Amitabh Bachchan’s Film Accused of Copyright Infringement; Supreme Faces Copyright Infringement Suit Over Camo Print; Nirvana Files Copyright Infringement Suit Against Marc Jacobs; IPRS files FIR Against YRF for Allegedly Duping Artists and Musicians; Jay Z Settles Copyright Infringement Lawsuit; Taylor Swift’s Former Label No Longer Blocking Her Live Performances; Madhubala’s Biopic by Imtiaz Ali Put on Hold and more.
Supreme Faces Copyright Infringement Suit Over Camo Print
Supreme, the American designer clothing, is being sued for allegedly using a copyrighted camouflage print on a range of its clothing apparel. According to the complaint, filed by Montana-based fashion company ASAT Outdoors, Supreme used the camouflage design, owned and registered by ASAT, on its apparel, such as hats, pants, and jackets. The complaint seeks monetary damage, including but not limited to profits made by Supreme from the infringing products, or “statutory damages” up to USD 150,000 per infringed work, whichever is higher.
ASAT however, does not make any claims for trademark infringement in its complaint. If it can demonstrate that its camouflage print is associated by the consumer with its brand, which given ASAT’s expansive retail footprint, including deals with retail giants like Walmart, is not unlikely, a case for trademark protection and consequently, infringement can be made.
Court Proceeds with Nirvana Infringement Suit Against Marc Jacobs
A California federal court shot down a motion to dismiss filed by American fashion designer Marc Jacobs. The designer filed this motion to dismiss the copyright and trademark infringement suit filed against him by Nirvana, LLC, the company formed by members of the now-dissolved American rock band Nirvana. Jacobs was alleged to have infringed Nirvana’s copyright and trademark in its “Smiley Face” logo, which Nirvana claims has become associated with the band owing to its use since 1991. Jacobs used the distinctive smiley face image, replacing the eyes with the initials M and J, which was not sufficient to ensure that consumers would not associate Jacob’s re-released “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection with the band.
The court upheld Nirvana’s claim on the copyright front, holding that Jacob’s version of the logo was ‘substantially similar’ to Nirvana’s copyrighted work, noting further that Jacob’s products even combined the smiley face logo with “other distinctive elements of the Nirvana t-shirts, including through the use of yellow lines on black background and a similar type and placement for the text above the image on the clothing”.
In terms of its trademark claim, the court held that regardless of whether Nirvana maintained a registration, the band’s LLC had established that it maintains “a valid, protectable trademark in the Happy Face,” due to continuous use of the graphic “during the past 25 years.” On both fronts, the court deemed that the marks were not dissimilar enough to preclude any confusion on the part of consumers as to the origin and endorsement of the products. The Court will now proceed to hear the arguments for the matter.
Jay Z Settles Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
A copyright infringement case filed by American brand management company Iconix Brand Group against American rapper Jay Z and his entertainment agency Roc Nation has been settled out of court. Iconix claimed in the suit that it had paid over USD 200 million for the intellectual property rights for the “licensing and brand management” of the Roc Nation logo. However, without Iconix’s consent or authorisation, the Roc Nation logo was used on a series of baseball caps made by New Era, an American headwear company. This use, Iconix claimed, deliberately undermined and flouted a series of agreements entered into between Iconix and Roc Nation. The matter had escalated over the last two years, via a series of countersuits and accusations of breach and falsification of agreements and financial reports. According to reports, the two sides have now reached a settlement in which Iconix has agreed to sell some of its rights back to Roc Nation for a sum of USD15 million.
Taylor Swift’s Former Label No Longer Blocking Her Live Performances
Taylor Swift’s public feud with Big Machine Label Group has finally come to an end. The American company, which is Taylor Swift’s former record label, had been locked in a fight with the singer, who accused the label of preventing her from performing her songs in the upcoming 2019 American Music Awards, even taking to the social media site Tumblr to share her frustration. The record label reportedly even refused to license her songs to Netflix for an upcoming biopic on Swift. However, Big Machine has now announced that it has decided to grant all licenses of its artists’ performances to stream post show and re-broadcast on mutually approved platforms, which would include the American Music Awards.
Swift had received widespread support before Big Machine acquiesced, including from the Music Artists Coalition, a musician advocacy group recently founded by American executive Irving Azoff along with musicians including Don Henley, Anderson Paak, Meghan Trainor, and Dave Matthews, which said that the label’s move to block Swift’s performance and biopic would be unprecedented. Swift also received the backing of 2020 American Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. The fracas, however, now seems to have come to a reasonable close.
Amitabh Bachchan’s Film Accused of Copyright Infringement
Jhund, the upcoming film starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, has been accused of copyright infringement by Hyderabad-based filmmaker Nandi Chinni Kumar. The filmmaker claims to have bought the exclusive rights from Akhilesh Paul, a slum soccer player who was the Indian captain at the Homeless World Cup, to make a movie on his life, which Kumar tentatively titled Slum Soccer. He even claims that he has registered the script and story with the Telangana Cinema Writers Association on June 11, 2018. Jhund is a film based on the life of Slum Soccer founder Vijay Barse, who is Akilesh Paul’s coach. Kumar therefore, claims that, the portrayal of Paul and his story is a major aspect of Jhund, violating Kumar’s copyrights.
After alleging that he has been cheated and criminally intimidated by the makers of the film, Kumar has sent legal notices to the film’s director and producer, Nagraj Manjule, producer Krishan Kumar, T-Series Chairman and Managing Director Bhushan Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Vijay Barse. Kumar further claims that he has received a reply to the notice only from T-Series, the film’s production company, but that too, was “very vague”. Following this, Kumar now plans to approach the courts to prevent the film from being screened in theatres, on television, and on all digital platforms.
IPRS files FIR Against Yash Raj Films (YRF) for Allegedly Duping Artists and Musicians
The Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS), a body made up of composers, lyricists, and music producers, has filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police against the Indian film production company YRF. The FIR accuses YRF of illegitimately pocketing INR 100 crore in music royalties belonging to members of the IPRS. It is claimed in the FIR, that YRF pressured artists to sign illegal agreements, preventing them from collecting royalties from telecom companies, radio stations and music streaming platforms. The FIR was registered under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and other sections of Copyright Act.
Madhubala’s Biopic by Imtiaz Ali Put on Hold
Indian film director Imtiaz Ali has been faced with a roadblock in his move to make a biopic on the late Indian actress Madhubala. After having issued a public notice announcing that he had acquired the actress’ life rights from her sister Madhur Brij Bhushan, the director has now received a legal notice from another sister, Kaniz Bulsara. The notice claimed that even though Bhushan had given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the life rights, Bulsara had not done the same. An industry source said that there are often several parties involved when it comes to the life rights of a deceased celebrity, and unless permissions from all these parties have been obtained, one cannot successfully acquire the said rights. Imtiaz Ali had announced plans to make a film or a web series, but as of now, Bulsara does not wish the same to be made, reportedly because there are several stories of Madhubala’s life that Bulsara does not want revealed in this manner.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Param Gupta (Legal Intern)
The Entertainment Law News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the Entertainment Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected] with the subject: Ent Law News.
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