Crowell & Moring is partnering with the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) for an October 20 webinar covering the emerging legal landscape for the fashion industry in the digital media age. The webinar will run from 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET and will explore how to:

  • Best protect your intellectual property rights as fashion

On Wednesday, September 16, 2015, Advertising and Product Risk Management partners Cheri Falvey and David Ervin and Intellectual Property and Legal Affairs Counsel for the Ralph Lauren Corporation, Tracie Chesterman, presented at an exclusive breakfast hosted by Crowell & Moring and Women’s Wear Daily. The speakers discussed the “New Rules of Digital Marketing

Group of Cheerleaders in a Row

A recent decision from the Sixth Circuit highlights the ongoing significance of copyright law for the retail and garment industries. On August 19, 2015, the Sixth Circuit, in reversing the lower court’s decision, held that the “stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and colorblocks” on Varsity Brands’ cheerleading uniforms are protectable by copyright. In Varsity Brands et al v. Star Athletica, the Sixth Circuit dipped into the murky waters of copyright protection for fashion design, reiterating the need for greater legislative or judicial guidance when it comes to fashion design and copyright law. Nonetheless, the Court ultimately found, as other Circuits have, that “fabric design”, unlike “dress design”, is protectable.

At the district court level in Tennessee, Varsity Brands sued Star Athletica for infringing its registered copyrighted designs for cheerleader uniforms. On summary judgment, the district court determined that a cheerleading uniform cannot exist without the hallmark “stripes, chevrons, zigzags, and colorblocks,” and therefore found Varsity’s copyrights of such designs invalid as inseparable from the utilitarian aspect of a cheerleading uniform.

In a 2-1 decision,
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Caveat Brand Owner: We are in the beginning of a two-month “sunrise period” for trademark owners to register their marks as second level domain names in “.sucks.” While the purported purpose of the “.sucks” domain name is to provide a forum for customers to voice constructive criticism, trademark owners may disagree.  The hefty price tag

Trademark applicants and registrants may experience increased scrutiny of their trademark use claims in light of the results of a recent Pilot Program, conducted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), showing that fifty percent (50%) of approximately 500 randomly selected registrants could not support the claims made in previously filed Declarations of

Both have recently brought legal actions against video game makers alleging that their rights of privacy or publicity have been violated by characters in video games. The lawsuits are the latest in a series of high profile disputes that pit an individual’s personality rights against a game maker’s First Amendment rights.

Various states have enacted statutes that protect an individual’s right to “publicity” or “privacy.” The statutes differ from state-to-state but the basic idea is that an individual should have some right to prevent unauthorized commercial use of his or her name, likeness and identity by a third party. This is sometimes referred to as “personality rights.”

The expressive content of video games, on the other hand, is subject to protection under the First Amendment. The extent to which the First Amendment rights of a video game manufacturer may permit the use of real people as characters in video games without violating the individual’s personality rights has been the subject of much interest and discussion in the recent past.

The discussion resumed in earnest in early July when Ms. Lohan brought an action in New York state court alleging that the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto V had violated her right of privacy under New York state law by the use of her image, likeness, “screen persona” and details from her personal life in depicting a character in the game named Lacey Jonas. A few weeks later, Mr. Noriega brought an action in California state court alleging that the maker of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II violated his right of publicity under California state law by illegally using his image and likeness in connection with a character described “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state.” The lawsuits have been treated by some in the media and by some commentators with a certain degree of amusement and in Mr. Noriega’s case – whose colorful resume includes convictions for drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering as well as a lengthy stint as a U.S. Prisoner of War – outright disbelief, but they raise serious issues regarding the interplay between the First Amendment and the rights of privacy and publicity.


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Nearly six months after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), and three months after President Obama called on the U.S. Senate to “finish the job,” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is taking the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act off the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In removing the Senate bill targeting so-called “patent troll litigation,” Sen. Leahy cited lack of sufficient support behind a comprehensive deal, blaming “competing companies on both sides of this issue” that “refused to come to agreement.” Before taking the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act completely off the agenda, Sen. Leahy had delayed consideration of the bill numerous times in order to drum up bipartisan support. Sen. Leahy also repeated his earlier concerns that “the House-passed bill went beyond the scope of addressing patent trolls, and would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders who employ thousands of Americans.” Sen. Leahy offered a chance that the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act would pass later this year, but only if “the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls.”


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On March 27, 2014, the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled in the UPC Telekabel Wien-case that national courts may impose website blocking orders to internet access providers (IAPs) requiring them to prevent their subscribers from accessing a website containing copyright infringing material, without specifying the concrete blocking measures to be taken. The Court also

The Federal Trade Commission recently sent letters to a number of search engine companies regarding what the FTC perceives to be “a decline in compliance” with the FTC’s 2002 guidelines requiring that search engine results clearly and prominently distinguish natural search results from paid advertising. In the letter, the FTC notes that the failure to properly distinguish natural results from paid advertising could create a potential for consumers to be deceived in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

Search engines sell “keywords” to vendors who want their product advertising to be displayed when a person searches for a term containing that keyword. A law firm, for example, might be willing to pay a search engine to prominently display the firm name and website link when someone searches for “law firms New York.” Search results often contain both natural results generated by the search method used as well as paid results. The problem, as the FTC sees it, is that consumers might not be able to tell the difference.


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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on May 21, 2013, finding that the use of the likeness of Ryan Hart, a former standout quarterback for Rutgers, in a video game about college football, violated Mr. Hart’s right of publicity. Hart v. Electronic Arts Inc., No. 11-3750, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 10171, at