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Los Angeles Business Law Blog

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.

About using patents

One of the concerns entrepreneurs in California may have is how to prevent their company's intellectual property from being stolen or copied. The use of patents is one aspect of intellectual property management business owners may use to protect their company's assets.

Patents are legal declarations of property that give entities the exclusive rights to producing and selling inventions, and they should be considered valuable assets of a business. However, it is important that business owners understand exactly how they work before submitting patent applications.

Trademark battle divides famous family

Families in California and across the country may face conflicts when business and even intellectual property enter the picture. In one case, relatives of Phyllis Schlafly, the well-known late conservative activist, failed to block a brewery owned by a relative from trademarking their surname. A panel of the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of Saint Louis Brewing LLC, co-founded by a nephew of Schlafly. He applied in 2011 to trademark his last name for his Schlafly-branded beer.

One judge said in the ruling that through the sales of beer under the Schlafly name, it had acquired a distinctive, secondary meaning. Once that point has been reached, it is possible to trademark a surname. Between 2009 and 2014, sales of Schlafly beer reached 74.8 million bottles, cans and servings on draft. The brewery began selling beer under the name in 1991. Despite the growing popularity of the beer, other members of the family intervened in an attempt to block the trademark. Phyllis Schlafly and her son claimed that the trademark could injure their reputations by associating them with alcohol despite being well-known for their conservative politics.

Counterfeit goods sold online are on the rise

Knockoffs of popular luxury brands typically appear in cruise ports and with vendors on busy city streets. Where else can you get a $1,200 purse for $100? These days, these same phony products are making their way online in large communities such as Amazon and eBay.

What can a company do if they come across phony products? One fashion powerhouse recently won a case against fake goods.

Girl Scouts accuse Boy Scouts of trademark infringement

California residents may be aware that the Boy Scouts of America started admitting girls in 2017, but they may not know that this decision has sparked a contentious legal dispute with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. In a federal lawsuit filed in New York on Nov. 6, GSUSA alleges that BSA's branding of some of its offerings as "Scouting" and "Scouts"infringes on its trademarks in a way that damages its brand and confuses the public.

The trademark infringement litigation claims that BSA's rebranding will lead parents to believe that the services offered by GSUSA are not officially sanctioned scouting programs. The two organizations are not related but have coexisted amicably for more than 100 years. Unlike more conventional organizations, both BSA and GSUSA have congressional charters and the terms "Boy Scouts" and "Girl Scouts" are protected by special trademark laws.

USPTO warns of third parties hacking trademark applications

Creators in California rely on registration of patents and trademarks through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to establish their ownership of valuable intellectual property. Stakeholders often use the Trademark Electronic Application System to send in their applications, but a small portion of active applications and registrations have been compromised. The USPTO has issued an alert to warn people about entities making unauthorized changes to applications and registrations. Their goal appears to be switching registration to third-party brand registries.

The alert informed people to pay close attention to emails from the agency. All changes to electronic records trigger automated emails. Stakeholders should carefully check all such correspondence to confirm whether the change was authorized or not.

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