Simon Tam of the Asian rock band, The Slants, probably was not envisioning an 8-year-long legal battle when he chose the group’s name. Slant is known as a racial slur for Asians. Tam hoped to strip the term of its derogatory purpose and “reclaim” it by choosing it as a name for his Asian-American band, with hopes of giving it a sense of empowerment. Tam’s attempt to trademark the name with the federal government failed. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), citing the registration as disparaging. The provision prohibits registration of those marks that “consist of…matter which may disparage…persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”  Tam contested the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB) decision and the dispute eventually reached the Federal Court.
In March 2016, the popular music streaming service, Spotify, reached a settlement with the National Music Publishers Association (“NMPA”) to cover billions of unlicensed streams from member publishers dating back to the service’s U.S. launch in 2011. Spotify will pay $25 million to publishers and songwriters and $5 million in punitive damages—a sum many are calling an easy break for the billion dollar streaming service. Those who had their mechanical license rights infringed had until June 30, 2016, to opt-in to a settlement agreement between the NMPA and Spotify. The NMPA negotiated the settlement with Spotify on behalf of its members.The pros and cons of opting-in have been hotly debated as class action lawsuits, such as those brought by singer David Lowery and singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick, have been filed.
“It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process,” wrote SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. On September 24, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown took a controversial step toward achieving such a goal when he signed the Customer Records bill, AB-1687 (effective January 1, 2017), into law. This new state law requires that Internet Movie Database “IMDb” remove an actor’s listed age upon request by that actor. IMDb is a well-known website in the entertainment industry that offers information about movies, television shows, and actors. Its subscription service, IMDbPro, allows actors to create their own profile page and access job listings posted by industry professionals. Industry professionals directly use the website for casting calls and auditions and have been known to frequently filter out potential actors though information posted on the website. Thus, the broader goal of this law is to alleviate age discrimination in an industry that has been alleged to phase out ageing actors in a discriminatory fashion.
Brexit, the United Kingdom’s (UK) decision to leave the European Union (EU), has made headline news in recent months. Brexit is already impacting trademark rights in Europe, including in the sports and entertainment industry.
New UK Filings Required. Trademark rights are conferred on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis. Going forward, brand owners will not be able to rely on a single EU trademark filing to cover the same geographic territory in Europe. In light of Brexit, brand owners now need to file trademark applications in the UK as well as the EU to protect their trademarks in the same geographic territory. For years, separate trademark filings in Norway and Switzerland (and other European countries falling outside the EU) have been required. Brexit adds the UK to the list of countries requiring separate trademark applications in Europe.
After a 112-year hiatus, golf is returning to the XXXI Olympiad at the Olympic golf course, Reserva de Marapendi, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The men’s and women’s individual events, slated to be held on August 11-14, 2016 and August 17-20, 2016, respectively, mark the first time golf has been an Olympic event since the 1904 Summer Olympics. While winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games is typically viewed as reaching the apex of a given sport – see track and field, swimming, wrestling, gymnastics and figure skating as examples, the same is not true of other sports, such as baseball, with its World Series; tennis, with its Grand Slam tournaments; and soccer, with its World Cup. If some recent high-profile declinations of high-profile players, such as Adam Scott of Australia, to compete in the upcoming Olympics is any indication, golf squarely falls in the second camp: the Olympics and the national pride they inspire are of de minimis significance to the most accomplished, world-class golfers in the modern-day sporting era. However, there are many highly accomplished golfers who are enthused about participating in the Summer Olympics and as golf becomes a more established sport in the Olympic schedule, the sport will likely benefit from its return to the Olympic Games.
The ability of tattoo artists to protect themselves from negligence lawsuits got a boost from a recent decision of a New York court. The case of Jackson v. Black Ink Tattoo Studio Inc. drew national interest since the defendants in that case have been featured since 2013 in the VH-1 reality series “Black Ink Crew.” The plaintiff, who claimed that she traveled all the way from North Carolina just to receive a tattoo from Black Ink in New York City, claimed to have experienced scarring from the application of the tattoo. Black Ink, who denied the plaintiff’s condition resulted from Black Ink’s work, requires all of its customers to sign a consent form that provides, in part, as follows:
Stephen G. Rickershauser, a law student at Brooklyn Law School, is GSB's spring 2016 legal extern working out of its New York office.
What rights based in copyright law does a tattoo artist have in a tattoo itself, and to what extent can an artist use those rights to restrict the rights of others, including the people whose skin has been inked?
In February, Solid Oak Sketches LLC, a company holding the copyrights to eight NBA players’ tattoos, sued the videogame makers of NBA 2K16 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Complaint alleged that the videogame makers, Take Two Interactive Software Inc., infringed on the company’s right to license its copyrights in the tattoo designs when the videogame maker depicted the tattoos in its recent game without the company’s permission.
Some sports equipment inventions can have a huge impact on safety. In one example, an inventor found a way to improve safety for a skateboard, and, with this new design, the inventor founded a growing and thriving business. Fortunately, he was wise enough to protect the design through timely filing of a patent application.
Benjamin Riesenberg is a former Garvey Schubert Barer legal extern who worked out of the firm’s New York office. He was a law student at Brooklyn Law School.
As the popularity of fantasy sports grows, so do the legal issues surrounding the industry. The main legal challenges facing fantasy sports have been centered on the issue of whether pay-to-play fantasy sports contests constitute illegal gambling. In 2006, Congress passed The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”), which created certain guidelines for fantasy sports. For a pay-to-play fantasy sports contest to be legal under the UIGEA, the fantasy sports game must have a result that is predominantly based on the knowledge of participants as opposed to mere chance.
Eugene T. Lee, Of Counsel to the Sports and Entertainment practice group of Garvey Schubert Barer and a widely recognized and respected industry expert on NFL player contracts, salary cap, the collective bargaining agreement and athlete branding, has released a book titled “My Brother’s Keeper: Above & Beyond ‘The Dotted Line’ With the NFL’s Most Ethical Agent.”
The book delves into the lives of NFL players at different stages in their careers – from college to the pros, to life after the game. From the locker rooms into the homes of potential and current clients, Eugene brings to view what it takes to keep the dreams of players alive. Eugene also gives insight into how he conducts his business with the same integrity and faith by which he lives. Even though he is touted by some as a real-life “Jerry Maguire,” his unique, multi-faceted approach and charisma makes him an exciting and fascinating luminary to watch in this industry.
From meeting his first clients on the basketball courts at Notre Dame, Mr. Lee has represented over thirty-five NFL players over the past decade. From his work for his NFL clients, Mr. Lee has gained a vast understanding and in-depth knowledge of the legal aspects of NFL player representation including the drafting and negotiation of player contracts, injury settlements and endorsement and sponsorship agreements.
To purchase a copy of this book, please click here: http://tinyurl.com/nfq3zlf
The Sports, Arts and Entertainment Group at Garvey Schubert Barer provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.