With the close of the United States Supreme Court’s 2013-14 term, we offer this wrap-up of the Court’s term, focusing on the Court’s most important business and commercial cases (excluding intellectual property opinions): Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund: The Court upheld the fraud-on-the-market theory first set forth in Basic Inc. v. Levinson, which allows investors to satisfy the reliance element of a section 10b-5 securities fraud claim by invoking a presumption that the price at which stock is purchased in an efficient market reflects all public, material information — including material misstatements.
Time Bars for Joint Authors and Copyright Registration Cancellation: The Third Circuit Weighs in on Two Issues of First Impression
On January 29, the Third Circuit issued an opinion in Brownstein v. Lindsay that addressed two issues of first impression under United States Copyright Law. One was whether a court has authority to cancel a copyright registration. The second was when the statute of limitations begins to toll on a co-author’s claim of copyright ownership against his or her co-author.
In what may not come as a surprise to many in the legal field, a federal court has recently confirmed that pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes-related works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are within the public domain. In the United States, it is established that copyrights of any works published or copyrighted prior to 1923 have expired, and such works are part of the public domain. The characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were first introduced in 1887 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in “A Study in Scarlet.” Prior to 1923, Doyle published a total of four novels, and forty-six short stories involving these characters. It would be reasonable to conclude that any of these pre-1923 works were in the public domain, free of copyright protection.
Following a status conference held on June 27, it appears that the copyright case relating to ownership rights in the comic book super hero “Ghost Rider” will be going to trial in the Southern District of New York in November. We recently reported that the Second Circuit reversed the lower court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, Gary Friedrich Enters., LLC v. Marvel Enters., Inc., finding a genuine issue of material fact existed as to what rights, if any, Friedrich retained in the character following a 1978 contract he entered with Marvel. We reported additional background on the case here.
Last week, in Gary Friedrich Enters., LLC v. Marvel Enters., Inc., the Second Circuit reversed the lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Gary Friedrich, who created the comic book super hero “Ghost Rider,” ruling that Friedrich could maintain his lawsuit against Marvel Enterprises Inc. regarding his ownership rights in the character.
The Laws of Physics and Copyright Law: SDNY Rules that First-Sale Doctrine Does Not Apply to the Resale of “Used” Digital Media
Owners of books and music in physical media form need not fear if ever they decide to sell, rent, or otherwise dispose of these copyright-protected materials. The first-sale doctrine permits such activities by extinguishing a copyright owner’s exclusive right of distribution of copyrighted items that have been lawfully sold or transferred. However, according to a recent federal court ruling, Capitol Records, LLC. v. ReDigi Inc., No. 12 Civ. 95 (S.D.N.Y. March 30, 2012) owners of digital versions of the same works may find it more difficult to sell, rent, or otherwise dispose of their digital files.
Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts and Determines That International Copyright Exhaustion is Now the Rule
Online resellers, used book stores, art galleries, and museums, among others, apparently can now breathe a sigh of relief and continue to display and resell goods originally sold or manufactured outside of the U.S., without the specter of a potential copyright infringement action looming on the horizon. Last week, in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 6-3 vote, held that the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of a copyright-protected work lawfully made abroad. Under copyright law, the “first sale” doctrine states that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title . . . is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.” 17 U.S.C. § 109(a).
Closing the loop on our previous report, freelance commercial artist Wayne W. Peterson and the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company have reached a confidential settlement in their copyright spat. Peterson had alleged that the iconic motorcycle maker stole his copyrighted “Live to Ride” logo, created in 1985 and the “Harley-Davidson University” logo, created in 1991.
Last week, the U.S. Copyright Office published new exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), making circumvention of certain technological measures for restricting access to copyrighted works legally acceptable. The exemptions took effect on October 28, 2012, and will last until the end of 2015.
Just as design patents for smart phones and yoga pants are recently making headlines, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill, S. 3523, entitled the Innovative Design Protection Act of 2012, which would extend copyright-like protection to fashion designs (the “Act”). The protection of the proposed Act would extend to “fashion design[s],” defined as the appearance as a whole of an article of apparel including men’s, women’s or children’s clothing, including undergarments, outer wear, gloves, footwear, headgear, handbags, purses, wallets, tote bags, belts and eyeglass frames. Given that many other countries already have laws that provide design protection for fashion design, the passage of the Act has the potential to help encourage and sustain the U.S. fashion industry.