Librarian of Congress Removes Copyright Head

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced Friday that she removed the head of the U.S. Copyright Office. Maria Pallante, who had served as copyright head for five years, told Congress last year that the office should be independent and no longer under the library umbrella, citing “mounting operational tensions” and a number of other concerns with the current structure. She now will become senior adviser for digital strategy. Karyn Temple Claggett, currently the associate register of copyrights, will head the office while a national search is conducted. Roll Call looks at the decision.

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Appeals Court Reinstates Award in Apple/Samsung Patent Case

A federal appeals court today reinstated a $120 million jury award for Apple against Samsung in the fierce patent war between the world's top smartphone manufacturers, Reuters reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., ruled that a previous panel of the same court should not have overturned the 2014 verdict in the case involving iPhone technology patents for slide-to-unlock, autocorrect and "quick link" features. The Tennessee Bar Journal provided an analysis of the original decision in the 2015 article “Design Patent Damages Awards Under 'Apple v. Samsung.’”

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SCOTUS Denies NCAA Appeal in O'Bannon Amateurism Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear the NCAA’s appeal in the Ed O'Bannon case, keeping the lower court’s decision that found amateurism rules for college basketball and football players to be in violation of federal antitrust laws. The LA Times reports that the court also rejected another appeal, this one from former college basketball star O’Bannon, that called for a plan to pay football and basketball players. In 2014, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in the original case that the NCAA’s use of names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation violated antitrust law.
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TBA’s LAVPA Happy Hour in Knoxville Wednesday

The TBA’s Legal Assistance Volunteers for Patent Applicants (LAVPA) is hosting events across the state to inform attorneys of the volunteer opportunities it provides. The first happy hour is sponsored by the IP firm Luedeka Neely and will be held in Knoxville tomorrow (Sept. 21) from 5-7 p.m. at the Downtown Grill & Brewery as part of the Innov865 conference.The program's mission is to educate and provide legal services to under-resourced inventors to reduce the filing of improper patent applications, which contributes to backlog and loss of patent protection. Information for other events can be found on the TBA website.

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TBA Patent Pro Bono Program Begins Matching Attorneys

The Legal Assistance Volunteers for Patent Applicants (LAVPA) program has begun matching attorneys with inventors to provide legal assistance, including the prosecution of patent applications.

Online applications from inventors are being received, and attorney volunteers are signing up, through the online forms found on the LAVPA page of the TBA’s website. Volunteer attorneys are in demand and vital to the success of the program. Volunteer recruiting and publicity events are also planned as follows:

  • Knoxville, Sept. 21, 5 - 7 p.m., Downtown Grill & Brewery (Part of innov865)
  • Chattanooga, Oct. 5, 5 - 7 p.m., Public House (part of Start Up Chattanooga)
  • Nashville, Nov. 4, 5 - 7 p.m., Patterson IP (after the TIPLA CLE)

To find out information or ways you or your firm can support the program, please contact LAVPA Coordinator J. Scott “Skip” Rudsenske, (615) 277-3207.

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ASCAP, BMI Join Forces to Fight Music Licensing Ruling

The leaders of ASCAP and BMI convened a private meeting Monday for Nashville’s songwriting and publishing community in a historic show of solidarity by the two competitors, the Tennessean reports. The performance rights organizations are banding together to fight a ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding 100 percent licensing, which allows a copyright holder to license a song no matter how small a percentage of the copyright they own. The groups said they expect a protracted battle with the Justice Department. By contrast, the DOJ ruling has been applauded by music tech firms such as Google and Pandora, along with radio broadcasters and restaurants that license music.

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Georgia Congressman Takes on Music Licensing Fight

Georgia congressman Doug Collins is vowing a legislative response to the Department of Justice’s recent decision not to update music licensing consent decrees but instead enforce “100 percent licensing,” the Tennessean reports. Under that scheme, a songwriter and publisher may license a song no matter how small a percent ownership they have in the copyright. Many in the music industry fear the new opinion could threaten the practice of co-writing songs, curb the creative process and complicate royalty payouts. 

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AG Announces Settlement with Anti-Competitive Pharma Business

Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced today that Tennessee, 48 other states and the District of Columbia have reached an agreement with Cephalon Inc. and affiliated companies, now a part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, following alleged anti-competitive conduct. The $125 million settlement concludes an investigation into a scheme by Cephalon to block generic competition to its sleep-disorder drug, Provigil. Cephalon prevented competition by filing patent infringement lawsuits against potential competitors, and then paid those competitors to delay the sale of their generic versions of the drug. In total, the states will receive $35 million for distribution to consumers who purchased Provigil. Tennessee and its consumers will receive an estimated $3.32 million.

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ABA Annual Meeting Includes FBI Director, Marcia Clark as Speakers

The American Bar Association (ABA) annual meeting in San Francisco continues today. Offerings at the meeting include updates about the legal implications of electronic devices such as home security systems, cellphones and fitness trackers that collect and exchange data, and the Zika virus. Today, FBI Director James Comey was among experts who examined the use of emerging technology by criminals and terrorists to evade detection, and Marcia Clark, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, was on tap to discuss her new work of fiction.

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ABA Meeting Opens, Includes Diversity Commission Findings

The American Bar Association kicks off its annual meeting today in San Francisco with topics to be explored including national security at the U.S. border and in the cyber realm, the impact of new voting laws on the upcoming fall elections and the integration of transgendered soldiers in the U.S. military. On Saturday, the ABA Diversity and Inclusion Commission, formed by outgoing ABA President Paulette Brown, will unveil the results of its work. The group spent months reviewing and analyzing the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the judicial system and the ABA, with the aim of formulating methods, policies, standards and practices to “move the needle” and advance diversity and inclusion. “The legal profession is the best, but we can do better," Brown said. "It can no longer be acceptable for us to be the least diverse of all comparable professions.” Learn more from the ABA's Diversity and Inclusion Portal.

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ABA Asks Court to Limit ‘Laches Defense’ in Patent Cases

The ABA has filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to apply a 2014 copyright ruling, which limited use of the “laches defense,” to patent cases. The doctrine of laches allows dismissal of suits that are unreasonably delayed. The ABA argues patent cases should not be subject to laches during the statutory six-year damages period, and that laches should be available only in the most extraordinary circumstances and to prevent injunctive and other prospective equitable relief. Neglecting to take this action will “continue to encourage rushed, premature filings, and discourage non-litigation resolutions such as settlement,” the brief argues. The ABA Journal has more on the issue.

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Online IP Courses Now Available

Online programs offering insights into various aspects of intellectual property law are now available online. CLE sessions cover fair use defenses, Lanham Act updates, patent infringement and licensing updates, Tennessee’s statutory right of publicity, and international norms of intellectual property protection. Access courses at the links above.

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Led Zeppelin Duo Prevails in Copyright Suit

A Los Angeles jury today found Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page not guilty of copyright infringement on perhaps their most famous song, "Stairway to Heaven," CNN reports. The case centered on claims that Led Zeppelin copied key note patterns in the first two minutes of their hit from a song by the 1960s psychedelic band, Spirit.

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Court Still to Rule on Most Controversial Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued five decisions Monday, including rulings (1) upholding a patent review procedure known as inter partes review, which has been used by Apple and Google to invalidate patents; (2) directing lower courts in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi to re-examine three convictions for evidence of racial prejudice in jury selection; and (3) directing the U.S. Labor Department to do a better job of explaining why it is changing a longstanding policy on whether certain workers deserve overtime pay. With just one week left in the court’s current term, however, the most contentious cases still need to be resolved, including regulation of Texas abortion clinics, the use of race in college admissions, the legality of the president’s immigration executive orders, and the public corruption conviction of Virginia’s former governor. WKRN looks at the remaining cases.

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Court Rules on Attorneys Fees in Copyright Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday revived a $2 million fee dispute for attorneys who argued for the winner in a 2013 copyright case over resold textbooks. The Justices unanimously agreed that that federal courts should examine a variety of factors in deciding whether to award fees to winners in copyright infringement cases and sent the case back to a lower court for a new ruling. Read more from The New York Times

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Nashville Lawyer Files Copyright Suit Against Pop Star Ed Sheeran

Nashville attorney Richard Busch from the firm King and Ballow is representing two California songwriters who have filed a copyright lawsuit against pop star Ed Sheeran. The songwriters, Martin Harrington and Tom Leonard, claim Sheeran ripped off their song as the basis for his hit, “Photograph.” Busch has won many landmark music copyright cases in his career, including one on behalf of Marvin Gaye’s family against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their song “Blurred Lines.” Read more from The Tennessean

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Justin Bieber, Skrillex Face Nashville Copyright Suit

Pop stars Justin Bieber and Skrillex were sued in Nashville court this week for using without permission a vocal riff that singer-songwriter Casey Dienel said was hers, the Tennessean reports. Dienel, who performs under the name White Hinterland, said the Bieber and Skrillex song "Sorry" features a vocal riff in the same key and using the same notes as the riff in her song "Ring the Bell." Read more and listen to the two cuts.

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Star Trek Copyright Suit Could Impact Software Developers

A copyright battle over of a 2014 short film’s use of Star Trek themes and Klingon – the language spoken by fictional humanoids – could impact legal disputes over programming languages. The Language Creation Society recently sided with the creators of Prelude to Axanar in an amicus brief, saying that if the language is copyrighted, then all ideas subsequently expressed in it could be too. Quartz explains how the lawsuit could impact software developers’ ability to copy codes and also outlines other cases where symbol copyrights are being debated. 

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Redskins Seek Supreme Court Hearing in Trademark Case

The Washington Redskins filed a petition yesterday asking the U.S. supreme Court to to hear its case over its controversial trademark. The NFL team is asking for its case to be heard alongside The Slants, an Asian-American band, who wants to trademark their name. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the band’s trademark attempt, but the government has asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling. The case challenges the same piece of U.S. law that the Redskins’ case does, CNN Money reports.  

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Entertainment and Sports Forum Set for May 19

The TBA’s annual Entertainment & Sports Forum is planned for May 19, 12:30 – 4:45 p.m., at Belmont University College of Law, Baskin Center, 1900 Belmont Blvd. in Nashville. This year’s forum, titled “Nashville: The Intersection of Television, Fashion and Music,” is approved for four CLE credits. Topics include an inside perspective on the intellectual property issues for the TV show "Nashville,” and a discussion of the ethical challenges when using social media and online platforms to market your practice. Register by May 15 to avoid a late fee. 

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Memphis Inventor Sues Carrier for 'Stealing His Ideas'

Steve Olita, a Memphis-area inventor, is suing Carrier Corp. for allegedly using his ideas in its Collierville factory without paying licensing fees, The Commercial Appeal reports. He says the air conditioner manufacturer worked with one of his former employees to copy his ideas to avoid paying. Olita also filed a separate lawsuit against former employees and other companies.

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Mentors in Intellectual Property Needed

The TBA Mentoring Program is looking for volunteer mentors who practice intellectual property law in the Davidson County or Williamson County areas. Mentoring is the most effective way to pass along skills, knowledge and wisdom and it is critical to a new lawyer’s success. There are many new attorneys signed up for this program, but there is a shortage of mentors to match them with. 

To qualify as a mentor, you must have a minimum of eight years of experience with no formal BPR investigation pending or disciplinary action imposed in the last 10 years. For more information on the program, visit

If you’re interested in signing up, please contact Kate Prince at 615-277-3202.

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Fastcase Will Face No Defense in Suit to Access State Laws

Casemaker agrees with Fastcase: state law is not copyrightable. Fastcase filed a federal suit against Casemaker after its parent company Lawriter demanded Fastcase take down Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations from its platform. Lawriter has a contact with the state to publish the laws, but Casemaker CEO says the company will not defend the Fastcase suit. Read more from the ABA Journal.

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Does monkey have standing to assert copyright in selfie photos? Judge is skeptical

Originally published in ABA Journal - January 7, 2016

By Debra Cassens Weiss

A federal judge in San Francisco hearing arguments on Wednesday appeared unlikely to find standing in a copyright suit filed on a behalf of a monkey who shot selfies published in a wildlife book.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick said during the hearing there was no indication the federal copyright law gave animals the right to sue, report the Recorder (sub. req.), Ars Technica and the Associated Press.

“While Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans,” Orrick said during the hearing, “there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had sued on behalf of the crested macaque named Naruto, the monkey believed to have snapped selfies with a photographer’s unattended camera. The photographer, David Slater, obtained a British copyright and published the photos in a book by his company Blurb.

PETA says proceeds from the photo should benefit Naruto. The photos have also been published by Wikimedia, which contends works from nonhuman sources aren’t covered by copyright unless a human makes substantial changes.

Orrick said he didn’t believe PETA could establish standing to sue, but he would likely give PETA a chance to file an amended complaint, according to the coverage by the Recorder.

One of the monkey's selfies from Wikimedia Commons.

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