Posts Tagged ‘trademarks’

Disparagement perfected: Cato brief in Lee v. Tam

Did Cato just file the most not-safe-for-work amicus brief in Supreme Court history? It’s on the question (Lee v. Tam) of whether the government can deny trademark protection to words and phrases that are slurs and, in so doing, gather to itself the task of defining what is a slur. The case, involving the Asian-American band The Slants, is widely seen as foreshadowing the eventual outcome of the challenge to the Washington Redskins’ trademark.

Joining Cato as amici: humorist and Cato fellow P.J. O’Rourke; Profs. Nadine Strossen, Clay Calvert, and Erik Nielson; the Reason Foundation; Frederick, Md.’s Flying Dog Brewery and famed artist Ralph Steadman, whose work adorns its labels; and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. It’s signed by Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry and written with Trevor Burrus’s assistance.

NSFW warning: as hinted, this brief uses obscene and disparaging words and phrases by the dozens and dozens, so be forewarned.

Supreme Court roundup

November 23 roundup

  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales speaks at Cato about standing up to Chinese censors, Friedrich Hayek’s influence on the encyclopedia’s design, and legislative ignorance [video via David Boaz post, related]
  • Unlikelihood of confusion: NJ’s Garden State Parkway sends cease and desist over winery logo [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • Occupational licensing rules make it hard to move from state to state [Eric Boehm, related Ilya Somin/USA Today and podcast]
  • Lawyers who sued Volkswagen over emissions want $175 million [Joe Mullin]
  • “Top ten dodgy lawyers in literature” [Alex Wade, Guardian]
  • Useful maxim: “Never support any government power you would not want your ideological enemy wielding” [Coyote]

Media law roundup

  • In latest of string of courtroom losses for media, Raleigh News & Observer hit with nearly $6 million libel verdict [Corey Hutchins, CJR] Profile of Charles Harder, newly prominent attorney in suits against media [Hollywood Reporter]
  • Following coverage of taco trademark dispute, lawyer demands takedown of image on news story [TechDirt] “California Supreme Court will decide: Can court order Yelp to take down defendant’s post, though Yelp wasn’t even a party to the lawsuit?” [Volokh]
  • Theodore Boutrous: “I will represent pro bono anyone Trump sues for exercising their free speech rights. Many other lawyers have offered to join me.” [Ronald K.L. Collins, related chronology of Trump’s record of legal conflict with press]
  • Familiar old war on porn re-outfits itself as new war on trafficking [Collins, Elizabeth Nolan Brown on so-called Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA)]
  • Another where-are-they-now on copyright troll Prenda Law [Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, see also on Hansmeier]
  • “The ‘freedom of the press’ doesn’t give the media any special privileges — but it’s also not a redundancy” [Eugene Volokh]

Intellectual property roundup

  • “Copyright Trolls Now Threatening College Students With Loss of Scholarship, Deportation” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • Use the phrase “Law Firm 2.0”? Better cease and desist [Carolyn Elefant, MyShingle]
  • “How A Supreme Court Case On Cheerleader Costumes and Copyright Could Impact Prosthetic Hands” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Have you violated your competitor’s legal rights when you buy search engine advertising with its name as keyword? [Eric Goldman on Edible Arrangements case]
  • Trader Joe’s keeps battling the Canadian knockoff/reseller Pirate or Irate Joe’s [Lowering the Bar]
  • “Unified Patents files legal challenges against top three patent trolls of 2016” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]

Cato panel on the Games That Must Not Be Named

On Wednesday I took part in a panel discussion on the intellectual property issues associated with media commentary on the Olympics, which enjoy a distinctively favorable IP regime: a 1978 federal law gives the U.S. Olympic Committee stronger rights over the word “Olympics” than it would get under ordinary trademark law, including wider scope to go after parody and other situations that will sometimes arguably be fair use. Other panelists include Cato’s Julian Sanchez and Jim Harper, and the moderator was Cato’s Kat Murti. The audience Q&A included a question from noted media law attorney Paul Alan Levy. You can watch here:

August 17 roundup

  • Upcoming evening panel on the Olympics and aggressive trademark/copyright policing, with Jim Harper, Julian Sanchez, and me, Kat Murti moderating [at Cato, August 24]
  • “We are drowning in law.” New reform project from Philip K. Howard’s Common Good [Take-Charge.org]
  • “Extremely Rare Deadly Balloon Tragedy Leads to Familiar Calls for More Regulation” [Scott Shackford, Reason]
  • FTC, reversing its administrative law judge, asserts widened authority over data security practices in LabMD case [James Cooper, earlier here, etc.]
  • Baltimore police matters, gerrymandering, historic preservation and more in my latest Maryland roundup at Free State Notes;
  • “Shark-Attack Lawsuit Raises Interesting Questions, Like What Were You Doing in the Ocean to Begin With” [Lowering the Bar]

Mention the Olympics at your peril

Unless you’ve bought an official sponsorship, for your business to so much as mention the upcoming Olympics on social media “can be like doing the 100-yard dash through a minefield.” The rules warn non-sponsors not to “create social media posts that are Olympic themed… or congratulate Olympic performance” even if you have sponsored individual hopefuls, wish luck, use phrases like “go for the gold” or “let the games begin,” report Olympic results, host Olympic-themed team-building exercises for your employees, or “share anything from official Olympics social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.” [AdWeek]