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The Ninth Circuit held in VIP Prods. LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc., 953 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 2020), that VIP’s “Bad Spaniels” dog toy mimicking the appearance of a Jack Daniels whisky bottle was protected expression under the First Amendment, such that Jack Daniels’ infringement claim had to be assessed under the rigorous standard set forth in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989). Under Rogers, Jack Daniels’ infringement claim could proceed only if the distiller showed that VIP’s use of the Jack Daniels’ trademarks and trade dress either: 1) is not artistically relevant to the toy; or 2) explicitly misleads consumers as to the source or content of the toy. Following a remand and then summary affirmance by the Ninth Circuit, No. 21-16969, 2022 WL 1654040 (9th Cir March 18, 2022), the Supreme Court granted certiorari on November 21, 2022 to consider the principal question whether humorous use of another’s mark on a commercial product should be assessed under Rogers or the traditional multipart test of likelihood of confusion. (The case also raises issues of trademark dilution not directly addressed here.)
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By Christopher P. Bussert
This article explores developments (both positive and negative) in the post-TMA world in which courts have wrestled with implementation of the presumption of irreparable harm in trademark cases.
By Richard L. Hathaway
Recognizing that U.S. “copyright law protects only works of human creation,” the court determined that the Copyright Office “acted properly in denying copyright registration for a work created absent any human involvement.”
By Catherine Nyarady and Crystal Parker
This case has important implications not only for trademark registrations, but also potentially in determining collisions between trademark rights, rights of publicity, and freedom of speech considerations in future cases.
By Stephen M. Kramarsky and John Millson
Intellectual property laws, including copyright, patent, trademark and trade secret laws can provide avenues for companies to protect their IP. But it’s not always clear what assets are protectable and what are not.