lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Batman, Turkey Sues Over Unauthorized Use of Name

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, Real life Batman faces super test, there is a town in Turkey named Batman whose mayor is suing Chris Nolan, director of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight for some sort of name infringement, claiming rights to the royalties.

Although this might initially raise the specter for Nolan of being haled into some Turkish IP proceeding, it seems even their courts would recognize the silliness of the proceeding:

[T]he name of a local region cannot be registered as a brand name, said lawyer Vehbi Kahveci, head of the Intellectual and Industrial Property Rights Commission of the Istanbul Bar. Also having overseas clients, Kahveci said “Batman” and his image is registered all around the world. The Batman Municipality missed the period in which they could object to the registration decision for Batman’s name as a superhero, according to Kahveci.

Is homonym a defense to such an action, I wonder? At least some of Batman, Turkey’s former residents make more sympathetic potential plaintiffs:

Şafii Dağ, a former Batman resident, currently living in the Germany city of Wesel, is one of those citizens who cannot use Batman as a title for his business, according to the newspaper. “I named my two restaurants Batman. But six months ago, a team of employees from the production company of the movie Batman made me change the title. Telling them that Batman was the name of my hometown did not change anything,” Dağ said.

Letter from Groucho Marx to Warner Brothers

From Barry Barnett’s Blawgletter, comes the rather entertaining letter sent by Groucho Marx to Warner Brothers threatened suit over the impending release of A Night in Casablanca (1946), which bore a less than vague resemblance to another Warner Bros. property, Casablanca (1942). It concludes with this classic tirade against lawyers:

I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department. I know the type well—hot out of law school, hungry for success, and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won’t get away with it! We’ll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin, and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca” goes tumbling over the spool.

Read the rest of it at ChillingEffects

Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

Intellectual Property at University of Houston Law Center builds on Houston’s Engineering Stronghold

The University of Houston Law Center has a long history of success in Intellectual Property, currently ranked #8 and seemingly full to the gills of engineers-turning-lawyers.

Richard Florida whose Rise of the Creative Class and Flight of the Creative Class are considered seminal works in theories of urban renewal, offers an explanation – Houston is Engineering-ville, USA.

For this week’s “By the Numbers,” we’ve taken a look at which metros have at least 10% of the national employment for creative occupations.

Granted, this approach leaves out medium and small-sized metros, but interestingly, you can start to see which major metros are controlling certain fields.

Houston has a stronghold on engineering. You can see this even more when the criterion is dropped to 8-9% of the national engineering workforce.

Hat tip to Tory Gattis of Houston Strategies.

UPDATE: The Volokh Conspiracy is currently grappling with the switch involved in going from studying engineering to studying law. Kerr earned degrees in mechanical engineering before going to law school. He’s now a professor at the George Washington School of Law.

I tend to think engineering education provides a pretty good background for law school, but that there are some pitfalls to keep in mind. Engineers tend to have two possible advantages over other entering law students. First, engineers usually have a very high tolerance for pain. It takes a lot of time and energy to “get” law school, and former engineers are used to facing that kind of challenge. (If you survived diffies, civ pro is nothin’.) Second, studying engineering trains students to think logically, step by step, and that kind of logical thinking can sometimes help students see relationships more easily than students with some other backgrounds.

I mentioned a pitfall, however, and that pitfall is that the nature of law and engineering are profoundly different in a very important way: Engineers study nature, while lawyers study something man-made.

Disclaimer: I was a liberal arts major. Quadrati-what-you-say?

Utah Legislators Ban Keyword Ads for Trademarked Phrases

Utah seems to be having a Ted Stevens moment. It’s legislature just passed the Trademark Protection Act which “establishes a new type of mark, called an electronic registration mark, that may not be used to trigger advertising for a competitor and creates a database for use in administering marks.”

For now I’ll leave aside the constitutional questions raised by the law until I actually take constitutional law and the thornier patent issues until Intellectual Property, but as an internet professional and a rational human being, I feel fully qualified to address its more obvious deficiencies.

Republican Dan Eastman sponsored the bill. He described the rationale for the bill in a blog post – Identity Theft: The Next Generation. See follow-ups here and here.

Trademark violations on the internet are rampant. In some cases people invest millions on their trademark, only to have their customers’ on-line word searches shanghaied by a pirate who bought off the search engines.

1 800 CONTACTS

In an interview, Eastman points out “You put 1 800 CONTACTS into Google and you get 47 different contact lens makers.” Eastman sees this as a problem. I don’t. I believe this is where our individual understanding of how the internet functions as a commercial proposition parts company. That position only makes sense if you see trademarks as granting rather expansive rights when used by third-parties. If you own a trademark, then you and only you have the right to invoke the magic words of your trademark for any commercial purpose. The ultimate question in his scenario is whether or not Trademark owners own the results of a keyword search on their trademark in the same way that they own the right for the exclusive use their trademark on their goods.

Identity Theft? Really? That’s the analogy you want to make?

Eastman correctly states the issue as one of identity. His illustrations, however, fail to show how that any identity is being stolen. Instead, it seems solely designed to protect companies from competition. If I search Google for 1-800-CONTACTS and I get an ad for LensWorld.com am I likely to mistake 1-800-CONTACTS for LensWorld? No. It’s clearly marked as LensWorld.com and I am capable of understanding as a separate entity and perhaps a competitor to 1-800-CONTACTS. No “identity theft” here. If it were a phishing site that looked identical to the 1-800-CONTACTS site then the danger of confusion is real and we’re now talking trademark infringement.

Scope Creep

Exploring the potential scope creep of this law, if it’s allowed to stand – it’s not clear to me how buying a trademarked keyword is all that different from any other scenario in which a trademarked keyword turns up a reference to a competitor. After this post goes up, you’ll be able to search “1-800-CONTACTS” on my website and get a clear reference to competitor LensWorld.com. Infringement? What if LensWorld paid me to do it? Assuming, of course, this site had enough traffic for anybody to care. Is it an infringement if a competitor’s site appears in Google’s natural keyword results of the search? In other words no money had changed hands, but Google’s algorithms turned up a competitor for that particular phrase. Would it make a difference if the competitor were paying a blackhat SEO firm to accomplish it?

As I understand it, Trademark law is designed to protect the consumer from being misled as to the origin or quality of a product or service. Instead Utah seeks to protect its businesses from an aspect of consumer choice. More along these lines from Prof. Eric Goldman.

More on Marshall, Texas, U.S. Patent Litigation Capital

NY Times So Small a Town, So Many Patent Suits

More patent lawsuits will be filed here this year than in federal district courts in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Washington. Only the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, will handle more patent infringement cases.

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