Nov.-Dec. 2011 Quick Links, Part 2 (Extended IP Edition)

By Eric Goldman


* Costco v. Omega (E.D. Cal. Nov. 9, 2011). On remand after the disappointing non-result from the Supreme Court in this case, the district court gives Costco a decisive win, holding that Omega engaged in copyright misuse:

Omega concedes that a purpose of the copyrighted Omega Globe Design was to control the importation and sale of its watches containing the design, as the watches could not be copyrighted. Accordingly, Omega misused its copyright of the Omega Globe Design by leveraging its limited monopoly in being able to control the importation of that design to control the importation of its Seamaster watches.

The net effect is that Costco violated copyright law’s importation clause but Omega’s copyright misuse makes the importation not actionable. This is one of the most significant copyright misuse decisions we’ve seen. Assuming it goes to the Ninth Circuit again, it will be interesting to see what they do with it. If this latest ruling stands, Omega’s legal hack will be decisively shut down; and other manufacturers trying to use copyright to control their channels for non-copyrightable articles will want to reevaluate their approach.

* The Righthaven debacle continues to wind towards its messy but inevitable conclusion. Some of the items from the last couple months that caught my attention:

– Every time Righthaven’s lawyers whine about opponents’ unfair litigation tactics, I’m dumbstruck by the duplicity.

– Stephens Media dropped its efforts to contest that Democratic Underground made a fair use by republishing a newspaper article excerpt.

Righthaven v. Wolf: “The Court admonishes Mr. Mangano regarding his lack of civility. The motion for reasonable attorney’s fees in the amount of $32,147.50 and costs of $1,000.85 is GRANTED.”

Righthaven LLC v. Newsblaze LLC, 2011 WL 5373785 (D. Nev. Nov. 4, 2011). Yet another dismissal for lack of standing.

– the auction for is going on right now. Current high bid is $1,900.

* C-70/10, Scarlet Extended SA v. Societe Belge des auteurs, compositeurs et editeurs (SABAM) (ECJ Nov. 24, 2011). Some interesting quotes from an ECJ opinion:

– “EU law precludes the imposition of an injunction by a national court which requires an internet service provider to install a filtering system with a view to preventing the illegal downloading of files”

– “The filtering system would also be liable to infringe the fundamental rights of its (Scarlet’s) customers, namely their right to protection of their personal data and their right to receive or impart information”

– “E.U. law precludes an injunction made against an Internet service provider requiring it to install a system for filtering all electronic communications passing via its services, which applies indiscriminately to all its customers, as a preventive measure, exclusively at its expense, and for an unlimited period”

* Brownmark Films LLC v. Comedy Partners, 2011 WL 6002961 (E.D. Wis. Nov. 30, 2011): In awarding a fee shift to defendants, “the Court finds that Brownmark’s legal positions were also objectively unreasonable, and thus their position was frivolous. To this Court, there is little that could justify the plaintiff’s stated view that the South Park version was not parody….given the transformative nature of the use and the lampooning Brownmark’s original received, there is ample reason to believe that South Park’s use would have greater spurred the market for the original. In the internet era, with information freely and quickly accessible, viewers interested in South Park’s version could turn to the internet to find a copy of the original. And any confusion over which version was the original could be supplied to online viewers through a statement at the video’s web page. For all of these reasons, the Court finds that Brownmark was objectively unreasonable in its position that South Park’s use was not fair.” Wendy Davis’ writeup.

* Carolyn Wright, a/k/a PhotoAttorney, who helps photographers enforce their copyrights, got side-swiped in a misguided enforcement action and had her photo site mistakenly taken offline by a DMCA takedown notice (not surprisingly, GoDaddy was in the middle of this).

* UC Berkeley revamps its policies about student note-taking and recordings of classes. It seems a little odd to encourage faculty members to be sending 512(c)(3) takedown notices freely. James Grimmelmann has more criticisms.

* Gibson v. Amazon (C.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2011). The court rejected a copyright infringement case against Amazon, Urban Dictionary and others. Gibson is appealing to the Ninth Circuit.

* RIAA is in pre-litigation enforcement mode against ReDigi for reselling digital files.

* The Zynga-Vostu litigation settled.

* Ars Technica: Warner Bros: we issued takedowns for files we never saw, didn’t own copyright to

* Megaupload brought a 512(f) suit against UMG for wrongfully taking down a promotional video. The complaint. The contract. James Grimmelmann’s comments.

* The economics of the record label-online music site deals look very, very bad for the music sites.

* Techdirt: Congressional Research Service Shows Hollywood Is Thriving

* David v. CBS complaint. Tertiary infringement re-redux: sued again for secondary copyright infringement for distributing LimeWire and BitTorrent clients.

* A Singapore newspaper sued Yahoo News for copyright infringement.

* An analysis of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).


* 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v., Inc., 2011 WL 5403368 (D. Utah Nov. 4, 2011). The court denies 1-800 Contacts’ motion for post-judgment relief based on newly discovered evidence. This case could be a textbook case of trademark bullying–remember, 1-800 Contacts has spent well over $650k on this case and made $20 (not a typo) of profit directly from its keyword ads based on 1-800 Contacts’ trademarks. Prior blog post.

* Speaking of trademark bullying, does an “Eat More Kale” t-shirt infringe any IP rights that Chik-fil-A has in “Eat Mor Chikin”? See the 2011 C&D letter, the 2006 C&D letter and the 2006 C&D response. I assume most kale eaters don’t overlap with Chik-fil-A consumers. But, Paul Levy explains why there should be a pox on both parties’ houses.

* Lovely Skin, Inc. v. Ishtar Skin Care Products, LLC., 2011 WL 6055489 (D. Neb. Dec. 6, 2011). In a trademark lawsuit, the defendant asked for:

REQUEST NO. 32: All documents referring or relating to purchasing of keywords, “Ad Words,” “sponsored links,” or other advertisements for search engines and any efforts to achieve search prominence on search engines, including but not limited to Your purchase, or consideration to purchase, the name “Lively Skin” or the URL

REQUEST NO. 37: Documents referring or relating to communications with Google to purchase “lively skin” and “” as keywords or “Adwords.”

The court says (cites omitted):

In support of its motion to compel, Ishtar states that Lovely Skin’s production of documents in response to these requests are “deficient for two reasons.” First, the Google information lacks the dates that the keywords were used, which are necessary to establish “(1) whether Lovely Skin’s marks had achieved secondary meaning when Ishtar entered the market; and (2) the extent of Lovely Skin’s inequitable use of the term “livelyskin” in its keyword advertising campaigns.” Second, Ishtar claims that as a result of its recent Internet searches, Ishtar has learned that “Lovely Skin possesses additional information regarding keyword purchases made by Lovely Skin through other search engines.” The Court finds that the information sought by Ishtar is relevant to its affirmative defenses of the claims made against it by Lovely Skin.

* Partners for Health and Home, L.P. v. Seung Wee Yang, 2011 WL 5387075 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 28, 2011):

Defendants have infringed Plaintiff’s Perma–Life trademark by each of the following acts, taken either individually or as a whole:

a. Registering the domain and using it to promote their competing Pearl Life cookware;

b. Applying the metatags “perma life” and “permalife” to the website at through which they sold their competing Pearl Life cookware;

c. Applying the term “permalife” as visible video tags (indexes) on videos promoting Pearl Life cookware which they posted on the Internet at video sharing websites YouTube ( and Tag Story (, and on the “blog” site Daum (www

d. Purchasing the term “permalife” as an Internet search engine advertising keyword to direct Internet users to their website at at which they advertised their Pearl Life cookware.

* Foreword Magazine Inc. v. Overdrive Inc., No. 10-1144 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 31, 2011). Offering to sell a domain name after getting a C&D can’t be introduced as evidence of bad faith in the resulting ACPA suit.

* Weather Underground v. Navigation Catalyst (E.D. Mich. Nov. 9, 2011). Typosquatters’ liability for ACPA violations must be evaluated on a domain name-by-domain name basis, not based on the defendant’s entire portfolio; and ACPA bad faith cannot be established on a “willful blindness” standard.

* iYogi Holding Pvt. Ltd. v. Secure Remote Support, Inc., 2011 WL 6291793 (N.D.Cal. Oct. 25, 2011). A default judgment against a competitor who created fake reviews bashing the plaintiff.

* Fordham sent a trademark demand letter to Texas Wesleyan for using the acronym “CLIP” to describe its IP center, which garnered derision from many other IP professors. The demand letter (currently set to private; I’m trying to fix that).

* Multi-Time Machine v. Amazon complaint. A watch manufacturer sues Amazon for trademark infringement based on Amazon’s internal search engine’s results.

* Night Owl Games v. Zynga complaint. Another game developer seeks a declaratory judgment against Zynga over the -ville trademark, this time “Dungeonville.”

* Harvard spikes a Yale t-shirt making fun of it.

* Rebecca provides three updates on Southern Snow Manufacturing Co. v. Sno Wizard Holdings, Inc. (see my prior blog post on the case): insurer had duty to defend, a baffling battle over false trademark marking, and a further rejection that metatags matter.

Patents/Trade Secrets

* The Trade Secret Litigator: The America Invents Act: What Will the Impact of the New Patent Law’s “Prior Commercial Use” Defense Have on Trade Secret Protection?

* Coca-Cola turns the vault for its secret formula into a tourist attraction.

* The producers of the Bachelor/Bachelorette sued Reality Steve for inducing show participants to leak spoilers. Reality Steve’s response.

* Are strict limits on e-discovery coming for patent cases?

* All Things D reports on Abhyanker v. Benchmark Capital, an idea theft lawsuit against a VC fund involving the entrepreneur who also is behind Trademarkia.