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Year in Review: The Most Popular IP Posts of 2021

January 5, 2022 | Blog | By Christina Sperry

As 2022 begins and intellectual property (IP) strategies are being developed for the new year, it is a good time to reflect on what IP issues were prominent in 2021.  According to many readers, hot topics included efficient and expeditious U.S. patent prosecution, new copyright and trademark laws, and standard essential patents (SEPs). Below are 5 of the most read IP Posts on Mintz.com from last year.
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When Can a Trademark Owner Take Action for Unauthorized Use of its Trademark Online?

January 4, 2022 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller, Allen Loayza

Unauthorized use of a trademark on the Internet occurs often and in many forms, usually involving the profiting, whether intentionally or unintentionally, from the goodwill associated with a trademark belonging to someone else. Such use, however, does not always rise to the level of trademark infringement. Unauthorized use of a trademark is only infringing if the particular use causes likely confusion among consumers. The most common type of confusion is confusion over source, which occurs at the time of purchase, but confusion can also arise as to affiliation, connection, or sponsorship, and confusion does not necessarily need to occur at the time of purchase.
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Is an unused registered trademark preventing you from clearing or registering your mark? Or was the blocking registration filed for goods or services that were not in use when the registrant declared that they were? The Trademark Modernization Act’s (“TMA”) new procedures for cancelling unused registrations, or registrations with goods and services that were not in use at the time of declaration, are now effective. 
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Quentin Tarantino’s Secret NFTs

December 8, 2021 | Blog | By Michael Graif, Frank Gerratana, Allen Loayza

Quentin Tarantino recently announced plans to auction off seven scenes from the 1994 motion picture Pulp Fiction as non-fungible tokens or NFTs. These “Tarantino NFTs” will include a collection of high-resolution digital scans of the original handwritten Pulp Fiction screenplay. The NFTs each contain scans of the uncut screenplay pages themselves that form a single scene from the movie. They will be auctioned on the NFT marketplace OpenSea and are built on the blockchain platform Secret Network, which launched in February 2020.
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On June 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) administrative order against 1-800 Contacts, Inc. The Second Circuit found that the online retailer’s trademark settlements with competitor online contact lens sellers were not “inherently suspect” and, instead, should be evaluated under the traditional rule of reason analysis. The trademark settlements specified, among other things, that 1-800 Contacts’ competitors would not bid on the company’s name as a keyword in online search advertising. This ruling has significant implications for the “inherently suspect” standard—according to the Second Circuit, “courts do not have sufficient experience with this type of conduct to permit [the FTC’s] abbreviated analysis.”
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After five years of litigation, the battle between Unicolors, a California-based fabric design company, and H&M is still going strong. Now the United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether an inaccuracy in Unicolors’ copyright registration invalidates its registration and thus a jury’s $1 million damages award in Unicolors’ favor.
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How NFTs and Blockchain Secure Digital Sports Collectibles

May 24, 2021 | Blog | By Keith P. Carroll, Andrew D. Skale

Today, there are new opportunities to own a bit of sports history. It is now possible to even own a digital collectible of your favorite athlete making a play during a game.  NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are being used to provide digital provenance that affords unique ownership of sports most memorable moments. 
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United States Supreme Court Rules for Google in a Landmark Fair Use Decision

April 6, 2021 | Blog | By Michael Graif, Matthew Hurley, Geoffrey Friedman

On April 5, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a significant fair use decision, holding six to two that Google’s copying of 11,500 lines of code from Oracle’s Java SE API in Google’s Android platform was a fair and transformative use. 
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The Trademark Modernization Act Establishes New Trademark Cancellation Procedures

January 12, 2021 | Blog | By Michael Graif, Williams Dixon

On December 27, 2020, the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (“the Act”) became law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. 
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Protecting Lawful Streaming Act Signed Into Law

January 5, 2021 | Blog | By Seth Davidson

One of the provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Trump signed into law on December 27, 2020 addresses the so-called “felony streaming” loophole in the Copyright Act and criminal code. 
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Following up on our initial report last year on the possible creation of a Copyright Claims Board, we can now confirm the creation of that Board. The Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020 incorporates the CASE Act, establishes this new Copyright Claims Board (CCB) within the Copyright Office. 
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FDA Issues New Guidance on Drug Naming

December 17, 2020 | Blog | By Karen K. Won

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) issued a pair of Guidance for Industry documents outlining best practices for developing proprietary names (i.e. brand names) for prescription and nonprescription human drug products. 
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As we reported in our July 7, 2020 blog post on the USPTO v. Booking.com B.V decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a proposed mark consisting of the combination of a generic term and a generic top-level domain, like “.com,” is not automatically generic and can be protected as a trademark under certain circumstances.
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In a landmark decision, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., the Supreme Court of the United States, by an 8-1 vote, affirmed the lower court’s determination that Booking.com could register BOOKING.COM as a trademark. 
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In a recent decision from the Second Circuit, Judges Parker, Chin, and Carney side-stepped a novel question: whether human skin can be the kind of "tangible medium of expression" required for copyright protection. Instead, the court held that a photograph of a makeup artist’s application of a makeup design to a human “fixed” the design for purposes of copyright law and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the appellant Mourabit’s unjust enrichment and unfair competition/misappropriation claims as preempted by the Copyright Act.
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First Amendment May Protect Use of Trademarks As Artistic Expression

May 27, 2020 | Blog | By Susan Neuberger Weller

In a recent decision from the Southern District of New York, Judge George B. Daniels held that the strong First Amendment interests in protecting free artistic expression warranted summary judgment that Activision Blizzard’s use of Humvee vehicle models in the blockbuster Call of Duty videogames was not a violation of the Lanham Act.
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Supreme Court Holds that States Cannot Copyright Annotated Versions of Their Statutes

April 29, 2020 | Blog | By Michael Graif, Meena Seralathan

On April 27, 2020, the Supreme Court held that annotations to legislative text, even if created by a private contracted party, are not copyrightable materials under 17 U.S.C. §101. Invoking the government edicts doctrine, the Court made explicit the notion that all members of government involved in lawmaking, including state legislators, are barred from being “authors” for purposes of copyright protection.
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In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court held that a trademark owner need not prove willful infringement in order to seek lost profits from a trademark infringer. The case, Romag Fasteners Inc. v. Fossil Inc. et al., case number 18-1233, involved a long running trademark infringement dispute between the parties.
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The Federal Circuit recently held in a precedential ruling that a “color mark” comprising a multiple-color pattern is capable of being inherently distinctive and of registration on the Principal Register, so long as it appears on product packaging rather than on a product itself.
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Trademark due diligence is the process of analyzing information concerning a company's trademark portfolio and assessing the risks, exposures, and benefits associated with a proposed transaction. In an acquisition, both the buyer and the seller need to ensure that they each are fully informed as to the status of the trademarks at issue.
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