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Week in Review

By Martha Nimmer

Don't Tread On My Trademarks

Claiming trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and breach of contract, footwear maker Keds, LLC (Keds) has sued shoemaker Vans, Inc. (Vans) in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The action arises from the defendant's alleged used of blue labels on the back heels of its sneakers.

In its complaint, Keds claims that Vans is selling at "least 21 types shoes bearing labels confusingly similar to Keds' trademarks in an effort to trade on the marks' goodwill." According to Lexology, "Keds owns two trademarks for the blue rectangular labels that it affixes to the heels of its shoes." Keds goes on to accuse Vans of knowingly infringing the Keds' blue label; according to the complaint, Keds has sued Vans for this trademark infringement before. Keds first took legal action against Vans in December 2011, but by August 2012, the two shoe companies had reached a settlement whereby Vans "agreed not to make or sell footwear that had rectangular labels on the heel in certain shades of blue." Specifically, Vans promised not to sell footwear bearing labels in the colors Marazine Blue, Blueprint, or Gentian Violet, or in any color "confusingly similar" to those three shades. Despite this agreement, Keds says, Vans continues to sell shoes with the infringing blue labels -- in fact, the 21 Vans shoes all have blue labels on the back heels, ranging in shades of blue-gray, light blue, neon blue and navy.

Keds has sought a permanent injunction to prevent Vans from using the infringing blue labels; the plaintiff has also asked the court to recall the shoes that sport the infringing labels, and pay Keds all of the profits that Vans made from the sale of these shoes.


The Show Must Go On

Claiming that a holographic Michael Jackson scheduled to appear at the Billboard Music Awards would violate two hologram patents, hologram technology companies Hologram USA, Musion Das Hologram and Uwe Maass went to federal court in Nevada seeking to enjoin the performance. Despite the companies' efforts, the holographic King of Pop danced and sang a new song, "Slave to the Rhythm" in front of a full audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The performance was broadcast nationally on ABC.

The plaintiff companies claim that defendant John C. Textor, a former business associate, used their technology to create the popular Michael Jackson hologram. Textor's company, Pulse Entertainment, is the lead defendant in the suit. The plaintiffs allegedly own the technology that was used to create a 3-D Tupac Shakur hologram that appeared during the 2012 Coachella music festival. Without this technology, the plaintiffs argue, the Michael Jackson hologram could not have been created. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson did not agree, ruling that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to stop the show. Howard Weitzman, an attorney for the Michael Jackson, said that the technology at issue is in the public domain, and derided the lawsuit as a "publicity stunt." Counsel for Hologram USA intends to continue the legal action. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and damages for violation of the two patents.


Ballmer's $2 Billion Buy

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will pay $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, according to a statement issued by Rochelle Sterling, team co-owner and estranged wife of Donald Sterling. According to The New York Times, Rochelle Sterling has already signed the deal with Ballmer, and the contract will be sent to the NBA for final approval. If the sale of the Clippers goes through, the $2 billion price tag would be the highest paid for a professional basketball team. Ballmer, who is rumored to be worth $20 billion, "was already vetted by the league in 2013 when he was part of an investor group seeking to buy the Sacramento Kings," which means the process of acquiring the Clippers could move quickly.

A few challenges may lie ahead of the sale to the former Microsoft chief executive, however. Firstly, it is unclear how embattled team owner Donald Sterling will react to the sale. Previously, he had vowed to fight the league if it tried to force him to sell the team. It was rumored that he authorized his wife to meet and negotiate with prospective team buyers, but that she needed his power of attorney to finalize a deal. According to Donald Sterling's attorney, however, Rochelle Sterling does not have this authority. Sterling's attorney added that, "as incentive to agree to sell the team, Mr. Sterling wanted the N.B.A. to drop its charges that he had violated the league's constitution."


Keeping Kids Safe

Earlier this week, the White House announced a new series of initiatives focused on preventing traumatic brain injury and improving its diagnosis and treatment in children. Officials also announced a new commitment of $65 million of private funds to aid clinical and other scientific work.

In late 2013, President Obama remarked on the problem of head injuries in children, adding that if he had a son, he would not let him play pro football. In light of the Obama family's interest in sports and First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to boost physical fitness among the nation's youth, the president has been eager "to raise awareness and boost research on something that 'really is a topic of conversation across the country.'"

Highlighting the importance of youth safety, President Obama met on Thursday with 200 sports officials, medical experts, parents and young athletes for the first White House summit on sports concussions, called the "Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit." The summit hopes to find "new ways to identify, treat and prevent serious head injuries, particularly in youth sports." Notably, this event comes nearly a century after President Theodore Roosevelt gathered Ivy League coaches and officials to the White House to warn them that they had to make football less deadly.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 30, 2014 8:49 PM.

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