News

Appeals Court Protects Controversial Muslim Film

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed an earlier takedown order for the “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Muslim film that has resulted in death threats against an actress who says she did not authorize filmmakers to use her image and words. The appeals court said the takedown order, issued by a three-judge panel of the court, was an unconstitutional prior restraint under the First Amendment. The actress had filed suit to have the film removed from all Google sites, including You Tube. The ABA Journal has links to the story.

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Judge: Good Ole Rocky Top Can't Market the Merch

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping a marketing firm in the newly named city of Rocky Top from using the Rocky Top name "on goods and services," including T-shirts and other merchandise. Knoxnews reports that although Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in Knoxville had previously denied an injunction sought by House of Bryant Publications, owner of the Rocky Top trademark and the famous song, the judge ruled that trademark infringement was potentially taking place, and ordered the defendants, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Co., and its owners and officers, to stop using the name.

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Nashville Lawyers Launch Online Trademark Service

A trio of Nashville attorneys has launched the online trademark company Trust Tree Legal. The founders -- Bill Ferrell, Randy Michels and Kevin Hartley -- have a combined 30 years of experience in trademark law and patent litigation. The company offers four levels of support ranging in price from $149 to $949 and provides assistance with trademark searches, filing and maintenance; foreign filing; and foreign counterfeits. The trio also offers guidance through a new blog, The Root, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Nashville Attorney Behind Recent Copyright Infringement Suit

Calling him the "nation's hottest copyright attorney," the Tennessean looks at Nashville attorney Richard Busch and the attention received for his recent triumph in the controversial "Blurred Lines" lawsuit, in which the heirs of R&B legend Marvin Gaye successfully argued that pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams stole from Gaye's hit song "Got To Give It Up." The lawsuit received international media coverage, and the $7.4 million jury verdict in the Gaye family's favor sparked debate, and some outrage, in songwriting circles.

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House Panel Approves Digital Assets Bill

A state House subcommittee has approved legislation setting rules for access to digital information after death or disability, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” has drawn opposition from representatives of Facebook, Google and Amazon on the grounds that it would declare company policies void if they conflict with state law. The bill gives the legal representative of a deceased or incapacitated person authority to decide how pictures and postings on a site will be disposed of, even though the user once gave the site the right to control such things. TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur said many social media sites put such provisions in the fine print of their sign-up contracts, which has led to unfortunate situations. Knoxnews has the story.

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New Ethics Session at Intellectual Property Spring Institute

Join us for the annual Intellectual Property Spring Institute on April 17 in Nashville. This year’s sessions include practical takeaways for Tennessee lawyers on a variety of topics including developments in trademark, transformative fair use and patent litigation updates. New this year is an ethics session on lessons learned from the General Motors case.

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Wikipedia Sues NSA for Surveillance Program

The Wikimedia Foundation has filed suit against the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the NSA's mass surveillance program. The suit alleges that the agency's broad monitoring of Internet traffic violates the freedoms that U.S. citizens are granted under the First and Fourth Amendments. Wikimedia, part of the popular Wikipedia free-content website, is joined by eight other organizations, and will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. WRCB has more from Digital Trends.

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Nashville Lawyer Wins Big for Marvin Gaye’s Family

Pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed on the copyright for Marvin Gaye's hit song "Got to Give It Up," according to a Tuesday verdict from a federal jury, which awarded Gaye's family $7.4 million. The case marked a monumental win for Nashville entertainment law attorney Richard Busch of King and Ballow, who represented the Gaye family. The contentious and sometimes weird legal battle centered on Thicke and Williams' 2013 song "Blurred Lines.” The Tennessean has the story.

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Chicago Entertainment Firm Opens Nashville Office

Leavens, Strand & Glover (LSG), a Chicago-based entertainment law firm, has opened an office on Nashville’s Music Row. LSG partner Hillel Frankel will relocate to Nashville to lead the office, which will be located at 1102 17th Ave. S., Nashville 37212. LSG focuses in music, film, entertainment and intellectual property law. Clients include Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, Pitchfork Media Inc. and Rick Nielsen, lead guitarist of classic rock band Cheap Trick, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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IP Law Firm Partners with Project Music Accelerator Program

Patterson Intellectual Property Law today announced its partnership with Project Music, a music and technology business accelerator program. Developed in partnership with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and the Country Music Association, Project Music guides eight tech start-up companies through an intensive 14-week business development and music business boot camp. All eight start-ups in the program are building businesses to work with the music industry.

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ASCAP Names General Counsel New CEO

ASCAP has promoted executive vice president and general counsel Elizabeth “Beth” Matthews to be its new CEO. She replaces John LoFrumento, who retired at the end of the year. Matthews takes the reins of the performance rights organization during a time of upheaval and uncertainty as ASCAP awaits word from the Department of Justice about potential revisions to its federal consent decree, the Tennessean reports. Matthews has pushed for reform of the decree, which governs what actions publishers may take with regard to the licensing of their catalogs.

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5 Make Move to Waller with Waddey

In addition to luring Jack Waddey away from the firm formerly known as Waddey & Patterson, Waller has hired four intellectual property attorneys from the firm and recruited a Waddey alum from Huntsville, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Andy Pitchford, Matthew Cox, Nate Bailey and Blake Bernard also are making the move to Waller, while Alabama lawyer Larry Brantley will work from Huntsville until he is licensed in Tennessee. The additions give Waller new depth in electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, Waller Chairman Matt Burnstein said.

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Waddey Patterson Co-Founder Jumps to Waller

Jack Waddey has left the Waddey & Patterson firm he co-founded in 1992 to be a partner at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis. The shareholders of Waddey's former home have moved quickly to rename the firm Patterson PC. At Waller, Waddey will join an IP law team of 10. He has worked in IP law for more than 35 years and helped build his former firm into one of the region's top intellectual property boutiques. The Nashville Post has more.

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PTO Revamps Kids Website

Officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are trying to convince children that learning about intellectual property protection is as hip as playing Minecraft. As part of its effort, the agency has redesigned its USPTO Kids website, which now features videos and activities for kids, and lesson plans for parents and teachers. Students can also learn about young innovators, such as Marissa Streng, who invented a device for drying pets. Finally, the site offers collectible cards featuring famous patent holders, which kids can gather, collect and trade. The ABA Journal reported the news.

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Court Agrees to Hear Spider-Man Toy Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether to overturn precedent that bars the inventor of Spider-Man toys from collecting contracted royalties after his patent expired. The suit, brought on behalf of inventor Stephen Kimble, argues that a 1964 Supreme Court case bars willing parties from agreeing to amortize patent royalties over a longer time period than allowed by the patent. The ABA Journal looks at the issue.

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IP Chairman to Focus on ‘Patent Trolls’

California Republican Darrell Issa will be the next chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee with jurisdiction over intellectual property and information technology issues, Roll Call reports. Issa said “patent troll” legislation will be among his priorities. Last year, the House passed patent litigation overhaul legislation targeted at curbing “patent trolls” but the measure stalled in the Senate.

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Court: No New Cases Granted Cert

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued additional orders from its Nov. 25 conference but did not grant review to any new cases. It denied review to several appeals including an Arizona case testing whether an inmate was entitled to a federal court hearing on whether the judge who presided at his trial was biased against him; a case seeking to clarify whether police can make a brief stop and engage in limited questioning of a person seen leaving a home about to be searched; and one of two cases looking at whether a company accused of inducing a patent infringement claim can use as a defense a belief that the patent was not valid. SCOTUSblog has more on those decisions. Monday also was the first day of the court’s December sitting. The hearing list for the month is available here.

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Nashville Firm Closes Music Industry Deal

Round Hill Music has acquired the song catalog of Nashville-based Big Loud Shirt Industries, which consists of more than 30 number one Billboard airplay songs, Billboard Magazine reports. The transaction also included the purchase of Big Loud Bucks, a worldwide music administration company. Going forward, the companies will operate as a joint venture. The deal, handled by the Entertainment Practice Group in the Nashville office of Dickinson Wright, complements earlier moves Round Hill has made in the Nashville market, including acquisition of song catalogs from Roots 49 Music and Big Tractor Music. Read more in a release from the firm.

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Obama Calls for Change in Regulation of Internet Service

President Barack Obama yesterday embraced a radical change in how the government treats Internet service, the Memphis Daily News reports. In a public statement, the president called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to more heavily regulate Internet providers. Specifically, he said the FCC should prohibit providers from charging more for services that use a large amount of data; ban any “paid prioritization” on the Internet; and reclassify consumer broadband as a public utility. Content providers like Netflix, Twitter and Google applauded the proposal, while cable companies and other Internet service providers said the move would kill jobs and harm investment and innovation.

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Judge: Using ‘Rocky Top’ Name Likely Infringement

U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan appears ready to stop developers in the newly minted town of Rocky Top from using the name on merchandise, saying that would likely infringe on the rights of House of Bryant Publications, which owns the bluegrass song “Rocky Top.” Varlan allowed Lake City to change its name to Rocky Top earlier this year, but now says he will reconsider if the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has the case, finds an injunction is appropriate. The former coal-mining town changed its name on a promise that developers would build a tourist complex there. House of Bryant tried, but failed, to stop the name change. It appealed Varlan’s May ruling to the appeals court. WATE.com has the story.

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Arkansas Granted Sensory Trademark for Signature ‘Hog Call’

The U.S. Trademark Office granted TM Registration to the University of Arkansas for its “hog call.” Fans of the SEC are familiar with the wooooo-pig-sooie call. According to the Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs blog “Finding IP Value,” sensory marks are registerable just like word marks and logos when used in connection with the sale of goods or the rendering of services. 

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DOJ Weighs Public Comments on Music Licensing Decrees

The music industry has entered into waiting mode as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) weighs hundreds of pages of public comments regarding its review of the consent decrees that govern how ASCAP and BMI administer music licenses and distributes royalties, the Tennessean reports. Because of the emergence of new technologies and music delivery systems, the licensing of music has become more complicated and disputes have arisen over fair rates. The issue has spilled into the federal courts, where the performance rights organizations dispute the rate that Internet radio company Pandora pays to songwriters and publishers.

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Medical-Legal Partnerships, Copyright and More in New TBJ

TBA President Jonathan Steen explains medical-legal partnerships in his September Tennessee Bar Journal column and his hopes for fostering more MLPs in the state. Technology versus the Copyright Act is covered by Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock, while columnists Marlene Eskind Moses and Benjamin Russ write about forced marriage.

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UT College of Law Launches Trademark Legal Clinic

Students at the University of Tennessee College of Law will soon be able to practice trademark law before the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), school officials announced today. The college is one of only 47 law schools chosen to participate in the USPTO Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. As part of the program, UT’s Business Law Clinic will provide trademark legal services to independent inventors and small businesses on a pro bono basis. Students will represent clients before the USPTO under the guidance of a faculty clinic supervisor. "Branding has become an increasingly important element of promoting a successful product or business," said Brian Krumm, director of the UT Business Law Clinic and supervisor of the pilot program. "Providing our students the opportunity for hands-on experience with the trademark process will make them more effective counselors to businesses when they become practicing attorneys." 

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Event, Podcast Explore Connection Between Law and Music

Live Law 6 – a live storytelling event about the ways the law and music collide, and how that collision has changed Nashville’s Music Row forever – will be held tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Central. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Live podcast starts at 7 p.m. The event, co-hosted by the Life of the Law podcast, Pursuit Magazine and Nashville Public Radio, will take place at the W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville. Among those speaking will be Nashville music insider Harold Bradley, who founded Studio A with his brother Owen and Chet Atkins. The studio was recently sold despite protests from those in the artist community who wanted to preserve it as an historical site. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

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