1 Keeping celebrities free for public use?
The IPKat has learned from Thanhnien News, Vietnam, that that country's National Assembly is proposing to exclude the names and likenesses of celebrities such as Tran Dien Dung (right) from unauthorised use under its draft Intellectual Property Bill. According to the National Assembly's Standing Committee, that component is unnecessary as the Civil Code protects an individual’s right to his name.
The IPKat thinks this raises some interesting issues:
These (and other) questions do not require an instant answer, but it is at least good to think that IP policymakers might be considering them at legislative level.
* Does a celebrity's claim to be able to control his/her name and likeness stem from an inherent human right in the integrity of the person, or is it no different from any other commercial interest?
* Should any distinction be drawn between people who invest time and effort in the creation of their celebrity (singers, dancers, authors, politicians etc) and those who are famous by chance or birth (children of celebrities, survivors of natural disasters etc)?
* If it is the public who confer the status of celebrity upon an individual, should it not also be the public who retain the right to use and abuse the trappings of celebrity?
* When does a celebrity's name or image ever truly serve as a trade mark rather than as a product itself or as a description of that product?
* Where does this leave celebrity lookalikes and soundalikes? Should their ability to exploit their natural appearance and form of expression be limited by the fact that they share it with a celebrity?
Merpel adds, what about humans who are celebrities on account of the fictional roles they play (like Leonard Nimoy/Spock, left)? How should they be treated, both as humans and as business propositions?
2 Patent World
The July/August issue of Informa's ten-times-a-year Patent World magazine has fallen into the IPKat's hands. It contains a welcome assortment of contemporary content:
* Weil Gotshal & Manges attorneys Nicholas Groombridge and Jennifer Schmidt give s short-and-sweet review of proposed reforms to US patent law (Merpel asks, when did you last see an article authored by two US lawyers neither of whom sports a middle initial?);
* Martin Köhler (left), of Reimann Osterrieth Köhler Haft, Dusseldorf, explains what "standard related patents" are (this being a term that the IPKat has not previously encountered) and describes how they are used in fast-track litigation;
* IPWatchdog founder Eugene R. Quinn waxes lyrical on global harmonisation of the patent system;
* Olswang's Stephen Reese takes a look at disclosure requirements in the light of recent developments both in Europe and the US.
3 It's all happening down at the Copyright Tribunal
Not a lot gets written or heard about the UK's Copyright Tribunal, a specialist court that looks principally at the royalty demands made by collecting societies and collective rights administrators, to see if they're (i) fair and reasonable, (ii) extortionate or (iii) somewhere in between. The Patent Office has recently posted on its website a list of pending actions, which shows that the blanket licensing scene is pretty active these days.
There are three pending actions under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, s.119 (references relating to an existing licensing scheme), two under s.122 (applications for review of an existing order previously made by the Tribunal) and six under s.126 (references by licensees to continue licences that are coming up to their expiry date). The s.126 renewals look like fun: the applicants include Yahoo!, Napster and AOL, who are seeking favourable renewals of licences from the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society.
Details of previous Copyright Tribunal decisions here (incredibly, these can't be downloaded but have to be paid for, even though they're so cheap that the IPKat bets the admin costs of collecting and accounting for the fees exceed the income from them. Will someone from the Patent Office please explain?).