April 18, 2013

In-N-Out Burger and Grab-N-Go Burgers Work It All Out

Our national nightmare is over. In-N-Out Burger has reached a settlement it is trademark infringement lawsuit against claims against Grab-N-Go Burgers.

In-N-Out-Burger's lawsuit alleged that Grab-N-Go stole its menu ideas and graphic design. Think McDowell's and McDonald's in Coming to America.

According to the lawsuit, the restaurant is clearly modeled after In-N-Out’s restaurants. The name of the restaurant, particularly the use of “N” as short for the word “and,” the menu selection, the color scheme, and the design of the restaurant... it all screams copycat.

It is all good humor but I can see why companies want to defend their trademarks which are all registered.

May 26, 2009

Towson District Court Closed

The Towson location of the District Court for Baltimore County is closed due to a mechanical problem. The Commissioner's Office at the Towson location will be open. The Baltimore County District Courts in Essex and Catonsville are open as usual.

July 14, 2008

Washington Redskins Win Battle with Trademark Office

The Washington Redskins - who play football in Maryland - won last week a lawsuit challenging the Trademark Office's decision to cancel the Redskins' trademark as racially derogatory. The court found essentially that too much time has elapsed and the Redskins would be prejudiced by lawsuits that could have been brought long before the Redskins made the investment that they have in the name.

I don't know what my reaction I have to this ruling. If American Indians are as a group truly offended by the Redskins name they should get rid of it, with or without a court order. But I don't get the impression that American Indians are offended by the name. My impression comes from American Indians who are more assimilated; I've never taken the pulse of people who live on an Indian reservation who might have a different view. But somehow, I doubt it.

March 6, 2008

Fantasy Baseball v. Major League Baseball

According to the Sports Business Journal, Major League Baseball and its Players’ Association are submitting a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling made by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that allows fantasy baseball companies to continue to use players’ names and statistics without paying a licensing fee.

Major League Baseball has argued that players should be paid when their names are used for fantasy baseball leagues. Conveniently, they believe the players should be paid in the same way they are paid when their names are used to endorse products.

The problem Major League Baseball has had in advancing this argument is that their position flies in the face of existing copyright law. As the 8th Circuit pointed out, it would be strange law, to say the least, that a person would not have a First Amendment right to use information that is available to everyone in the public domain. There is no violation of the right of publicity.
Given the difficulty in getting certiorari from the Supreme Court, Baseball's brief argues for the need to establish uniform standards for publicity right disputes.

In raising this issue, I suspect Major League Baseball will cause themselves, and likely other sports, far more harm than good. Based on the 8th Circuit's ruling and the likelihood that baseball will not only lose on appeal but not even receive certiorari, you have to wonder how the sports video games industry is going to respond. While I would not expect the major players like the Madden franchise to discontinue paying the NFL a licensing fee for the use of the players names, it has to have an impact during negotiations when someone from Madden looks across the table and says, "Tell me again exactly what we are paying you guys for?"

Moreover, is this really a battle baseball wants to win? Do they want less people playing fantasy baseball? If they do hold all of the fantasy providers hostage, demanding licensing fees, wouldn't you think Congress, many of whom play fantasy baseball, might find that problematic? Congress waves the antitrust exemption in front of baseball at every turn and there is no reason to think they would not do the same thing here. You would think that in light of the Mitchell Report and the Clemens debacle, major league baseball would want to lay low and try to curry the favor of its most ardent fans and Congress. It seems the skippers of Major League Baseball continue to direct their ship towards short term profits at the long term expense of this great game.

You can read the 8th Circuit's opinion here.