Disney Unable to Melt away Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Concerning Frozen Trailer

July 31st, 2014 by

On Tuesday, July 29, 2014 U.S. District Judge, Vince Chhabria, denied Disney’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit, Kelly Wilson v. The Walt Disney Company, et al.,. In Kelly, the Plaintiff, Kelly Wilson alleges that the Disney essentially copied the digital short film Wilson created called The Snowman for their Frozen teaser trailer.

Judge Chhabria, in his order wrote “Although Disney is correct that differences exist between the works… their plot and sequence of events have too much in common for a court to conclude that ‘no reasonable juror could find substantial similarity of ideas and expression’”.

The clip at issue shows a snowman that loses his carrot nose. The nose slides to the middle of a frozen pond where the snowman and an animal try to recover the nose. The animal wins and eventually gives the nose back to the snowman. While the tone of the two shorts is different – The Snowman is “somewhat dour while the [Frozen] trailer is goofy”, the overall sequence of events led to the denial to dismiss the lawsuit.

Wilson also claims that the movie Frozen, other Frozen trailers and that the snowman character in Frozen infringed upon The Snowman’s copyrights. These claims were dismissed.





Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television, Internet

Katz’s Deli Slices Up Imitator in Trademark Dispute

July 30th, 2014 by

In a not so surprising ending to this case, Katz’s Deli in Florida was forced to change its name.  As detailed below, a “copy Katz” restaurant popped up in Florida using the KATZ’S DELI trademark in its name and on its website.  The parties agreed to a settlement whereby Florida Katz’s Deli will change the name of its resturant and website.  No word on whether any salami changed hands but Katz’s originally claimed over $1 million in damages.



Originally Published on June 18, 2014

When you are as iconic as Katz Delicatessen in New York City you can bet that everyone who can put pastrami in between two slices of bread will try to emulate you. Emulation is fine as long as those doing the emulating are not using your name and protected trademark. Earlier this year, we wrote about how Katz sued a food truck over use of its trademarks. The article can be found here. After an ignored cease-and-desist letter and a phone call where the defendant refused to make changes to the restaurant’s name, Katz has sued another imposter in Florida – Katz’s Deli of Deerfield Beach, its owner Charles Re and 5 John Doe defendants.

The defendant’s website, blatantly references Katz in New York writing, “finally the unmistakable New York kosher style deli is right around the corner.” Not only does the defendant mislead consumers into believing the two locations are associated, but according to the suit the quality of the restaurant is not good and includes a Yelp.com review that says, “I hope the real Katz has nothing to do with this place”. The suit, seeks $1 million in damages for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition and an injunction to stop the defendant from using the Katz’s Deli trademark.




Posted in Trademarks

“Expendables 3″ Leaks Online Three Weeks Early

July 29th, 2014 by

Stallone is going to have to send in the Expendables to clean up this problem.  A full three weeks before its theatrical release, a high quality pirated version of the Expendables 3 has made its way online and is being downloaded like crazy.

Expendables 3 is not released until August 15, 2014 and features a who’s who of action stars of the 1980′s including Stallone, Gibson, Schwarzenegger and Snipes.  However, three weeks before its opening a pirated copy of the movie started appearing on Bittorrent websites.

In 2009, a similar leak occurred when a version of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine went viral pre-release.  An FBI investigation in that case lead to a Bronx man being arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for uploading the movie.

According to Variety, as of Sunday, the movie has been downloaded 1.13 million times.  In the United States, the average movie ticket cost is $8 and just assuming that half the downloads came from the United States this is more than $4.5 million in lost revenue for the action flick.  This isn’t the series’ first brush with piracy,  as the Expendables producers sued more than 23,000 Bittorrent users that had illegally downloaded the first movie in the series in 2011.

The pre-release of the movie is quite damaging to the box office return and reminds copyright owners that they need to stay vigilant to protect their intellectual property rights.  I am sure some arrests or lawsuits will result from this leak.





Posted in Copyrights, Film / Television, Internet, Technology

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.





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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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