News

Tennessee Fashion Law: Protecting Brands and More

The TBA will offer a first-of-its-kind Tennessee Fashion Law CLE on March 31 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Topics include protecting fashion brands through copyright, regulations that govern merchandize labeling and disclosure, and employment issues unique to fashion law. The course, scheduled from 1 to 4:15 p.m., is approved for three CLE credits.

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City of Rocky Top Settles with Copyright Holders

The city of Rocky Top settled its lawsuit with House of Bryant Publications, the copyright holders of the popular bluegrass tune with the same name. The company sued the city in 2013 in an effort to prevent the name change. The city is now allowed to sell trademarked items, as long as money raised goes to the city. The Associated Press reports a separate settlement with the development group that proposed the tourist complex, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing, is still under negotiation.

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Court Ruling Could Help Redskins in Trademark Case

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that says the government cannot reject trademarks it deems offensive to others could help the Washington Redskins defend the team's own trademark protections. The Federal Circuit court’s ruling comes in a case involving an American-Asian band, The Slants, whose application to trademark its name was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The court said banning offensive trademarks violates the First Amendment. The Redskins are currently appealing the government’s pending withdrawal of its trademark protection. Read more from The Washington Post.

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Rutherford Clerk's Office Owes More Than $175k in Penalties

A state audit revealed the Rutherford County Circuit Court Clerk’s office faces $175,135 in penalties and interest because of software problems, the Daily News Journal reports. Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Harrell blamed the penalties on former Circuit Court Clerk Laura Bohling. "Prior to my election to the position of Circuit Court Clerk in August 2014, the previous court clerk had been working for close to two years to implement a new software system that, in the end, cost the taxpayers of Rutherford County close to $1 million in equipment, labor and overhead costs," Harrell said. The audit also noted  "discrepancies in operations at the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department are currently being investigated."

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Nashville Artist Fights Beside Attorneys for Higher Royalty Rates

George Johnson, a Nashville singer-songwriter and non-attorney, has gained attention for standing toe-to-toe with attorneys in a case that will determine new royalty rates for record labels, artists and popular internet music services. Artists and record labels are asking the Copyright Royalty Board to set the rate for non-interactive music at $.0025 cents per stream, compared to rate proposals from the service providers starting at $.0005 per stream. Johnson, the only artist representing in the rate-setting hearing, says artists and labels should be paid a licensing fee of between 10 cents and $1 for each song. Read more from The Tennessean.

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Consumers More Vulnerable to Cybercrime, Norton Says

A new report released by Norton, a cybersecurity company, reveals in the 12 months to September, more than 348 million identities were exposed as a result of data breaches. Norton says consumers globally spent $150 billion in the past year dealing with the issues related to cybercrime. Read more from the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.

New State Logo Gets Trademark Approval

Gov. Bill Haslam’s new state logo, which has received criticism for its simple design and high cost, has received approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Humphrey on the Hill reports. The patent office originally denied the trademark application on the basis that it was primarily a geographic description. The Haslam administration changed the name of the application to the executive branch of Tennessee state government, which satisfied the examiners.

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Songwriter's Family Wins Right to Popular Christmas Tune

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Second U.S. Ciricut Court of Appeals panel has ruled that the family of the man who wrote the popular Christmas tune “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” will resume the rights to the song at the end of this year. The rights to the holiday melody are currently controlled by EMI Feist Catalog Inc., a Sony subsidiary. The song is the most frequently performed holiday song, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

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Microsoft, Google End Patent War

Microsoft and Google are giving up on a spate of patent lawsuits they have been fighting for years, the Memphis Business Journal reports. The two companies announced yesterday they would dismiss as many as 20 lawsuits between them over the use of various patents for mobile phones, gaming consoles and more. In a joint statement, they indicated an agreement "to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future." The five-year patent war started when Microsoft claimed Google’s Android operating system used the Redmond company’s technology without paying royalties.

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'Happy Birthday' Public Domain Question Continues

Fast Company reports that a federal judge’s decision last week regarding Warner Chappell Music’s rights to “Happy Birthday” may not have forced the song into public domain. The lyrics may still have outstanding legal protection almost 125 years after they were assumed to be created. "It would be terrible if the effect of this decision were to put 'Happy Birthday' in limbo, and now nobody uses it, because they can't find anybody who would license them, and yet there was no declaration as to the public domain, either," George Washington University Law School professor Robert Brauneis says.

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Vanderbilt Law Grad to Lead Firm's New Anti-Counterfeiting Practice

Kristina Montanaro Schrader joined the Nashville office of Adams and Reese to lead the firm’s new Anti-Counterfeiting Practice team that will serve clients in combating counterfeiting, piracy and other Intellectual Property infringements. “Many business owners don’t realize that counterfeiters do not distinguish between major brands and fledgling start-ups,” Schrader said. “In today’s economy, businesses must be mindful of protecting their IP from day one.”

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Legislators Travel to Nashville to Discuss Copyright Laws

Do current copyright laws still work in today’s digital age? That question will be before a Congressional listening session tomorrow in Nashville, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia. “In the coming weeks the House Judiciary Committee will conduct several roundtable discussions to hear directly from the creators and innovators about the challenges they face in their creative field and what changes are needed to ensure U.S. copyright law keeps pace with technological advances,” Goodlatte and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, said in a joint statement. The Tennessean has more

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Apple to Appeal Ebook Ruling to Supreme Court

Apple said it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that the company conspired to fix prices of ebooks when it launched its original iPad and iBook store in 2010, Fortune reports. “Dynamic, disruptive entry into new or stagnant markets — the lifeblood of American economic growth — often requires the very type of conduct that Apple engaged in,” the company argued in papers filed Wednesday.

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State's New Business Court, Design Patent Law Featured

The new issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal is out today, featuring everything you need to know about Tennessee’s new Business Court. Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Justin Seamon give you the details. Also, get up to speed on the design patent awards under "Apple v. Samsung” in an article by Nashville lawyers James M. Starling, Seth R. Ogden and Ryan D. Levy. Find out what else is in the September issue.

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Lawyers Hindered Women Getting Vote 95 Years Ago

Celebrate the 95th anniversary of women earning the right to vote by learning more about the details of the struggle that took place in Tennessee. Knoxville lawyer Wanda Sobieski looks at Suffragists’ fight and how the lawyers of the state did more to thwart than help the effort for much of the time. In his article, Nashville lawyer Timothy Warnock answers the question “is revenue from concerts recoverable in copyright-infringement cases?” President Bill Harbison analyzes some of the differences between new lawyers and those who have been practicing a long time. Read these and other articles in the August Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Facebook Lacks Standing to Challenge Subpoenas, Appeals Court Says

A New York appeals court has sided with prosecutors, finding that Facebook lacked standing to challenge subpoenas requiring the social media company to turn over all information in the accounts of 381 people. Only the individuals in question can challenge the subpoenas, but reportedly none have done so in the New York City disability-fraud case that resulted. It focused on more than 130 police officers and other public workers in New York City whose disability claims allegedly conflicted with information about life activities on their Facebook accounts, the ABA Journal reports.

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Lawyers Say New Proof Will Show ‘Happy Birthday’ Not Protected by Copyright

Lawyers who claim the Happy Birthday song is in the public domain say, in a motion filed Monday, that newly disclosed evidence contains the “proverbial smoking gun” that proves the lyrics are no longer protected by copyright, the ABA Journal reports. The cited proof: A 1922 song book that included the Happy Birthday song without a copyright notice. The motion seeks a summary judgment ruling that the lyrics have been in the public domain since at least 1922, and copyright protects only specific piano arrangements of the song. The lawyers represent a documentary filmmaker who filed a class action lawsuit over a $1,500 Happy Birthday licensing fee. 

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Tech Companies Side with Samsung Against Apple in IP Suit

Google, Facebook, and eBay are just some of the companies supporting Samsung’s objection to the court decision ordering it to fork over profits from smartphones found to infringe upon certain Apple patents. It’s the latest development in a long-running intellectual property war that culminated in 2012, when a jury found Samsung guilty of infringing on a handful of Apple’s design and utility patents for the iPhone and awarded Apple $929 million in damages, an amount that was later reduced by $382 million. Samsung is now seeking a review of that decision. A coalition of tech companies that have a stake in protecting their own smartphones, software and related IP have submitted a “friend of the court” brief in support of Samsung’s petition. BuzzfeedNews has more

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Could Harper Lee Have Written a Fourth Book?

With rumors flying of a third novel by Harper Lee, sources are now hinting the famed To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman author may actually have a fourth, nonfiction manuscript titled, The Reverend. It supposedly chronicles the true-life story of Rev. Willie Maxwell, who was suspected in the deaths of various relatives, said Wayne Flynt, a professor of history at Auburn University who said he spoke to Lee's sister about the mysterious manuscript before her death. Years ago, Lee went so far as to interview a doctor about poisons to find out which could cause someone to die but not be found in an autopsy, according to Flynt. In March, The New Yorker similarly reported on the possibility of a book about the Rev. Maxwell. The family of Maxwell's lawyer shared with the magazine what they say is a chapter of the book Lee sent to the lawyer. WCYB has more from the AP.

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Federal Judge Cancels Redskins’ Trademark

For the first time in a legal battle that has stretched over 20 years, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of the Washington Redskins' trademark registration, ruling that the team name may be disparaging to Native Americans. While the ruling does not bar the team from using the Redskins name if it wishes, Redskins President Bruce Allen said the team will appeal. News Channel 5 has more from the AP.

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Lawmaker Wants Refund for New State Logo

State Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, is calling for a refund of most of the $46,000 the state paid for a new logo, saying the design company failed to comply with outsourcing rules and was “substantially over compensated.” Knoxnews reports that Daniel wrote to executives of GS&F, the Nashville advertising firm that developed the logo, to complain about the nature of the final product, the fact that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected trademark protection for the logo and widespread public discontent with the mark.

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Court: Apple Violated Antitrust Law in E-Book Market

Apple violated antitrust laws by colluding with publishers to raise electronic book prices when it entered a market that had been dominated by Amazon.com, a divided federal appeals court panel found Tuesday. A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-to-1 that a lower-court correctly found Apple violated the law. The U.S. Justice Department and 33 states and territories, including Tennessee, sued Apple and five publishers. WSMV has this story from the Associated Press.

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Court Decides Patent, Excessive Force, Other Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday issued four decisions in argued cases, including major decisions on the Fourth Amendment, patent law, the Takings Clause and excessive force claims by pretrial detainees. SCOTUSblog provides a wrap up of the day’s events.

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Online Resources for IP Lawyers

If you missed the TBA's annual Intellectual Property Forum, sessions are now available online for replay. Programs cover music licensing, transformative fair use and ethics and culture issues from the General Motors case.

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Patent Pro Bono Program Expands to Tennessee

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is working with area law firms and legal organizations to launch a Patent Pro Bono program in Tennessee. Kickoff events will be held June 1 in Nashville and June 3 in Memphis.

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