I’m sure I posted about this article when it was published, but it’s still an interesting and relevant read. It was written by one of my former classmates, Sara R. Ellis, and it’s available at SSRN:
Posts Tagged 'IP law'
Sara R. Ellis: Copyrighting Couture: An Examination of Fashion Design Protection and Why the DPPA and IDPPPA are a Step Towards the Solution to Counterfeit ChicPublished July 16, 2012 Legal Issues Leave a Comment
Tags: copyright, DPPA, fashion, IDPPPA, IP law
Tags: Hasbro, IP law, my little pony, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, patent, Patent Application, Patent Law, This is Actually Patented
I stumbled upon a drawing for a patent for “My Little Pony” today, which prompted me to look through Google’s Patent database for about an hour. I enjoy looking at patents—partially because I’m a huge nerd, and partially because they can be helpful. I actually save patent applications that I find amusing, and my little collection came in handy when I took a Patent Drafting class in law school. I had so much fun searching Google Patents that I decided to start posting links semi-regularly to some of the more interesting patents I find. So let’s get started.
Note: None of this is legal advice. It’s just me nerding out and having fun.
This week’s patents are design patents for “My Little Pony.”
All of these patents were issued in the 1980s, and all were assigned to Hasbro, the creators of the “My Little Pony” toy line and subsequent TV show. The drawings depict the horses in the original “G1” style. (The toys are currently in Generation 4, or G4, to coincide with the “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” TV series.) The “Toy Animal” patent shows the figure with hair and eyes, while all the other ones are featureless other than what the base molds would create—the horn, the wings, etc.
Since these are design patents, the terms are shorter than that of a regular patent. The patent terms lasted until the 90s or even into the 2000s. I wondered whether the expiration of the patent coincided with the G2 design for the ponies, and sure enough, in 1997 Hasbro introduced the second generation (G2.)
The Descriptions in these patents also differ greatly from most other patents. Where most patents actually describe the device, method, etc., these patents basically say “look at the drawings.” That’s because these are design patents. You can get away with referring exclusively to your drawing because that actually shows the design you’re trying to patent. Design Patents are more limited than regular patents, too—you have to take extra care to make sure your drawings depict everything you want to patent, because you don’t get protection for things that aren’t included in your design patent application.
So there you go–MLP unicorns and pegasuses (Pegasi?) were, at one point, patented designs. Interestingly, Hasbro lost the rights to a lot of the ponies’ names between G1 and G4–I believe that Applejack is the only G1 name that made it all the way to G4, but I could be mistaken. But that’s a different branch of IP law. 😄
Tags: copyright, IP law, lady gaga, Photography
Gaga has requested that concert photographers (that is, the people who are being paid to photograph her concerts) sign a release form before being allowed to shoot her shows. This release form would relinquish the photographer’s copyrights in the photos they take and assign them to Gaga.
Generally, photographers own the copyrights to the pictures they take, and thus retain the rights of distribution and publication. One of Gaga’s releases—she apparently has two of them—requires them to assign the copyright to her, and thus give her the rights over all of their images.
So what’s the problem? Some would argue that the subject of a photo should be able to control how their image is used. However, I think the primary issue is summed up in the article: “The people who get paid $125 to hang out for four hours at a concert have to sign this release. So on top of getting paid very little, they have no ongoing revenue stream from these photos whatsoever.”
In many cases, these photographers’ work is their livelihood. They use expensive equipment and have a specialized expertise and knowledge that allows them to take the best pictures possible in any given environment. Forcing them to relinquish the rights to their work—especially work like this, which could be licensed for Gaga’s promotional materials or sold—would hurt their abilities to make a living, because they wouldn’t be able to get royalties or fees from licensing. They also wouldn’t get the attention that would come with having their name attached to a picture of Gaga that shows up in a magazine or news blog, so there’s a reputation element, too. (On the other hand, if their names are still attached to the photograph, and Gaga’s team undertakes some horrendous editing techniques, that could hurt the photog’s reputation if people don’t know that Gaga is controlling the look of those pictures.)
Gaga always struck me as someone who promoted and appreciated artists—her whole persona is something of a performance art piece, and she always hails individuality. I can only imagine that this move is an effort to further control her ever-changing image; that’s the only justification I can think of to explain this strategy, which might hurt some up-and-coming photographers who don’t have the power to negotiate to retain their copyrights.
Tags: IP law, Photography
My friend Derek tried to get an insurance policy for his camera gear. He’s invested in some great equipment, but photography is his hobby, so he opted for a personal policy. As it turns out, he’s not eligible for a personal OR a commercial policy. I know a lot of photographers who would fall in this weird, uninsurable middle ground, and I’m amazed that there’s not a good policy for people considered to be freelancers. Peter Parker would have been totally screwed.
This is, unfortunately, not a new problem (as several of the links in the comments will explain), but it’s completely ridiculous. I don’t know what it is about the Internet that makes people think they can steal photos or other content and use them to make money. It’s even more egregious that this photographer had a CC license that explicitly explained how his pictures could be used. I hope he’s able to get some money from the Gap for their infringement.
Tags: IP law, star wars
Lucasfilm sent Wicked Lasers a cease and desist letter to stop them from making their laser swords.
Lucasfilm general counsel said, “It has come to our attention that a company called Wicked Lasers is selling a highly dangerous product out of Hong Kong that is designed to look like a lightsaber from Star Wars. This product is not licensed or approved by Lucasfilm in any way. We have demanded that Wicked Lasers immediately cease and desist their infringing activities. As Wicked Lasers itself admits, this product can cause serious injury to the user and other people. We strongly discourage consumers from purchasing it.”
(via Club Jade)