Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, a day to remember a great American with a dream. Here are some news items to get the week started.

Martin Luther King Jr.– The suicide rate among lawyers is alarming.

– Documentary on legal opposition to same-sex marriage ban opens at Sundance.

– Does Hollywood have an edge before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals?

– Litigation does not survive plaintiffs’ deaths in Minnesota.

Law blog roundup

Today is Monday, the 89th birthday of film star Lauren Bacall. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– Harper Lee moves to kill her copyright suit.

Enrollment drops at Washington law schools.

– Any bets on how this case will be resolved?

– Seattle newspaper compiles Justice Antonin Scalia’s “greatest hits.”

Duck, duck… lawsuit?

Madison Grimm, age 6, is the artist behind the painting of a canvasback duck you see here. Madison submitted it to the 2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest, and last month she became the youngest winner in the competition’s history.

But then questions were raised about the “painting’s authenticity” and poor Madison was disqualified.

Madison’s dad is a wildlife artist and her painting was based on an unpublished photo her father took. The Grimms’ hometown Argus (S.D.) Leader picks up the story:

She also used a technique called a graphite transfer, where an artist applies a pencil lead to a print of the photo to create an outline for a painting. Both are legal, and both are accepted and common among artists…

Madison’s dad hired a Washington, D.C., lawyer to help reinstate his daughter as the winner, according to the Leader. The legal questions abound — was Madison’s technique legal? Did she violate any copyright or fair use laws by using the photo as the basis of her painting? Could the duck file its own suit alleging his (or her) image was used for commercial purposes without her consent?

Alas, we’ll never know all of the answers — the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced it reinstated Madison and her painting as the winner after “careful consideration.”

So congratulations to Madison and thanks for inspiring me to try to find my inner-artist.

It’s just too bad I’m too old to take a quack at this contest.

Law blog roundup

Sandra Day O'ConnorWelcome to Monday and a week in which we might crown another Baltimore sports champion. Here are some news items to get it all started.

– Retired justice pens book about the Supreme Court.

– Can a condemned killer reject a governor’s reprieve?

– Small-state advantage in U.S. Senate faces legal challenges.

– One lawyer’s “copyright protection” is another’s “fraud on the court.”

Ben & Jerry’s fights for naked truth

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is not being so sweet to a film company it says is infringing on its trademarks.

A Massachusetts court has granted a request from Ben &  Jerry’s for a temporary restraining order against a company that makes pornographic films.

The ice cream company took issue with Cabellero Video for giving its films titles that were a little too similar to trademarked ice cream flavors.

The film company took names like “Chocolate Fudge Brownie,” “Peanut Butter Cup” and “Boston Cream Pie” and gave them a racy twist — “Chocolate Fudge Babes,” “Peanut Butter D Cups” and, yes, “Boston Cream Thighs.”

Whether ice cream plays a role at all in these cinematic endeavors is unknown but, needless to say, the Vermont-based ice cream company is not pleased about the 10 DVDs that Cabellero has released in its series.

Ben & Jerry’s argues that the porn packaging even sports the company’s signature cows and clouds design from its ice cream cartons. The ice cream maker said in a statement that it

acted to protect its company, brand, products and image. This is a clear cut issue where the video company is imitating Ben & Jerry’s logo, flavor names and trade dress to sell their products. We have taken prompt legal action to stop the manufacturing and sale of these materials.

The film company is due in court Tuesday to show cause as to why a permanent injunction should not issued.

Is there a ribbon for lawsuit awareness?

The Huffington Post reported last month that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure has filed trademark infringement lawsuits against other charities that use “for the cure” in their names. The story alleges Komen spends a $1 million a year in donor funds on such litigation.

The foundation has more than 200 registered trademarks, and I didn’t even know you could protect a phrase like “for the cure,” hon.

Even though the HuffPost story was published in December, I first heard about it Monday night from Stephen Colbert. Enjoy his take here.


Law blog roundup

Good morning! Here are some law links for your pre-Solstice perusal:

Hon Inc. and ‘pulling a Danny’

Judging by the reader responses to news that the word “Hon” has been trademarked, some Baltimoreans might have a new name for Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting: Atilla.

The great John McIntyre explains why this touches a nerve:

What leads to the raised voices is the question of ownership of language. And with that question come all the overtones of social class, local history and culture, and personal likes and dislikes that crowd in on discussions of language and ensure that such discussions will never be neutral or unemotional.

Coincidentally, The New York Times had a story yesterday about athletes trademarking their catchphrases. I did not know that Nike owns the right to the name “LeBron.”

The lesson? I better call a lawyer now about the legal rights for “pulling a Danny.”

Law meets art in award-winning local video

Before today, I had never heard of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi nor his fantastic facial hair. It turns out in 1923 he made a bronze scuplture, “Bird in Space,” that he shipped to the United States in 1927. Customs officials levied a $4,000 tax on it upon arrival because it was, in their view, a hunk of metal. Brancusi said it was art, which was not taxed at all. He took his case to court and won in 1928, his money refunded.

I learned all this thanks to the winner of video contest sponsored by Maryland Lawyers for the Arts in honor of the organization’s 25th birthday.

The three local filmmakers–David Sloan, Thea Canlas and Matthew Hickey–swept the $500 grand prize and $250 audience award. You can see the video below – its title, “Left-Brained People Helping Right-Brained People,” is a riff on MLA’s motto. The short also alludes to other, famous artistic legal battles, including the fair use case of Rogers v. Koons.

“We were initially a little worried that our idea would incite the wrath of two groups that tend to take themselves very seriously—artists and lawyers—but it is that very seriousness that makes the piece work as a parody,” Sloan said, according to a press release from MLA.