Call for Regulation of Unlicensed Costumed Characters after Police Assault

July 28th, 2014 by

Times Square in New York is not Disney World but tourists love to take photos with costumed characters.  The not quite Dora the Explorer, Cookie Monster, Hello Kitty and a whole bunch of other non-authorized costume characters have become a fixture in the middle of Manhattan.  However, these unsavory characters, besides being trademark and copyright infringers, have had their fair share of bad press and an assault on a police officer may have been the last straw.

This past weekend, a man dressed like Spider-Man got into a spat with a tourist over a tip.  After allowing her to take a photograph a woman gave the counterfeit Spider-Man a $1 tip which he refused and demanded a greater pay-off.  An officer overheard the exchange and told imitation Spidey, one Junior Bishop, he can accept tips but cannot demand money from people.  Bishop gave the officer a fine New York greeting containing an f-bomb and told him to mind his own business.  When Bishop was unable to produce identification to the officer he was arrested.  At one point during the arrest Bishop, pulled away from the officer and allegedly punched him in the face.  The phony Peter Parker was charged with assault and a myriad of other crimes.

This is just one in a line of unsavory incidents between the costumed characters and the good citizens of Gotham.  Recently, a different Spider-Man was arrested for allegedly groping someone; a Cookie Monster was charged with endangering the welfare of a child after allegedly shoving a two year old boy; and a dirty Big Bird was caught on film yelling racial epithets at passersby.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Times Square Alliance are calling on regulation that would license the people behind the masks.  Also of a concern is the fact that these people are violating companies’ trademarks and copyrights by creating unauthorized costumes.  These trademarks are further tarnished and diluted by the bad acts of these furry panhandlers. The City Council is looking into these issues and hopefully will expeditiously solve this problem.

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Posted in Brands, Comics, Counterfeits, Film / Television, Trademarks


San Diego Comic Con Intellectual Property No No’s

July 25th, 2014 by

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend San Diego Comic Con this year but living vicariously through website updates. Below is a recycled piece from October’s New York Comic Con but very much applicable to the West Coast version.  If you are heading to Comic Con or you are a writer, designer or artist, here are some quick tips on things that violate other’s intellectual property (“IP”) rights and can get you sued.

1. Don’t Copy Someone’s Trademark or Copyright for Clothing 

Year after year at Comic Con, I see a lot of shady looking t-shirts for sale that don’t look quite right. If you replicate someone else’s copyrights or trademarks they are illegal to sell.  The items are typically called knock-offs or counterfeits.  Trademarks and copyrights can only be reproduced on clothes with a license from the IP owner.

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2. Artists Need Permission to Reproduce Copyrights and Trademarks

A walk down Artist Alley reveals many artists selling reproductions of comic book heroes and villains that they created themselves.  While an artist is unlikely to get sued for a single drawing made for a fan, if they don’t have permission it is technically copyright and/or trademark infringement.Fair Use is a defense to copyright infringement but it is better to be safe than sorry.

spider-drawing

3. Don’t Try to Sell Custom Made Costumes

Most companies will not sue someone if you make your own costume but it technically is copyright and/or trademark infringement.  However, if you try to mass produce costumes it might get you sued; it has happened to many companies when they failed to get permission from the IP owner.

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4. Fan Fiction is Copyright Infringement

We all have characters that we love but it is technically copyright infringement if you take someone else’s characters, settings and plots and create your own story.  It likely will not get you in trouble if you do not sell your work to the masses, but it is copyright infringement. For instance, you can’t use the characters and likeness from the Harry Potter universe and create your own story and comic books. You can read about some recent Harry Potter troublesome unauthorized tales here.

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5. Don’t Hit Me with a Bamboo Sword        

True story, an overambitious little cosplayer was reenacting some fierce battle when he quickly turned around, swung and nailed me in the leg with his bamboo sword.  It hurt like heck and it will get someone sued the next time it happens.

Have a great time at Comic Con this weekend!

 

 

Posted in Brands, Comics, Copyrights, Film / Television, Gaming, Trademarks


Dos Equis Does Battle with “West Virginia’s Most Interesting Man”

July 24th, 2014 by

Dos Equis doesn’t usually oppose trademarks but when it does it prefers to battle with car dealerships.  The company behind the beer Dos Equis and its almost as famous ad campaigns and trademark THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD, has opposed a West Virginia car dealership’s attempt to register a similar trademark from a series of knock-off commercials.

Cervezas Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma Sa de CV. (that’s a mouthful) is the company behind Dos Equis beer.  In 2010, Dos Equis registered THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD in association with its wildly successful ad campaign featuring the man who is fluent in all languages, including three that he only speaks.

Brown Chevrolet, Inc., in West Virginia, began running a knock-off campaign about West Virginia’s Most Interesting Man. The commercials are almost exactly the same and you can see one here.  The commercials didn’t get on Dos Equis’ radar until March 2014 when the car dealer’s attempt to register the mark, WEST VIRGINIA’S MOST INTERESTING MAN, was published for opposition.  Dos Equis has sued other companies for trademark infringement over similar ad campaigns and moved to oppose this registration.

Dos Equis claims that this trademark will confuse consumers to think the beer’s trademark is associated with the car dealer’s and that the similar trademark is diluting Dos Equis mark. The car dealer may still be sued for infringement over the ad campaign but Dos Equis is only opposing the mark at the current time.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Posted in Brands, Film / Television, Trademarks


Further Tales of “Harry Potter” Told in Unauthorized Books

July 23rd, 2014 by

dinosaurRecently, J.K. Rowling teased Harry Potter fans with a short news-like update on her website about the recent activities of Harry and the cast of characters from the wizarding series. But way before this snippet of Potter news, the tales of sorcery have lived on in China with a series of unauthorized and copyright and trademark infringing novels.

The last Harry Potter novel was released in 2007 and the franchise is now worth an estimated $115 billion dollars.  Despite the seven books and eight movies, fans cannot get enough.  Further adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione have lived on in fan fiction but in China they have taken it to a whole new level.  A series of books has been released, unauthorized, of course, telling stories of Harry befriending Chinese acrobats and dinosaurs while continuing to battle Voldemort.

One of these books even features a crossover with the Lord of the Rings.  In Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To Dragon the “author” takes the story of  The Hobbit and replaces the characters with ones from the Harry Potter books.  Another story, Harry Potter and the Golden Armor features Harry riding a Tyrannosaurs Rex.  In Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll, Voldemort has a Chinese equivalent, Yandomort, that also battles Harry.

Of course these books are all infringing Rowling’s copyrights because they use characters and story lines without authorization.  Also, these books infringe some trademarks as they bear trademarked images and logos including this book below that for some reason also includes a character from A Bug’s Life. So if you hunger for some sub-par Harry Potter stories they are out there but you may have to learn some Chinese first.

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Posted in Brands, Copyrights, Counterfeits, Film / Television, Trademarks


Writer Claims Makers of “The Purge” Stole His Screenplay

July 22nd, 2014 by

purge-postUsually disputes like this are settled on the day of the annual Purge but not this time around.  A writer is suing the makers of The Purge for copyright infringement claiming that Universal Studios, and others, stole the plot of the movie.

The Purge, starring Ethan Hawke, tells the story of a family trying to survive the annual Purge; a night when all crime, including murder, is legal.  The low budget movie went on to gross more than $64 million in the United States.  Just last Friday, the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, was released and grossed $28.3 million in its opening weekend.  Douglas Jordan-Benel is a screenplay writer who created Settler’s Day in 2011; a story about a family that must withstand the one night a year that killing is legal.  Plaintiff claims that the two screenplays are so similar that it is a “virtual impossibility” that The Purge was independently created.  Among the similarities, plaintiff claims that both scripts feature the protagonist “consuming sweet baked goods,” fathers experiencing heavy traffic of the day of the holiday, and similar action descriptions like “head exploding” versus “bits of brain flying”.

Plaintiff claims that the makers of The Purge got their hands on his script when he shared it with a talent agency that also represents the credited writer of The Purge screenplay. Plaintiff is suing the writer and several movie studios behind the film for copyright infringement.  Plaintiff does not explain why he waited until now to file the lawsuit and does not claim copyright infringement concerning the sequel that was just released.  For his damages, plaintiff seeks to purge the defendants of $5 million.

 

 

Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television



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