patent and copyright squabble involving two players in the networking space for information technology (IT) development, which has ramped up in recent years, saw an interesting round of events play out in federal court and regulatory agencies this past December. At the center of the brouhaha is American networking and telecommunications giant Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) of San Jose, CA, which has filed multiple legal actions against Arista Networks (NYSE:ANET) of Santa Clara, CA, alleging that Arista has moved into the networking equipment market using technologies developed and patented by Cisco, specifically through former Cisco employees who founded Arista.
Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions filed a copyright infringement complaint against New York City-based Christie’s, Inc. and Christie’s database subsidiary Collectrium. The suit alleges that Christie’s and Collectrium engaged in stealing copyright-protected images and lifted other private data from Heritage’s servers in order to drive its own sales… Heritage first identified this July that a crawling “spider” software program was operating on its servers accessible through HA.com, Heritage’s official website for offering online-only auctions and providing image catalogues of items available through live auctions. In its complaint, Heritage noted that the activities conducted by the spider software program, including database scraping or copying content for commercial purposes, is prohibited under terms of a Website User Agreement to which each registered user of HA.com agrees upon creating an account.
Entities owning the copyrights to music created by the late pop star Prince had filed suit against Roc Nation, the entertainment company owned by rapper Jay Z, which is affiliated with the streaming music service Tidal. Plaintiffs NPG Records and NPG Music Publishing allege that Tidal and Roc Nation have engaged in copyright infringement by adding a series of 15 unauthorized Prince albums to the Tidal catalog this June. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
On Monday, November 21st, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.) issued a decision allowing a copyright case involving the well-known spiritual song and 20th century civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to go forward. At the center of this case is the question of whether or not “We Shall Overcome” is part of the public domain in the United States, and the recent decision by S.D.N.Y. Judge Denise Cote indicates that the song could in fact be public domain material. “Resolution of the issues of originality and ownership will require discovery and a more developed record,” Cote’s decision reads.
Unfortunately for Hasbro, not all of its activities in the mobile gaming business have been completely original, leaving the game developer open to legal challenges. In late October, it was reported that Hasbro was named as a defendant in a copyright infringement action filed by Turkey-based gaming developer Peak Games in the San Francisco courthouse of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (N.D. Cal.). At the center of Peak Games’ complaint is Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Puzzle Party mobile game app, which Peak Games alleges is essentially a clone of that firm’s Toy Blast game.
McDonald’s choice to go with a pre-treated graffiti look in some of its restaurants has posed legal challenges along with consumer concerns. On October 3rd, McDonald’s was listed as a defendant in a copyright infringement action filed by Jade Berreau, the administrator of the estate of graffiti artist Dashiell Snow, a former girlfriend of Snow and the mother of his only child. Berreau alleges that graffiti decor used by McDonald’s in the interior of hundreds of its restaurants around the world directly infringes on a “tag,” or graffiti lettering, which was developed and used by Snow and became strongly associated with his work. The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (C.D. Cal.).
The plaintiffs allege that defendants YouTube-mp3 and its owner/operater, German citizen Philip Matesanz, facilitate the infringement of copyrighted sound recordings by offering a service that “rapidly and seamlessly” removes the audio tracks from YouTube videos, allowing users to store MP3 files on computing devices without the consent of YouTube or the plaintiffs and in violation of YouTube’s terms of service. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (C.D. Cal.), includes complaints for direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement and circumvention of technological measures. The suit lists 15 plaintiffs, including UMG Recordings, Warner Bros. Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Atlantic Recording Corporation and Nonesuch Records.
The report indicates that IP litigation in U.S. district courts is declining across the board. During 2016’s third quarter, U.S. district courts received a total of 1,127 new patent infringement suits. This was greater than the 960 patent infringement cases filed in the first quarter of this year but it was also the third smallest docket in a single quarter going back to the fourth quarter of 2011, before the terms of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 went into effect. The third quarter of 2015 saw 1,114 patent litigation filed in U.S. courts, so three of the lowest quarters in terms of patent infringement filings since the AIA have come over the past 15 months.
On Monday, September 12th, Sid Bernstein LLC, a company representing Bernstein who passed away in 2013, filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement on the use of the Shea Stadium footage in the recent documentary. The suit charges that Sid Bernstein is the sole owner of the Shea Stadium master tapes by virtue of being a producer of the concert event and the employer for hire of the Beatles. The infringement suit targets both Apple Corps, the multimedia corporation set up by members of the Beatles in 1968 and involved with producing the new documentary, and Subafilms Ltd. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.).
On Tuesday, August 9th, Ed Sheeran was named as a defendant in a copyright lawsuit filed by three heirs of American singer-songwriter Lee Townsend. Townsend, who passed away in 2003, was Marvin Gaye’s co-writer for his famous song “Let’s Get It On.” The suit, which also lists among the defendants Warner Music Group, Atlantic Records UK, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Amy Wadge, Sheeran’s co-writer on “Thinking Out Loud,” alleges that the song “copied the heart” of “Let’s Get It On” and repeated copyright infringing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic compositions throughout the song. The case, Griffin et al v. Sheeran et al, has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.).
During 2016’s second quarter, plaintiffs filed a total of 1,282 patent infringement cases in U.S. district court. This is a 33 percent increase in the 958 patent cases filed during the first quarter but data suggests that the second quarter tends to see the highest level of infringement cases over all other quarters according to Lex Machina data scientists Brian Howard. “We would expect a jump up from the first quarter,” he said. The first quarter was also a trough for patent infringement cases after last November’s massive number of 847 patent cases, just more than 100 cases less than the entire docket for this year’s first quarter. “The rise we’ve seen puts this year on track with 2011 or 2012 rather than the last two years,” Howard said.