Category Archives: Business Law

Information about legal issues affecting small businesses, including big business. The latest news, videos, and discussion topics on Legal Issues involving business and money.

Disney Fights Unlicensed ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Frozen’ Characters at Children’s Birthday Parties

Yes, Hollywood studios tend to be fiercely protective of their intellectual property. These studios will often sue over unlicensed merchandise in the marketplace. Usually, these cases go away quickly and quietly. The defendants tend not to have the resources to fight back. Settlements and stipulated judgments are the norm. Well, not this time.

On Friday, summary judgment papers came in a lawsuit that Disney has filed in New York against Nick Sarelli, who runs an operation called Characters for Hire, LLC.

Disney alleges that Sarelli has a “knock-off business … built upon the infringement of Plaintiffs’ highly valuable intellectual property rights,” including the fictional characters Darth Vader, Iron Man and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Disney is upset how this company “provides unlicensed and poor quality appearances and performances” by actors dressed as “iconic characters for themed events, such as children’s parties.”

The lawsuit claims that the costumed actors appearing at these events and the advertising associated with this enterprise represent a violation of both its copyrights and trademark rights.

Anyone who has ever visited Times Square in New York City might wonder about the costumed characters taking pictures with tourists for money. The New York Police Department once even tried to get Disney to crack down. Disney didn’t take the bait, but for whatever reason, Mickey Mouse has put its foot down for Characters for Hire.

Read Full – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/disney-fights-unlicensed-star-wars-frozen-characters-at-childrens-birthday-parties-1049247

Hollywood Confronts a Copyright Argument With Potential for Mass Disruption

 9:50am PT by Eriq Gardner

Who really owns the CG characters in blockbuster films like ‘Avengers’ and ‘Night at the Museum’? On Monday, a judge was told it’s not the studios.

Are some of Hollywood’s biggest movies from the past decade — Guardians of the GalaxyAvengers: Age of UltronDeadpool and Night at the Museum, among others — all copyright infringements because they were allegedly created with stolen technology? The question seems outlandish, and yet, that’s exactly what a California federal judge was told on Monday in a case that can’t be shrugged off as a crank even if it is now treading on some fantastic territory including a scholar’s search for hidden codes in the Hebrew Bible.

Rearden LLC is the plaintiff. The firm was founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Perlman, who claims to own software called MOVA, which captures facial expressions to create photorealistic computer graphic effects. Rearden also alleges its technology was stolen by a former colleague before eventually landing in the hands of a Chinese firm. After the FBI investigated economic espionage, Rearden sued this Chinese company and won an injunction. Now, Rearden is suing the customers of the stolen technology — DisneyFox and Paramount — who find their blockbusters the subject of bold intellectual property claims.

In response to the lawsuit, the studios have contended that that the copyright, trademark and patent claims fail as a matter of law. This story will focus on the mind-blowing copyright arguments.

At this stage of the dispute, the studios can’t dispute the truth of the allegations — not only did they use stolen technology, they did so knowingly. But Disney, Fox and Paramount ask, so what? Whatever shows up onscreen is primarily the product of human input, namely film direction and an actor’s performance. The technology company simply can’t own the output.

“Indeed, if Rearden’s authorship-ownership theory were law, then Adobe or Microsoft would be deemed to be the author-owner of whatever expressive works the users of Photoshop or Word generate by using those programs,” wrote Kelly Klaus, attorney for the defendants, who also nodded to an 1884 Supreme Court opinion, Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony.

Full Read – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/hollywood-confronts-a-copyright-argument-potential-mass-disruption-1049516

O.J. Simpson’s Former Attorney F. Lee Bailey Gets Bad News About His SAG-AFTRA Pensions

F. Lee Bailey was once so famous that he’d regularly appear on television and even played himself in a movie. He did so much screen work that he evidently entitled himself to money in retirement. It wasn’t much, but under heavy debt, it’s become important. Now, however, the same week that his former client O.J. Simpson was released from prison, a bankruptcy judge is allowing the Internal Revenue Service to enforce federal tax liens on more than $1,000 a month in pensions from the SAG-AFTRA.

Bailey, 84, is now disbarred after a scandal erupted over misappropriated funds tied to a French smuggler he had been representing. He runs a consulting business in an apartment above a salon. He’s in bankruptcy thanks to more than $5 million the government asserts he owes in tax debt.

Read Full – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/oj-simpsons-attorney-f-lee-bailey-gets-bad-news-his-sag-aftra-pensions-1045756

Killing of ‘Narcos’ scout resurfaces Escobar trademark feud

  @CNNMoneySeptember 22, 2017: 6:45 PM ET

Pablo Escobar, one of the world’s wealthiest and most notorious drug lords, met his end nearly a quarter-century ago, but his legacy continues to cast a shadow over the Netflix drama “Narcos.”

On September 11, Carlos Munoz Portal, a location manager for the Netflix television series “Narcos,” was found dead. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds in a car on a dirt road outside Mexico City, near a site he was scouting for future episodes of the TV show.

n the wake of Portal’s death, Pablo Escobar’s brother is bringing his year-long trademark dispute with Netflix back into the headlines through an interview he gave The Hollywood Reporter (THR). In that interview, speaking of “Narcos,” which based its first two seasons on Pablo Escobar’s life, he reportedly said he would “close their little show” if the streaming service did not reach a settlement agreement with him.

Roberto De Jesus Escobar Gaviria is Pablo Escobar’s brother and former accountant. He is also the founder of holding company Escobar Inc.. In July of 2016, his company requested $1 billion compensation from Netflix for what it contends are intellectual property violations. It claims the streaming service has reaped substantial financial benefits from the popular global series by using Escobar’s name and story.

Read Full – http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/22/media/narcos-escobar-suit/index.html

Trump administration tells court law does not ban bias against gay workers

(Reuters) – A Trump administration lawyer on Tuesday urged a U.S. appeals court in Manhattan to rule that federal law does not ban discrimination against gay employees.

The U.S. Department of Justice is supporting a New York skydiving company, Altitude Express Inc, in a lawsuit brought by former instructor Donald Zarda, who accused the company of firing him after he told a customer he was gay and she complained. Zarda died in a BASE-jumping accident after filing the lawsuit, and his estate took over the case.

Judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals focused their questions on whether discrimination against gay workers is a form of unlawful sex bias under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That law bans discrimination based on workers’ sex, race, religion and other traits.

Justice Department lawyer Hashim Mooppan told the court that Congress never intended for that law to protect gay workers against bias. And in recent years, he said, lawmakers have repeatedly declined to pass bills that would prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department had not weighed in on the case. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which appeared at Tuesday’s hearing on behalf of Zarda’s estate, has been arguing for five years that bias against gay workers violates the law. The EEOC is an independent federal agency that enforces Title VII.

 read full – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-lgbt-court/trump-administration-tells-court-law-does-not-ban-bias-against-gay-workers-idUSKCN1C10EW