Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Lyda’s patents describe “obtaining real time responses to remote programming” by “allow[ing] persons viewing or listening to a broadcast to respond to the broadcast in real time without requiring a personal computer.” Lyda sued CBS for infringement in connection with the television show “Big Brother.” Lyda alleged that audience members could influence the show by voting using cell phone text messages. The complaint alleged that CBS engaged an independent contractor to test the system and that the independent contractor used unnamed third parties to perform the voting. The district court dismissed, finding that the allegations implicated a theory of joint infringement and that Form 18, the Federal Rules’ standard for specificity in pleading direct infringement, does not apply to joint infringement claims. The court stated that “Plaintiff’s allegations are simply too vague, even under the Form 18 standard, to articulate a claim for relief.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, applying the “Twombly/Iqbal” standard, which requires pleading facts sufficient to allow a reasonable inference that all steps of the claimed method are performed and either one party exercises the requisite “direction or control” over the others’ performance or the actors form a joint enterprise such that performance of every step is attributable to the controlling party. View "Lyda v. CBS Corp." on Justia Law

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The 545 patent claims a method for distributing copyrighted products (songs, movies, books) over the Internet where the consumer receives a copyrighted product for free in exchange for viewing an advertisement, and the advertiser pays for the copyrighted content. The district court dismissed an infringement claim. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the patent claims a "process" within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 101. The Supreme Court vacated. The Federal Circuit subsequently held, again, that the district court erred in holding that the subject matter of the 545 patent is not a “process” within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. 101. The claimed invention is a practical application of the general concept of advertising as currency and an improvement to prior art technology and is not “so manifestly abstract as to override the statutory language of section 101.” View "Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC" on Justia Law

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The patent, entitled “Slot Machine Game and System with Improved Jackpot Feature,” issued in 2006 and relates to a system of linked gaming machines through which an allegedly improved jackpot mechanism is provided to a player. Incremental jackpots are well known in the prior art, but the patent claims that prior art systems lack flexibility in both operator control and ability to tailor prizes to player preferences, through a bonus game that may appear. The district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement, explaining that the accused products require two separate actors, the casino via the gaming machine and the player, and that the lack of a single entity performing all of the steps of the asserted claims precluded direct infringement as a matter of law. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s claim constructions and its ruling on direct infringement but, in light of an intervening decision, vacated and remanded the ruling on indirect infringement. View "Aristocrat Tech., Australia v. Int'l Game Tech." on Justia Law

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In 1930, A.A. Milne transferred to Slesinger exclusive merchandising and other rights to Winnie-the-Pooh works in the U.S. and Canada. In 1961, Slesinger exclusively “assigned, granted, and set over to” Disney the rights in the 1930 agreement. A 1983 agreement sought to resolve the parties’ disputes, but Slesinger contends it retained rights in the works, while Disney maintains Slesinger assigned all rights. In 1991, before the present litigation, Slesinger sued in state court, alleging breach of the 1983 agreement. Slesinger acknowledged that the 1983 agreement “regranted, licensed and assigned all rights” to Disney. The action was ultimately dismissed. The dispute continued in federal court. The district court dismissed, noting that the parties’ actions indicated the rights were transferred to Disney in the 1983 agreement. Between 1983 and 2006, Disney registered at least 15 trademarks. In 2004, Disney registered copyrights in 45 works and renewed copyright registrations for another 14. Slesinger did not attempt to perfect or register trademarks or copyrights before asserting its federal claims and never objected to Disney’s registrations until 2006, when the state court dismissed its claims and Slesinger attempted to cancel Disney’s applications and marks. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s dismissal, citing estoppel. View "Stephen Slesinger, Inc. v. Disney Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2001 Fox sought to register a mark having a literal element, consisting of the words COCK SUCKER, and a design element, consisting of a drawing of a crowing rooster. Since 1979, Fox has used this mark to sell rooster-shaped chocolate lollipops, which she “displays . . .in retail outlets in small replicas of egg farm collecting baskets to emphasize the country farmyard motif.” The consumers targeted by Fox’s business are, primarily, fans of teams that have gamecocks as mascots. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed refusal by the examiner to register her mark, citing 15 U.S.C. 1052(a). The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that a mark that creates a double entendre falls within the proscription of the section where, as here, one of its meanings is clearly vulgar. The section’s prohibition on registration of “immoral ... or scandalous matter” includes a mark that is “vulgar.” View "In re: Fox" on Justia Law

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ActiveVideo asserted that Verizon’s video on demand (VoD) feature of the FiOS-TV system infringed its 578, 678, and 883 patents, which share a common specification and generally disclose and claim interactive television systems and methods for delivering interactive television to subscribers. Verizon counterclaimed that ActiveVideo infringed three of its patents. The jury found that Verizon infringed four ActiveVideo patents and that ActiveVideo infringed two Verizon patents and awarded damages to both. The court entered an injunction against Verizon but delayed enforcement for six months during which Verizon was ordered to pay a sunset royalty. The Federal Circuit reversed the injunction and the judgment of infringement against Verizon as to one patent; vacated the grant of summary judgment of invalidity as to one Verizon patent is vacated and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed other findings of infringement and the imposition of a sunset royalty. View "ActiveVideo Networks, Inc. v. Verizon Commc'n, Inc." on Justia Law

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Grober invented a platform that stabilizes a camera for filming motion pictures from moving vehicles. Known in the entertainment industry as the Perfect Horizon, the technology won Grober an Academy Award in technical achievement. He received a patent, entitled “Autonomous Self Leveling, Self Correcting Stabilized Platform.” for the invention, designed to compensate for motion caused by waves, currents, wind, and other motion during land, air, and sea operations of a camera. Grober claimed infringement. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of defendants. The Federal Circuit vacated the claim construction and the grant of summary judgment and remanded. A patent is infringed if even a single claim is infringed and the district court misconstrued term “payload platform.” View "Grober v. Mako Prods., Inc." on Justia Law