Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trademark
Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD
This petition for writ of mandamus arose in the context of a contested trademark action initiated by San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) against petitioners, over the use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The Ninth Circuit granted the petition and vacated the district court's orders directing petitioners to prominently post on their social medial outlets its order prohibiting comments about the litigation on social media, dubbing this posting a "disclaimer." The panel held that the orders at issue were unconstitutional prior restraints on speech because they prohibit speech that poses neither a clear and present danger nor a serious and imminent threat to SDCC's interest in a fair trial. The panel explained that the well-established doctrines on jury selection and the court's inherent management powers provide an alternative, less restrictive, means of ensuring a fair trial. View "Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD" on Justia Law
Farah, et al. v. Esquire Magazine, et al.
Plaintiffs are the writer and publisher of a book entitled "Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to Be President." A journalist published an article on Esquire's Political Blog entitled "BREAKING: Jerome Corsi's Birther Book Pulled from Shelves!" Soon after the blog was published, Esquire published an update on the blog stating that "for those who didn't figure it out," the article was "satire." Plaintiffs filed suit against Esquire for, inter alia, violation of the D.C. Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (Anti-SLAPP) Act, D.C. Code 16-5501 et seq., and the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(A) and (B). The court held that the complaint was properly dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim because the blog post was fully protected political satire and the update and the journalist's statements were protected opinion. Further, the complaint failed to state a claim for violation of the Lanham Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Farah, et al. v. Esquire Magazine, 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
Ark. Lottery Comm’n v. Alpha Mktg.
Alpha Marketing brought this cause of action against the Arkansas Lottery Commission seeking declaratory relief that Alpha's registered trademarks of "Arkansas Lottery," "Arkansas Lotto," and "Lottery Arkansas" were valid and that it held exclusive rights to use them. Alpha also sought injunctive relief enjoining the Commission's alleged acts of trademark infringement and monetary damages. Alpha later amended its complaint, alleging ultra vires acts and an unconstitutional taking. The Commission filed a motion to dismiss Alpha's lawsuit on the basis that the Commission had sovereign immunity from the trademark-infringement claims. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Commission was an entity of the State entitled to the defense of sovereign immunity; (2) Alpha's claims for injunctive, monetary, and declaratory relief were barred by the defense of sovereign immunity; (3) the exceptions for waiver; ultra vires, arbitrary, capricious, or bad-faith acts; and takings did not apply. View "Ark. Lottery Comm'n v. Alpha Mktg." on Justia Law
Singer Mgmt. Consultants, Inc.v. Milgram
The state notified a concert promoter that use of two names might violate New Jersey trademark laws. The promoter provided evidence of common law trademarks, but the state notified the hotel venue to advertise the shows as a "tribute" or "salute" to named groups. The promoter filed suit, claiming that the state's enforcement violated the federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125 and its civil rights. The district court entered a temporary restraining order, but the state changed its position. The court did not issue an injunction and denied attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments under the "catalyst" theory and holding that the promoter was not a "prevailing party." Even the judge did not consider the TRO an enforceable judgment on the merits and the state's change of position mooted the constitutional issues.