News

DOJ Looking at Price Fixing Among Music Publishers

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating possible pricing coordination among music publishers in its negotiations with performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI, the Wall Street Journal reports. Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the paper suggests that the investigation has become part of the department's previously announced broader review into the longstanding system for determining the cost of licensing songs. The Tennessean reports that the revelation comes as Sony/ATV Music Publishing is threatening to withdraw all of its licensing rights from the performance rights organizations if regulators don’t allow for the partial withdraw of digital rights.

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Stites & Harbison Adds 2 to IP Practice

The Nashville firm of Stites & Harbison has expanded its Intellectual Property & Technology Practice with the addition of two registered patent partners previously with Waller. Kelly Hollowell holds a doctorate from the University of Miami School of Medicine and law degree from Regent University Law School. She focuses her practice on life sciences and mechanical arts. Justin McNaughton, a graduate of Washington University Law School in St. Louis, focuses on life sciences, mechanical arts, software and technology licensing. They join a team of eight others to create one of the largest life sciences practices in Tennessee.

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Judge Denies Move to Stop 'Rocky Top' Vote

U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan today denied a move for an injunction filed by the House of Bryant Publications to stop Lake City’s proposed name change to Rocky Top. The company owns the rights to the famous bluegrass ballad “Rocky Top.” Judge Varlan said attorneys for House of Bryant showed no reason why he should delay the vote while they appealed his decision dismissing a lawsuit against the name change. Knoxnews has more.

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Hershey's Files Suit Against Companies with Pot-Infused Look-alikes

Hershey's has filed two trademark infringement complaints over marijuana edibles the candy company says look like their products. The Pennsylvania-based chocolate maker is suing Tincturebelle, a pot-infused candy manufacturer in Colorado, and Conscious Care Cooperative, a medical marijuana dispensary in Washington state. The lawsuits claim the pot-infused candy violates Hershey's trademarks, dilutes its brand and is "unfair competition" to the company. WBIR reported this USA Today story.

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Nashville Attorney Looks Back on Landmark Copyright Case

More than 20 years ago, Nashville attorney Alan Turk was hired to represent Miami-based rap group 2 Live Crew in what became a pivotal copyright infringement lawsuit with ramifications for everything from "Saturday Night Live" to modern hip-hop. The group was sued for sampling Roy Orbison’s song “Oh, Pretty Woman” without his permission for a rap parody. Turk would go down as the lead counsel on a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and set the standard for protecting works of parody under the fair-use clause in the federal copyright law. The Tennessean has more on this landmark case.

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Google and Apple Drop Suits, Pledge Patent Reform

Google and Apple say they will cease all existing, direct litigation against each other and work together on patent reform issues, the Nashville Business Journal reports. While the agreement does not foreclose future suits or terminate suits in which the companies are third parties, the move will impact about 20 lawsuits and “represents an unexpected detente between two companies.”

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Court Revives 'Raging Bull' Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a copyright lawsuit over the 1980 movie "Raging Bull" can go forward, a decision that could open Hollywood studios to more claims from people seeking a share of profits from classic films, TV shows and other creative works, the Associated Press reports. In a 6-3 decision, the justices found that Paula Petrella, daughter of the late screenwriter Frank Petrella, did not wait too long to file her lawsuit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The studio had argued that Petrella' decision to wait 18 years to file a lawsuit was an unreasonable delay. The Memphis Daily News has the story.

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TBJ Columns Cover Electronic Surveillance, 'McCutcheon' and More

Columns in the May Tennessee Bar Journal include electronic surveillance in family law by Marlene Moses and Benjamin Russ; Tenn. Code Ann. §20-1-119 and its relationship with the federal courts by John Day; and the late Don Paine wrote about convicted murderer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. Bill Haltom explains how the "McCutcheon" case makes the phrase "free speech" into an oxymoron.

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Law Firm App Wins Marketing Award

National labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith – with offices in Nashville – has won first place in the Legal Marketing Association’s national awards program for a mobile app designed for HR professionals, in-house counsel and members of the media. The firm reports that the app goes beyond lawyer bios and newsletters to provide quick guides and checklists on workplace topics, wage and hour calculators, a glossary of employment law terms and links to workers’ comp calculators. The app’s Work Snips section also provides short, entertaining takes on the latest workplace headlines from outside news sources. The app is available for Apple products. An Android version is set to be released soon.

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Bone McAllester Norton Opens Drone Practice

Bone McAllester Norton is expanding its emerging law group with a practice focused on the commercial use of drones, the law firm announced Thursday. James Mackler will lead the firm’s drone practice, which will focus on company formation, trademark registration, privacy issues and other areas associated with their usage by private companies. The Nashville-based firm’s first client in this field is Alamo, Tenn.-based Farmspace Systems, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

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Divorce, End-of-Life Care and Cybercriminals

In this issue, Helen Rogers and George Spanos outline strategies for the timing of filing for divorce in Tennessee and Eddy R. Smith discusses the painful topic of pregnancy and end-of-life care. If you weren't scared of people stealing your money electronically before, Kathryn Reed Edge's column on cybercriminals will send you running to change all your passwords and tighten your firm security.

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Linguistic Expert Who ID’d J.K. Rowling Speaks Wednesday

Dr. Patrick Juola, the man whose linguistic analysis proved that J.K. Rowling is the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling – a novel published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith – will speak at the University of Tennessee College of Law Wednesday at noon in Room 132. His topic will be “Forensic Stylometrics and Linguistic Evidence.” Dr. Juola is professor of Computer Science and director of the Evaluating Variations in Language (EVL) Laboratory at Duquesne University. The lecture, which is cosponsored by the university’s Linguistics Program and Department of Computer Science, is free and open to the public.

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Church Sues Online Marketing Partners

The United Methodist Church is suing former marketing partners Foundation Automation and Zebraplace after a failed joint venture to create an online donations portal and shopping site, the Nashville Post reports. The church ended its agreement with the partners after they failed to make scheduled payments. Now, the church is also trying to get back access to the UMCMarket.org domain name and stop the companies from using certain trademarks — among them "UMC" and the church's cross and flame logo.

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Justices Decline to Re-enter Immigration Debate

A former Pennsylvania coal town and a Dallas suburb lost a lengthy battle to enact anti-immigrant laws Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeals, the Associated Press reports. The high court has held since 2012 that immigration issues are largely a matter for federal agencies, not local governments, to regulate. The ruling Monday involved efforts by the city of Hazleton, in northeastern Pennsylvania, and Farmers Branch, Texas, to enforce housing and employment rules aimed at people in the country illegally, a strategy copied by dozens of other cities that faulted federal efforts to control immigration. WRCB-TV has the story.

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New Davidson County Magistrate on the Job

Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sophia Crawford has announced that Paul Robertson has accepted an interim appointment as magistrate within the parentage division of the court. In his new post, Robertson will hear cases involving child support, custody and visitation issues. Since 2006, Robertson has maintained a specialized practice in juvenile and domestic law. Prior to becoming an attorney, he was employed for 30 years in banking and regulatory fields. Robertson earned his law degree from the Nashville School of Law.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Bill Creates Digital Performance Royalties for Pre-1972 Songs

State lawmakers Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, have filed a bill they say would close a loophole in copyright law and establish digital performance royalties for recordings made before 1972. Under current copyright law, songs recorded prior to Feb. 15, 1972, do not pay a performance royalty to the artist and musicians. Instead, they are protected by a “patchwork of state laws and common law,” the Tennessean reports. Last month, a hearing on comprehensive royalty reform was held in the House Judiciary Committee, but with powerful interests on both sides of the issue action may not be likely any time soon, observers say.

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Gibson Seeks Millions From Tech Developer

Nashville-based Gibson Brands Inc. has filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against technology company Ceton Corp., claiming a breach of contract over a wireless home-entertainment system that Gibson was paying Ceton to develop. In the suit, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Gibson alleges it contracted with Kirkland, Wash.-based Ceton to design and produce a system that Gibson conceived and intended to launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month. Gibson claims that Ceton has stopped working for the Nashville company and plans to produce and market the system on its own, the Tennessean reports.

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House Targets ‘Patent Trolls’ but Small Businesses Concerned

Many business groups praised the U.S. House of Representative’s passage of legislation aimed at lawsuits by so-called "patent trolls." But some fear the legitimate rights of small businesses could be trampled on as Congress rushes to protect companies from bad actors. In recent years, companies across the industry spectrum have found themselves settling patent claims simply because they cannot afford the litigation to fight them, says the sponsor of the legislation. But the National Small Business Association is concerned the bill could put undue burdens on individual inventors, technology startups and innovative small companies. Read more about the issue in the Memphis Business Journal.

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Judge Allows Copyright Suit Against Country Duet

Nashville-based U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ruled this week that a copyright lawsuit against country superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood over their duet “Remind Me” could move forward. The ruling found that songwriter Amy Bowen, who performs as Lizza Connor, established a plausible claim of copyright infringement by Paisley and Underwood and songwriters John Kelley Lovelace and Charles DuBois. However, Trauger was clear that she was not ruling as a matter of law that the defendants infringed the copyright. Bowen claims she performed her song “Remind Me” at a songwriting workshop where Lovelace and DuBois were advisers three years before they penned a song with the same name. The defendants argue their song has a different melody, hook and lyrics. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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Email May Not Be Private, Paine Column About Perry March

Email communications -- even between attorney and client -- may be admissible. Find out how to protect electronic client communications in a Tennessee Bar Journal article by Nashville lawyers Kimberly Stagg and John E. Anderson Sr.  Also in the December Journal, read about the Perry March murder trial in a column by the late Don Paine, who died in November. Paine wrote several of his "Paine on Procedure" columns ahead of time, so readers will enjoy his writing for several more months.

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Elvis’s IP Rights Sold

Authentic Brands Group, a New York City intellectual property corporation, has bought Elvis Presley’s intellectual property and the right to operate Graceland from CORE Media Group, becoming the latest of four companies to own a majority share in the intellectual property assets of the late Memphis entertainer. Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, continues to own Graceland and the artifacts of her father’s life, The Memphis Daily News reports. Authentic Brands will work with the licensing and merchandising rights, which come with a library of images, artworks, movie posters, recordings of Presley’s music and his television appearances.

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Google, States Settle Privacy Dispute

Tennessee today joined 36 other states in an agreement with Google that will send $17 million to the states and the District of Columbia. At issue between the states and Google were allegations that the company had issued misleading advice regarding privacy settings on some Safari web browsers, which allowed Google to operate user tracking devices without users' knowledge. Read more from the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

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Attorneys, Developers Discuss Rocky Top IP Issues

Intellectual property rights lawyers warned city officials and developers of Lake City that they could face legal action if they change the town’s name to Rocky Top. Knoxnews reports that Nashville firm Waddey Patterson is representing The House of Bryant LLC, which owns numerous trademarks and the copyright to the popular bluegrass ballad. The House of Bryant has agreed to enter into negotiations with the city regarding a licensing agreement but question whether the name change and planned tourist development project “would enhance the Rocky Top brand.”

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Copyright Infringement Awards, Increases for Appointed Counsel Covered in This Issue

Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock writes about the best ways to set an appropriate award of statutory damages in a copyright infringement case in the latest issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. In his regular column, Knoxville lawyer Wade Davies discusses policy changes on mandatory minimum sentences in federal court, rate increases for appointed counsel and more. The Tennessee Supreme Court has raised the caps on payment for counsel representing indigent defendnats in non-capital first-degree murder and Class A and B felonies, Davies writes.  "If anyone thinks people are getting wealthy from representing poor people at state expense, take a look at the rule. The rates have not changed since 1994. The state pays $40 per hour for out-of-court work and $50 for in-court, which does not include the time spent in court waiting."

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