Licensing

Neil Young’s Suit Illustrates Music Licensing Issues

On August 4, iconic guitarist Neil Young sued the Trump Campaign, claiming that Trump’s unauthorized use of his songs Rockin’ in the Free World and Devil’s Sidewalk at various rallies, including at the Tulsa rally on July 20, violated Young’s copyrights in those songs.  In filing his complaint, Young joins an elite crowd of artists who have complained about the purported unauthorized use of songs when the artist and the writer were not otherwise aligned politically.  Reagan, GW Bush, and McCain (among others) have all had to defend claims brought by, respectively, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Heart suggesting that use of their songs were unauthorized violations of their copyrights (and other rights) in those songs.

Fundamentally, Young claims that he owns the copyrights in the songs used by the campaign and the campaign used them without authorization.  Accordingly, he argues that he should be awarded an injunction against continued use, and damages for the prior violations.

These claims have a simple elegance and on their face.  But anyone who has dealt with music performance rights and licensing knows that there is almost nothing simple about those concepts.  Indeed, the world of music licensing is among the … Keep reading

Licenses, SaaS, and the Cloud

Some Legal Issues to Consider When Migrating to Become a Service Provider

Although everyone’s into blockchain and the Internet of Things, believe it or not, there are still plenty of traditional software developers out there, and some of them still distribute physical software under traditional licenses to end users. Many of these vendors are in the midst of migrating their business models to distribution of their software as a service (SaaS), or via related models (platform or infrastructure as a service [PaaS and IaaS], among others). For vendors moving in that direction, there is a tendency to try to shortcut changes to standard license agreements by merely amending existing license terms to refer to SaaS environments. However, that attempt to “make do” with a software license when vendors move to the cloud can lead to potentially significant legal problems down the road.

License or Not?

Commentators on the legal consequences of SaaS distribution of software are quick to point out that a license grant to software provided over the web is probably ill-advised (although that analysis may be over-simplified). Technically, because the software is not installed locally, and users are merely accessing it in the cloud or at a … Keep reading

What's In a Name?

Question: What do Sean Combs, J.K. Rowling, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Mark Wahlberg have in common? Two things, actually. First, they are all listed on the Forbes 2017 Celebrity 100 List; second, they all have gone to the trouble of registering their personal names as trademarks with the U.S Trademark Office. Indeed, of the first 20 celebrities on this “A” list, 19 have sought registration of their names as trademarks.

Trademark Protections For Personal Names

Under Federal law, everyone is entitled to seek protection of his or her name as a brand. The Lanham Act expressly provides that:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it … consists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except by his written consent.

As indicated by the language of the statute, in addition to names, likenesses (portraits) and signatures of individuals are entitled to trademark registration. Several well-known entertainers have taken advantage of this right, including Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and Anthony Hopkins Keep reading

Does the Emperor Really Have No Clothes?

A Teachable Moment in the Way of the TRUMP Brand and Naked Licensing of Trademarks

 

The current POTUS has a lot of things on his plate right now, and the status of his trademark rights (or, perhaps, more appropriately, the trademark rights of the Trump Organization) around the globe shouldn’t be top of mind. That said, the Trump Organization’s pattern of not controlling the quality of services that are provided under the TRUMP brand provides a teachable moment in the world of trademarks and branding.

The news media have reported repeatedly about the Trump Organization’s penchant for distancing itself from TRUMP-branded projects that have failed, including those in Baja California, and Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as developments outside the U.S. in Panama and Azerbaijan, among others. While the details of these projects vary, all of them follow a similar narrative. The Trump Organization involves itself in the promotion of an upcoming TRUMP-branded real estate development, and then, despite hype and ample purchases by willing consumers and investors seeking to own a piece of TRUMP real estate, the project never properly gets off the ground, the developers flee with the deposits, and the purchasers … Keep reading