News

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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National Entertainment Firm Acquires Nashville Boutique

The entertainment law firm of Ritholz Levy Sanders Chidekel & Fields, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles, has acquired the Nashville boutique firm of Petree Law. Current Petree lawyers Chip Petree and Matt Cottingham will run the Nashville office for Ritholz Levy, which represents artists such as CeeLo Green and Snoop Dogg as well as companies such as Pepsi and Tommy Hilfiger. The local firm will remain at 1221 Sixth Ave. North. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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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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