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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

Toys R Us

Fuhi Inc., the maker of Nabi tablet computers for children, filed a lawsuit against Toys R Us on September 24, 2012. The suit alleges that Toys R Us stole trade secrets in preparing to introduce the rival Tabeo tablet this month. It states that Toys R Us agreed in October 2011 to become the exclusive Navi distributor, but in the end did "virtually no promotion" and only ordered for the holiday season a little more than what Toys R Us said could be sold in one day. Fuhu contends that Toys R Us agreed to become the exclusive seller of the Nabi to learn the product secrets before bringing Tabeo to market. The parties ended their exclusive agreement in January. "Toys R Us used Fuhu's trade secrets and confidential information to start selling Tabeo, which systematically attempts to replicate the Nabi experience, far earlier than Toys R Us could have done otherwise, if at all," the lawsuit said. Fuhu accused Toys R Us of fraud, breach of contract, unfair competition and trade secret misappropriation. Fuhu also said that Toys R Us copied Nabi's butterfly-shaped bumper, which is used to help protect the tablet, for Tabeo. The lawsuit seeks to stop Toys R Us from selling Tabeo ahead of the holiday season. Fuhi is also asking that any Tabeos be turned over to Fuhu and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.


Kanye West

Record label TufAmerica filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Kanye West for copyright infringement on West's latest album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." TufAmerica claims that two tracks on West's album include a bit from "Hook and Sling, Part 1" by New Orleans singer-pianist Eddie Bo. TufAmerica says that it bought the rights to the single more than 15 years ago. The sample appears in West's "Who Will Survive in America" and "Lost in the World." In its complaint TufAmerica alleges that West's label Roc-A-Fella and parent Universal Music Group paid a license fee of $62,000 but "failed and refused to enter into a written license agreements that accounted for their multiple other uses of [Hook and Sling]." TufAmerica is seeking undisclosed damages for copyright infringement.


The Innocence of Muslims

Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress appearing in "The Innocence of Muslims", has filed a lawsuit against YouTube, its parent company Google Inc., and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the filmmaker behind the film. Garcia claims that she was duped into appearing in the film, which incited violent protests across the Middle East. Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court denied Garcia's request for a temporary restraining order that would have required YouTube to stop posting the video, finding that the actress was unlikely to prevail on the merits of her case. In this lawsuit Garcia has brought claims of fraud, libel and unfair business practices against the filmmaker. "The Innocence of Muslims" depicted the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant. Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, though the company has blocked the film in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries. Garcia claims that Google is infringing on the copyright she holds to her performance in the film by distributing the video without her approval on YouTube. According to Garcia, Nakoula operated under the assumed name of Sam Bacile, misleading her and other actors into appearing in a film they believed was an adventure drama called "Desert Warrior." After the fact, however, she learned that some of her lines spoken in the production had been dubbed over. The alteration made it look like Garcia "voluntarily performed in a hateful, anti-Islamic production", the lawsuit says, adding that she has "been subjected to credible death threats and is in fear for her life and the life and safety of anyone associated with her."


Ditocco v. Riordan

Plaintiffs, the authors and copyright owners of two books, The Hero Perseus and Atlas' Revenge, brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against, the author of the five-book series "Percy Jackson & The Olympians," the distributor of the books and the companies that produced and distributed the film "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief." The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that there was no substantial similarity between the protected elements of the plaintiff's books and the Percy Jackson books and movie. The plaintiff appealed, and the Second Circuit affirmed the "well-reasoned opinion of the district court." The court explained that both sets of works incorporate characters and classic stories from Green mythology, which are in the public domain and are therefore unprotectable. Leaving these unprotectable elements aside, and comparing the protectable elements of the works, the court concluded that "the district court determined that the two sets of books are not substantially similar as a matter of law." In the plaintiffs' novels, the protagonist PJ Allen is a popular and athletic young man who in his dreams travels to ancient Greece, where he fights mythical beasts and re-creates events in Greek mythology that have been erased from history. The "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" series tells the stories of demigod Percy Jackson and his battles against classical Greek monsters while traveling all over the country with his supernatural friends. The court noted that in these works, the Olympic gods live among the mortals in the modern world, wearing sunglasses, using cell phones and ignoring their demigod offspring.



The Vogue publishing companies Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. New York and Les Publications Condé Nast SA Paris filed a civil lawsuit with the Swiss courts over the activities of a Swiss company that manufactured and sold watches bearing the logo with the words "VOGUE My Style," where "My Style" were printed in very small letters. The Swiss Federal Tribunal issued a judgment, affirming that both "VOGUE" is a well-known trademark and that the lower court had correctly decided that the watchmaker is prohibited to use the term VOGUE for any kind of product likely to create a risk of confusion with the distinctive VOGUE. Importantly, the Federal Tribunal reasoning expanded beyond the lower court's reasoning by holding that the prohibition was not based only on unfair competition, but also on trademark law.


Geisa Balla is an attorney practicing in New York, NY. She can be reached at geisa.balla@gmail.com.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 30, 2012 4:21 PM.

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