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In Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744 (2017), the trademark case involving the name of the Asian-American rock band The Slants, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the portion of §2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), that prohibits the federal registration of potentially disparaging trademarks and service marks, violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The eight justices participating in the case agreed that the prohibition constituted a viewpoint-based government restriction, but they divided evenly on the constitutional significance of that consideration. Whatever the resolution of that division ultimately may be, though, the outcome of the litigation is unlikely to affect the validity of most — but not necessarily all — of the Lanham Act’s other prohibitions on registration. This is an important consideration in the entertainment industry in which products with outrageous names are common.
By Stan Soocher
That U.S. copyright-assignment termination issues are among the most complex in the copyright field becomes even more apparent when attempts to reclaim copyrights involve aspects of international law. Few courts have ruled, however, on the impact of international law on U.S. copyright-assignment terminations. The most recent to do so is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Ennio Morricone Music Inc. v. Bixio Music Group Ltd.
By James H.S. Levine and Douglas D. Herrmann
Some contract provisions will necessarily be customized for use in the particular agreement, while others will be boilerplate. But the intersection of those provisions in a merger agreement involving the acquisition of Cablevision Systems Corp led to a serious dispute— and cautionary tale for the merger-laden entertainment and media industries — about interpretation of the agreement, requiring a Delaware court to determine the impact of potentially conflicting language.
By Brian R. Michalek
In the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Iancu v. Brunetti, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent cautioned that the decision is likely to pave a path to a “coming rush to register [vulgar, profane, or obscene] trademarks.” The reasoning stems from the court’s majority finding that a portion of 15 U.S.C. §1052 — which had previously prohibited the registering of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks — is unconstitutional. Practically speaking, however, this “coming rush” will likely not be the case, even via the entertainment industry.
By Greg Land
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming a Florida lawyer failed to follow through on a $75,000 deal to land the late mega-musician Prince for a 2012 gig.