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Los Angeles Business Law Blog

Horse-racing announcer sues over trademark infringement in movie

Making a film in California sometimes results in some unexpected surprises, such as legal action. This is what's happening with a 2014 Bill Murray movie. A horse-racing announcer is suing the film's production company over what he claims is trademark infringement. The case centers around the phrase "And down the stretch they come!" which the announcer first used in the 1960s. It later became a well-known phrase when he used it during horse races shown on broadcast TV in the 1970s.

Inspired by what another announcer did with the iconic phrase "Let's get ready to rumble," the horse-racing announcer trademarked his popular phrase in 2012. The trademark infringement suit involves the unauthorized use of the phrase in a movie that has Bill Murray playing a retired, grumpy alcoholic who bets on horses. The lawsuit claims that the utterance of "And down the stretch they come!" by the unsavory character Murray plays in film tarnishes and damages the reputation of the announcer who owns the trademark for that phrase.

A claim involving BMW and trademark infringement

California brand owners may be interested in learning about a case involving car manufacturer BMW and a telecommunications company that registered with the same initials in its company name. This is something that is of particular interest to those with brands that are well-known around across the nation and around the world.

BMW issued the High Court in order to seek injunctions and declarations against the owner of the telecommunications company. The car manufacturer took this action even though the telecommunications company changed its name. Manufacturer executives felt that including these initials would misrepresent them. The auto manufacturer uses its trademark name for services and goods, including telecommunications. BMW used this to support their claim of trademark infringement.

Trademark infringement is on the rise

It's not unusual for California business owners to want to have something truly unique about their brand that's also legally protected. The World Intellectual Property Organization reports that the number of trademark application filings has spiked considerably. In 2017 alone, applications jumped 30 percent over the previous year. Because of the rise of trademark application filings, there is greater need to be diligent about screening, clearing, registering and watching trademarks.

Even with many brands being more cautious, infringement is on the rise. Any type of trademark infringement litigation has the potential to be devastating for a business, especially if a significant investment has already been made. A leading trademark research and brand protection firm conducted a survey in which 81 percent of respondents reported experiencing instances of infringement within the past year, a 10 percent increase from a survey conducted for the same purposes the year prior.

How to deal with sexual harassment claims as a business owner

Owning a business is hard work and can result in a high amount of stress. One of the greatest sources of stress is employee relations and how people get along with each other.

When one employee accuses another of sexual harassment, do you know how to deal with it? As a business owner, you set the tone for how the proceedings will go.

Cannabis companies, delivery giant in trademark dispute

While legalized cannabis may present an exciting new business frontier for many entrepreneurs, it can also lead to traditional disputes over intellectual property. United Parcel Service has filed suit against a group of marijuana delivery businesses for infringing its trademarks. In its lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, UPS also claims the companies are engaging in deceptive advertising.

The delivery company is suing United Pot Smokers, UPS420 and THCPlant, claiming that the companies use "confusingly similar" names, logos and images that resemble its famous initials and shield trademarks. According to the lawsuit, the companies also use websites containing the term "UPS" to sell their cannabis products. UPS said that it sent the companies three cease-and-desist letters in 2018, but it moved to the courts when the companies did not respond or change their names and website URLs. The company said that in addition to potential confusion on customers' part, it could also face reputational harm due to people believing that it is involved in the cannabis business. It also raised concerns that the quality of the defendants' business could further injure its reputation.

Trademark dispute over upcoming sci-fi film

One major California movie studio is being hit with a lawsuit over its upcoming film. Fox is releasing "Alita: Battle Angel," a major science-fiction production directed by Robert Rodriquez, in February 2019. However, Epic Stone Group filed suit on Jan. 30, claiming that it owns the trademark to the phrase "Battle Angel." The Florida company is accusing 20th Century Fox of trademark infringement and unfair competition. It says that it has been selling "Battle Angel" merchandise for over 10 years.

Epic Stone Group says that it trademarked the phrase in 2008 for goods like computer games, action figures and toys. In addition, the company said that it filed a new application in April 2018 to protect items including ebooks, downloadable movies and TV shows about space battles, DVDs, mobile phone ringtones and computer graphics. Therefore, the company claims that Fox's movie adaptation of the manga film "Battle Angel Alita" is creating confusion among customers and harming its brand as a result. The company also said that Fox was aware of the company's trademark and deliberately intended to lead customers to falsely believe that it was involved in the production of the film.

Alphonso beats patent infringement case with summary judgment

A lawsuit brought by Free Stream Media Corp. accusing Alphonso Inc. of infringing upon its patent ended with a summary judgment in favor of Alphonso in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The court determined that the facts did not support all of the claim elements in the lawsuit and therefore granted Alphonso's motion for summary judgment.

Free Stream Media Corp., which operates a service called Samba, had asserted that Alphonso violated its U.S. Patent No. 3,386,356 with a similar system that targeted advertising at mobile phone users based on their television viewing. The court ruled against Samba because evidence indicated that Alphonso did not use a relevancy-matching server linked to a television like Samba's patented technology.

Supreme Court to review clothing brand trademark case

California residents may be interested in a brand name trademark case that is headed to the United States Supreme Court for review. The case involves a fashion designer whose trademark application was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the grounds that the name of his clothing line is vulgar.

The clothing line is called FUCT. The USPTO rejected the owner's trademark application in 2011, citing a federal law, the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademarks containing matter that is "immoral, deceptive or scandalous.". The agency declared the name FUCT to be scandalous, calling it the past tense of a vulgar homonym.

Vans accuses Target of copying iconic sneaker design

The California-based footwear manufacturer Vans has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Target Corporation according to recent media reports. Vans claims that the retail giant's Camella sneaker copies design elements of their iconic Old Skool shoe introduced in 1977. Court documents reveal that Vans believes the Old Skool design was deliberately copied by Target to improve the market profile of its Wild Fable line or merchandise, of which the Camella sneaker is a part.

Vans alleges in its lawsuit that the similarity of the two sneaker designs could confuse consumers and hurt sales of its far more expensive shoes, and consumer comments appear to back up these claims. Several online reviews of the Camella sneaker mention its similarity to the Old Skool design, and one consumer even referred to the Camella shoes as 'fake Vans." Target sells the Camella shoe for $15 while a pair of Vans Old Skool sneakers cost $60.

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