Letter from Amerikat: Birthday Bits 'n Bobs

The AmeriKat is celebrating her 2nd birthday this week (she will leave you to calculate her age in Kat years). During the past few days she has cast her mind back to reminisce over the past two years in music, film, politics, and law. When she was a fresh kitten, the radios were booming with Madonna, Queen, Beastie Boys and Peter Gabriel and movie theaters were welcoming audiences to watch Top Gun, Pretty in Pink and Aliens. And in law, in the January that the AmeriKat was born, Kodak lost a patent infringement case with Polaroid, a loss which signalled Kodak's exit from the instant camera business. Today, we may still have Madonna booming away, but this time it is through our iPods. Patent law has also come a long way from the instant camera days. Nowadays our patent wars focus on mobile phone technology, albeit still concerning their camera technology as well as their touch-screen capabilities. This brief journey down memory lane just goes to show that over the past two *cough* years, everything changes, but everything stays the same be it in music or in IP law.

Lawyer Barbie back in the Federal Circuit dealing with Bratz - Something else that has not changed all that much from last year is the continuation of the Barbie v Bratz battle (previously reported by the AmeriKat here) which last week heard the parties' opening arguments in Californian federal court before Judge Carter. Barbie's maker, Mattel, alleged that the maker of the Bratz doll - MGA Entertainment- stole the idea for the Bratz doll by entering into a deal with the designer of the doll who had previously worked for Mattel. Mattel subsequently filed for copyright infringement and trade secret violations, while MGA alleges unfair competition and also trade secret theft. The case being heard by the court last week follows the previously overturned $100 million verdict of Judge Larson in favor of Mattel. MGA appealed this 2008 ruling on the grounds of incorrect jury instructions and an overly broad injunction. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed holding that the federal court judge had erred in ruling that Mattel automatically owned the designer's sketch of the doll under the terms of the 'Employee Confidential and Inventions Agreement' between Mattel and the designer and remanded the case back to the federal court. At the end of 2010 both parties applied for summary judgment on the issue of copyright infringement for the first and second generation Bratz dolls. Judge Carter granted summary judgment in MGA's favor in respect of the second generation Bratz dolls, but the remaining issues, including breach of copyright for the first generation of Bratz dolls and the breach of confidence/trade secret claims, remained for trial.

Following Judge Larson's departure from the federal bench, Judge Carter will now be rehearing Mattel's claims, but unlike the first trial the court will be tasked with determining whether the Inventions Agreement entitles Mattel to the designer's ideas for names like "Bratz" together with sketches that he created outside working hours. Also, ripe for ruling is MGA's trade secret claim against Mattel. Last year, MGA filed a counterclaim alleging that Mattel conducted an elaborate corporate espionage scheme in which Mattel employees, including general counsel Robert Normile and their attorneys from Quinn Emanuel, engaged in a racketeering conspiracy in order to gain access to MGA's private showrooms to obtain confidential information of Mattel's competitor's plans. According to a report last year in Am Law Litigation Daily, Quinn Emanuel partner Michael Zeller said that MGA's claims were "second-rate tactics by desperate lawyers" that "won't survive the pleading stage." Well, apparently they have! Mattel's lawyers say that in so far as the information MGA shared was shared at toy fairs, this information does not constitute a trade secret and therefore MGA is not entitled to their claimed $475 million in damages. The trial continues.

MJ's estate increases litigious activities - Last week, Michael Jackson's estate sued a website who is selling a book written by the singer's mother, Katherine Jackson, alleging copyright infringement. As reported by the Associated Press, Howard Mann, who operates the domain name www.jacksonsecretvault.com (picture, right - a shot of the allegedly infringing website left) is on the recieving end of the suit that alleges that he and the website are infringing copyright and are also liable under unfair competition laws. The complaint is reported to allege that the site is using the late singer's likeness and sketches that he drew and is said to creating a fasle endorsement by virtue of the inclusion of a "special thanks" to the estate. In a statement, the estate's attorney Howard Weitzman said that
"The Estate had hoped Mann would voluntarily cease his conduct but that was not to be. People who trade off of Michael's personality, copyrights and trademarks should not be allowed to exploit the legacy of one of the world's most recognized talents for their own benefit."
For more information see these reports in Hollywood Reporter and AP.

Koons's Balloon Dog to pop gallery's bubble? - Artist Jeff Koons has claimed copyright infringement against San Francisco gallery Park Life over a set of bookends that look like Koon's Balloon Dog, i.e. they look like balloon dogs. What do we think IPKat readers? Can Koons claim copyright infringement for anything that resembles a balloon dog? The AmeriKat thinks his lawyers, reported to be Jones Day, must have a field day at children's birthday parties.... For a more in depth look at that saga please see this excellent article in the New York Times. For how to make a balloon dog or an allegedly infringing Koons dog, please click here. (Pictures below from left to right - Koon's Balloon Dog; Park Life's balloon dog bookends; a balloon dog)

USPTO renews its IP Australia vows - Last week USPTO and IP Australia announced the extension of their existing pilot Paris Convention Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement and the formation of a new PPH pilot agreement utilizing the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT-PPH) results. PPH agreements improve efficiency by allowing patent examiners to use work already undertaken in respect of the same claim or claims already reviewed at other patent offices and PCT Authorities. USPTO Director Kappos has stated that by including the PCT "more work can be shared between our two offices. This will benefit applicants by reducing patent pendency and improving quality.” According to the USPTO press release the addition of the PCT international phase work
"will greatly expand the usefulness of the PPH program to applicants and the offices. The new PCT-PPH pilot is scheduled to launch on January 24, 2011. The PPH pilot program and the PCT-PPH pilot program between the USPTO and IPAU are both currently scheduled to continue until April 13, 2012."
Pancake house drops suit against a house of God - Last year the AmeriKat reported on the trade mark suit filed by US eatery chain IHOP which stands for the International House of Pancakes against the International House of Prayer also known as IHOP. Unfortunately, however, there will be no courtroom fireworks in battle between pancakes and God, because four days before Christmas IHOP dismissed its case against the church citing "ongoing mediation with the defendants."

Letter from Amerikat: Birthday Bits 'n Bobs Letter from Amerikat: Birthday Bits 'n Bobs Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Sunday, January 23, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Happy Birthday, AmeriKat!

    You are a happy part of my Sunday schedule and doing a great job.

    You are a very precocious two year old and you have moved elegantly from the kitten to the cat stage - and you keep both the American and European litter boxes of various IP developments well tended.

  2. I misread that last comment as "ongoing meditation with the defendants".

    How apt!


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