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|Intellectual Property Fall 2005|
Causes of Action
Policies of Intellectual Property
Archetypes of Argumentation (a lawyer fills conceptual boxes with the motive of persuasion)
Π is entitled to various remedies if (I) Π owns a valid mark, (II) Δ’s use of its mark infringed Π’s mark, and (III) Δ can not escape liability through an affirmative defense.
I. Does Π own a valid trademark? § 1052.
Rule. Lanham Act intends to protect marks that are used “to indicate the source of the goods.” § 1127; Qualitex (S.Ct.1995) at 45. A mark is used in this “trademark function” only if the mark is (A) physically used in commerce and (B) cognitively used. Even if used in a trademark function, a mark is outside the scope of trademark if (C) the mark falls with any of the § 1052 prohibitions. E.g. Qualitex at 46; Two Pesos at 42 (“It is also clear that eligibility for protection under § 43(a) depends on nonfunctionality.”).
Policy. Trademarks should be granted only when they enable/facilitate competition. Sometimes, granting a trademark will not facilitate competition, e.g. a functional mark precludes rivals from competing on that trademarked feature. Doctrine disqualifies these marks for trademark protection.
Subject matter. Trademark protection extends to any word, name, symbol, or device that serves to identify the source of the product by distinguishing the product from competing products. This includes product packing and product configuration, i.e., trade dress (“the total look and feel”).
Unregistered marks. The Lanham Act protects both registered and unregistered trademarks. § 1125; Two Pesos. The “general principles qualifying a mark for registration under [§ 1052] … are … applicable in determining whether an unregistered mark is entitled to protection under [§ 1125].” Two Pesos.
Incontestable marks. If the mark has been registered for five years, the validity of the mark is incontestable. § 1115(b).
Trade dress. Trade dress claimants must prove dress is not functional. See infra.
A. Is there physical use of the mark?
Rule. A mark is in “physical use” if the mark is (1) in “actual use” (2) in interstate commerce, and (3) appropriately displayed. Microstrategy at 29. A mark is in “actual use” if the mark is (a) used in commerce, § 1051(a), or (b) intended for use in interstate commerce, § 1051(b), or (c) registered in a foreign country, § 1126. The mark is “appropriately displayed” if the mark owner uses it in a sufficiently public way so that an appropriate segment of the public understands the mark to be a source identifier.
Policy. Marks should be granted only sparingly to prevent squatting on marks. A mark not in “physical use” cannot accomplish a trademark function and thus should not be protected.
Placement on text. In the case of a phrase, there is no physical use if the public will have to browse through text or scan a page in order to find a phrase that might identify the source. I.e., the mark must stand somewhat alone, making its trademark function obvious. Microstrategy.
Constant pattern. A “constant pattern” used to highlight the use of a phrase is evidence of physical use. Microstrategy.
Mission statement. A mission statement by itself is not a physical use. It must be used to identify the source of the goods, not merely to advertise the nature of the goods or services. Microstrategy at 31 (“even though a word, name, symbol, device, or combination of words [a slogan] may be used in the sale or advertising of services …” it is not protectable as a trademark “unless it is used as a mark.”) (citing In re Morganroth).
Microstrategy (finding that claimant had failed to prove that it had used the “Intelligence Everywhere” phrase to identify the claimant as the source of the goods or services when (1) although 24 company documents were offered containing the phrase, each refers only once to the phrase and “that reference follows no particular design or sequence, i.e. sometimes its on the cover, sometimes not, most often ‘Intelligence Everywhere’ appears in the midst of the text”; (2) claimant had not used any “constant pattern” designed to highlight the phrase; (3) though used as a mission statement, that statement was used to advertise the quality of its services, not as a source identifier).
B. Is there cognitive use of the mark? § 1052.
Rule. There is “cognitive use” if the mark is “distinctive.” “An identifying mark is distinctive … if it either (1) is inherently distinctive or (2) has acquired distinctiveness through secondary meaning.” Two Pesos at 42. In other words, a mark is “distinctive” unless the mark is (1) “generic” or (2) “merely descriptive and without “secondary meaning.” Two Pesos at 42 (“A ‘merely descriptive’ term cannot be protected as a trademark unless it has acquired “secondary meaning.”); § 1052(e). Heileman at 35 (“It can, by acquiring a secondary meaning, i.e., becoming ‘distinctive of the applicant’s goods’… become a valid trademark.”).
Policy. Trademark is intended to facilitate and enable competition, not to stifle it. Typically, a trademark facilitates competition by enabling product differentiation, thereby creating incentives for producers to invest in quality while also decreasing consumers’ search costs. However, if a term is generic or descriptive, a trademark will stifle competition by making more difficult the competitors’ efforts to communicate with consumers by using the generic or descriptive marks. E.g. Heileman (a LA trademark would have given Budweiser an effective monopoly on the means of communicating a desire for a LA beer).
1. Is the mark “generic”?
Rule. “A generic or common descriptive term is one which is commonly used as the name or description of a kind of goods.” Heileman at 35 (citing “light beer” and “decaffeinated coffee” as examples of generic terms); Dial-A-Mattress at 56 (“Generic terms are common names that the relevant purchasing public understands primarily as describing the genus of goods and services being sold.”). The test is whether the consuming public recognizes the term as generic. Heileman at 37 (“the true test is one of consumer perception”). A more specific formulation is the “who-are-you/what-are-you” test. A mark answers the buyer’s questions “Who are you?” “Where do you come from?” “Who vouches for you?” But the generic name of the product answers the question “What are you?” Dial-A-Mattress at 57; Heileman (finding on the basis of consumer surveys that the abbreviation “LA” was regarded by consumers as standing for “low alcohol” and therefore was “generic”).
Evidence of “generic”. Consumer surveys are probative. Heileman. The relevant consumer perception is that of the average consumer who has been exposed to the information currently available, i.e. uninformed consumers are irrelevant. Heileman at 38 (rejecting one consumer survey b/c it relied on uninformed consumers who had never been exposed to LA beer). However, it is irrelevant whether the consumers themselves regard the term as a “brand”; it is only relevant whether they regard the term as descriptive of an ingredient. Other evidence is the existence of other similar previously-registered trademarks. Dial-A-Mattress at 55. Also, “Any competent source suffices to show the relevant purchasing public’s understanding of a contested term, including purchaser testimony, consumer surveys, dictionary definitions, trade journals, newspapers, and other publications.” Dial-A-Mattress at 57.
Compound-word term. If the components of the mark are common descriptive terms, i.e. generic, a combination of such terms is also generic. Multistate Legal Studies at 36 (finding that “Multistate Bar Examination” was generic); Dial-A-Mattress at 57.
Compound-word phrase. However, compound-word phrases are treated differently from compound-word terms. With phrases, even if the constituent parts are generic, the phrase as a whole might be distinctive. Dial-A-Mattress at 57 (finding that “1-888-Matress” was a phrase and thus the phrase test should have been applied to determine whether it was “generic”).
Initials and abbreviations. There is a presumption that initials and abbreviations are “generic.” Multistate Legal Studies at 36 (finding that “MBE” was generic); Heileman at 37 (finding that “LA” was generic).
Prior use. If a term has in the past been used in a descriptive manner, that is strong evidence that the term is “generic.” Heileman at 40 (finding evidence that the term “LA” was earlier used in Australia to be relevant to its finding that the term was “generic”).
2. If not, is the mark “merely descriptive” and without “secondary meaning”?
Rule. “A merely descriptive term specifically describes a characteristic or ingredient of an article. Heileman at 35 (citing “bubbly champagne” and “Auto Page” as examples). Again, consumer perception defines the mark’s status. A term acquires “secondary meaning” when it becomes “distinctive of the applicant’s goods in commerce.” Two Pesos at 42.
C. Does Π’s mark fall with any of the § 1052 prohibitions? CB 74 n.14.
1. Is the mark “immoral”? § 1052(a).
2. Is the mark “deceptive”? § 1052(a).
3. A “coat of arms”? § 1052(b).
4. Identifying a living individual? § 1052(c).
5. So resembles another mark as to risk consumer confusion? § 1052(d).
6. Geographic designations? § 1052(e).
7. Primarily merely surnames? § 1052(e).
8. Was the mark “functional”? § 1052(e).
Rule. A product feature is “functional” “if exclusive use of the feature would put competitors at a significant non-reputation-related disadvantage. Qualitex at 47; § 1052(e); Qualitex at 46 (S.Ct.1995); Qualitex at 49.
Policy. A trademark over a functional product feature would preclude competition on that feature. E.g. TrafFix.
Trade dress. “The total look and feel.” Because “product design almost invariably serves purposes other than source identification,” TrafFix at 53 (S.Ct.2001) (quoting Wal-Mart), the functionality doctrine is especially significant in trade dress claims. In fact, a person claiming trademark protection for trade dress has the burden of proving that the mark sought to be protected is not functional. § 1125(a)(3); TrafFix at 53 (S.Ct.2001). To be clear, that burden is on the claimant only if the trade dress is product design. Product packaging qua trade dress is not subject to heightened scrutiny since the same concerns about functionality are not implicated. Wal-Mart v. Samara.
Prior patents. Along these lines, a prior utility patent on the patent is highly relevant in a trade dress claim. TrafFix (“A prior patent … has vital significance in resolving the trade dress claim. A utility patent is strong evidence that the features therein claimed are functional.”).
Crescent Tool (holding that claimant could not have trademark in the crescent-shaped head of the wrench qua product feature/trade dress b/c the product feature was “functional” when it was necessary to the use of the wrench).
AOL (holding that claimant could not have trademark in the “You Got Mail!” phrase b/c functional when it merely indicates receipt of mail even despite the secondary meaning the phrase had cultured). See p. 67 n.4 for more details.
Qualitex (holding as a matter of law that a color conceivably could serve a trademark function and that functionality doctrine is not necessarily a bar to trademark of the color when the color is not necessarily essential to the product’s use or purpose and does not affect cost or quality of the product).
TrafFix (finding that the dual-spring product feature was “functional”, citing claimant’s prior utility patent as evidence of functionality).
II. Did Δ “infringe” Π’s mark? § 1114(1); § 1125(a)
Rule. Δ infringed Π’s mark if Δ’s use of his mark creates a likelihood that an appreciable number of ordinarily prudent consumers would be misled as to the source of the goods in question. § 1114(1)(a) (“use … of a registered mark … [that] is likely to cause confusion); § 1125(a) (“use in connection with any goods … [of] a false designation of origin”); Levi at 88.
The Polaroid standard. The issue of likelihood of confusion is decided by the multifactor balancing test set forth by Judge Friendly in Polaroid Corp. Levi. The factors are: (A) the strength of P’s mark, (B) degree of similarity between the marks, (C) the proximity of the products, (D) the possibility of bridging the gap, (E) evidence of actual confusion, (F) junior user’s good faith in adopting the mark, (G) the quality of the respective goods, (H) the sophistication of the relevant buyers. The ultimate conclusion should not be “determined in accordance with some rigid formula” but instead “each factor must be evaluated in the context of how it bears on the ultimate question of likelihood of confusion as to the source of the product.” Levi at 88. The general idea is that the likelihood of consumer confusion is a function of (1) how identical the marks are, and (2) how identical the products are. Imagine a Cartesian plane. The two are inversely related.
Policy. Trademark intends to protect producers’ ability to signal their product’s source to the consumers. Thus, only consumer confusion matters. I.e., there is no property right to the mark. But see McDonald’s.
Registered marks and § 1125(a). The owner of a registered mark should claim infringement in violation of § 1114(1). It should also claim unfair competition by alleging misrepresentation in violation of § 1125(a). The tests are the same, but this second claim protects the claimant against the risk that a court might find that it failed to meet the formalities of trademark registration. CB 102. Of course, the owner of an unregistered mark is left with claims only under § 1125(a).
Family of marks. An owner can claim ownership of a family of marks, thereby extending his right to exclude to marks merely resembling his marks. Whether the owner has a family of marks depends on (1) the distinctiveness of the common formative component, (2) the extent of the family’s use, (3) advertising and promotion, and (4) the inclusion of the common component in a number or registered or unregistered marks. McDonald’s at 93. Alternatively, a family of marks is “a group of marks having a recognizable common characteristic, wherein the marks are composed and used in such a way that the public associates not only the individual marks, but the common characteristic of the family, with the trademark owner.” McDonald’s at 94 (finding McDonald’s had a family of marks in the prefix “Mc”).
Trade dress. § 1125(a) creates a cause of action for trade dress infringement claims, protecting the “total look and feel,” and that protection is “essentially the same” as that of claims for infringement of registered trademarks. Two Pesos (S.Ct.1992) at 97 (Stevens J., concurring) (noting that language of § 1125(a) restricted the cause of action to false designations and false advertising of geographic origin but that the statute was later interpreted, appropriatetly, to create “in essence, a federal law of unfair competition.”). Like in trademark infringement, “the test for liability [in trade dress infringement] is likelihood of confusion.” Two Pesos at 98.
Post-sale confusion. Some authority holds that even confusion among the non-purchasing public is actionable. Levi; Ferrari (holding seller of kits to convert cars into Ferrari look-a-likes liable for trademark infringement, despite the obvious lack of purchaser confusion, b/c of the risk of non-purchaser confusion in the post-sale context).
Internet. Use of a trademark in a webpage, either in text, metatags, watermarks, etc., might constitute infringement. I.e., do not get blinded by the UDRP, which has a very narrow scope. E.g. Playboy.
A. The strength of Π’s mark
Rule. “The strength of a mark” is “its tendency to identify the goods sold under the mark as emanating from a particular source,” i.e., has strong secondary meaning. Levi at 88. Use the generic-merely descriptive-descriptive-arbitrary spectrum to characterize a mark’s strength. The more arbitrary, the stronger the mark. Also, the incontestability of a mark is evidence of the strength of the mark.
Policy. The stronger Π’s mark, i.e. the greater the secondary meaning, the more likely consumers will wrongly assume that Δ’s similar mark is actually Π’s mark. Levi at 89.
Levi at 88 (finding that Π’s mark, the back pocket stitching pattern, had “a very strong secondary meaning” b/c jeans consumers associated the mark with Π’s products).
McDonald’s at 95 (citing evidence of “widespread” consumer familiarity with the mark as evidence that the mark is a strong one).
B. The degree of similarity between the marks
Rule. This is an apple-like concept: a question of fact left to the trier, that is incapable of being made more granular by articulation through syllogistic logic.
Policy. The more similar the marks, the greater the risk of consumer confusion.
Levi at 89 (finding that the two stitching patterns were “essentially identical” when any differences were imperceptible at any significant distance).
C. The proximity of the products
Rule. Products are in close proximity if they are in similar market segments. Levi at 90. Factors relevant include the appearance, style, function, fashion appeal, advertising, and price of the products.
Policy. Likelihood of confused is less if the two marks are used before separate groups of consumers or where the distinct nature of the products clearly suggest that the two users are unrelated.
“Lifestyle marketing”. Now that firms are selling unrelated goods as part of a lifestyle, e.g. Jack Daniel’s clothes, the role and significance of this element is unclear.
Market entry relevant. However, even if the products are in different market segments, this fact arguably does not weigh against a finding of likely confusion if consumers would reasonably assume that Π had decided to enter into Δ’s market segment. Levi at 90 (finding that this element did not weigh against a finding of confusion when consumers were likely to assume that Π had decided to enter into Δ’s designer/luxury jean market segment).
Levi at 90 (finding that this element did not weigh against a finding of confusion when consumers were likely to assume that Π had decided to enter into Δ’s designer/luxury jean market segment).
McDonald’s (finding that this dental services and fast food were not in close proximity).
D. Bridging the gap
Rule. “If the owner of a trademark can show that it intends to enter the market of the alleged infringer, that showing helps to establish a future likelihood of confusion as to source.” Levi at 90.
Policy. This is actionable b/c “trademark laws are designed in part to protect ‘the senior user’s interest in being able to enter a related field at some future time.’” Levi at 90.
Lifestyle marketing. Relevant here especially.
Levi at 90 (finding that Π might indeed enter into the designer jean market and thus this factor “does not aid” Δ’s case).
McDonald’s (finding that McDonald’s was unlikely to bridge the gap into the dentistry market, even though it had included toothbrushes in its happy meals).
E. Evidence of actual confusion
Rule. Actual confusion need not be shown to prevail b/c actual confusion is difficult to prove and thus the Act requires only a likelihood of confusion as to source. However, evidence of actual confusion, e.g. consumer surveys, is relevant to the finding of likelihood of confusion. An absence of such evidence of actual confusion may weigh in Δ’s favor, but only if there has been a significant period of competition between the products. Levi at 91.
Levi at 91. (finding Δ’s designer jeans had only recently entered into Π’s U.S. market and thus the lack of evidence of actual confusion did not weigh in Δ’s favor, especially since Π should not be penalized for acting to protect its trademark before damage has occurred).
McDonald’s (finding “substantial evidence” of confusion when a mere 30% of a survey associated the mark with McDonald’s).
F. Junior user’s good faith in adopting the mark
Rule. If the junior user purposely copied the original, this is more evidence of a likelihood of confusion. Levi at 91.
Policy. Exactly why this factor is relevant to a finding of a likelihood of confusion is unclear. It seems the real concern is with nailing free riders qua bad actors. Perhaps this factor is evidence of the original’s secondary meaning/distinctiveness: the junior user copied the original only because it’s valuable.
Levi at 91 (finding evidence, when viewed in light most favorable to Δ, did indicate that Δ had stumbled onto the stitching pattern).
McDonald’s (citing the McDental dentist’s obvious bad faith in adopting the name, i.e., free riding, as probably the determinant factor weighing against the dentist, despite the improbability that McDonald’s would enter the dental industry and the lack of proximity of fast food and dental services).
G. The quality of the respective goods
Rule. If the infringer’s good is markedly inferior, the trademark owner has a heightened interest in stopping the infringing use of his mark. On the other hand, one court has found that the superiority of the infringing user’s goods actually weighed against him b/c it indicated that consumers were all that much more likely to not see that Δ’s goods were from a different source. Levi at 91.
H. Sophistication of the relevant buyers
Rule. The more sophisticated the buyers, the less likely is consumer confusion about the source of the goods. Relevant factors include the price of the product and the potential for impulse purchases. On the other hand, one court somehow found that b/c the buyers were sophisticated they were actually more likely to pay attention to the stitching pattern, thus heightening the risk of confusion. Levi at 92.
III. Can Δ escape liability through an affirmative defense?
Rule. Δ’s use of Π’s trademark may be (A) a fair use in comparative advertising, or (B) a nominal use.
Policy. The usual competitiveness/antitrust policies. Trademarks qua competition, not natural rights.
A. Is Δ’s use a fair use in comparative advertising?
B. Is Δ’s use a nominal use?
Rule. “First, [(1)] the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, [(2)]only so much of the mark or marks may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third, [(3)] the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.” New Kids at 116.
Relationship to Polaroid test. Playboy asserted that the nominative use test actually supplanted the Polaroid test for consumer confusion. This is very strange. Why would there be a different test for consumer confusion if nominal use is an affirmative defense, by definition granting there is a likelihood of consumer confusion?
New Kids on the Block (finding that newspapers’ use of the band name in survey about which singer was the best was a permissible nominal use).
Playboy (finding that website’s use of Playboy marks in its metatags, watermarks, etc. was a nominal use).
1. Is Δ’s product “readily identifiable” without the trademark?
Rule. The product is not “readily identifiable” when there is no “descriptive substitute for the trademark.” Playboy (citing “Chicago Bulls” as an example).
Policy. Allowing the trademark holder exclusive rights over the trademark would deplete the language in the same way as if generic words were protectable.
Playboy (finding no descriptive substitutes existed for “Playmate,” etc.).
2. Is Δ’s use of the mark “no more than is reasonably necessary”?
Rule. Undefined. E.g., soft-drink distributor must be allowed to use “Coca-Cola” but is not entitled to use the distinctive lettering of the mark; a car repairman must be allowed to use “Volkswagen” but is not entitled to the distinctive lettering or the “VW” emblem.
Fonts. Just use the word, don’t use the font, and all is well. Playboy (finding reasonable use when the playmate did not use Playboy’s distinctive lettering/font and symbol).
3. Does Δ’s use suggest Π’s sponsorship or endorsement?
Disavowal. It matters if Δ attempts to distance itself from Π. Playboy (finding no sponsorship when Δ disavowed affiliation with Π, even criticize Π).
The owner of (I) a “famous mark,” § 1125(c)(1), Moseley (S.Ct.2003) at 101, is entitled to an injunction against Δ’s further use of his mark if (II) that use causes “actual dilution,” Moseley, unless (III) Δ’s use is protected as an affirmative defense. § 1125(c). Π is entitled to other damages if (IV) Π proves Δ “willfully intended to trade on the owner’s reputation or to cause dilution of the famous mark.” § 1125(c)(2).
I. Is Π’s mark a “famous mark”? § 1125(c)(1).
Rule. § 1125(c)(1) specifies criteria for determining “famous mark.” It is apparently easy to prove “famous mark.”
Times Mirror at 129 (holding “The Sporting News” mark for a weekly publication was famous enough b/c “a mark not famous to the general public is nevertheless entitled to protection from dilution where both the plaintiff and defendant are operating in the same or related markets, so long as the plaintiff’s mark possesses a high degree of fame in its niche market”).
II. Did Δ’s use of his mark cause “actual dilution” of Π’s famous mark? § 1125(c).
Rule. “Dilution” is “the lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services.” § 1127. Π must prove “actual dilution.” Moseley at 106. Because “actual dilution” is required, it is not enough for Π to merely prove that consumers mentally associate Δ’s mark with Π’s famous mark: mere mental association alone does not constitute actual dilution. Moseley at 106. However, Π does not need to prove that it actually suffered adverse consequences because of the dilution, e.g. actual loss of sales or profits. Moseley at 106. Finally, the absence of a likelihood of consumer confusion or competition between two users is irrelevant in a dilution claim. § 1127.
Policy. Dilution law is motivated by a desire to preserve the uniqueness of the owner’s mark; it is not concerned with consumer confusion. Moseley at 104. Dilution law aims to prevent both the blurring of the distinctiveness of the mark and also the tarnishing of the mark.
“Blurring” defined. Undefined. This might be the only actionable harm. Moseley at 104.
“Tarnishment” defined. An association that brings the famous mark into disrepute. E.g. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders v. Pussycat Cinema (finding tarnishment when Δ used Π’s famous uniforms in a porn film). Moseley might have disqualified “tarnishment” as the basis for a dilution claim. Id. at 104.
Evidence of “actual dilution”. “Actual dilution” usually must be proven by direct evidence, e.g. through consumer surveys. However, occasionally, direct evidence of actual dilution might not be necessary. Moseley at 106. For example, when Δ’s mark is identical to Π’s famous mark, circumstantial evidence of dilution might be sufficient. Id.
III. Is Δ exempted by an affirmative defense? § 1125(c)(4).
Rule. Three defenses to a dilution claim: (1) fair use in comparative advertising, and (2) noncommercial use of a mark (i.e., nominal use), and (3) use in news reporting or news commentary. § 1125(c)(4).
“Nominative use” defined. “First, the product or service in question must be one not readily identifiable without use of the trademark; second, only so much of the mark or marks may be used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service; and third, the user must do nothing that would, in conjunction with the mark, suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark holder.” New Kid; see also Playboy (“nominative uses, by definition, do not dilute the trademarks”).
Moseley (holding Π did not prove “actual dilution” b/c it did not submit any evidence on the f.o.c., instead relying on the irrelevant evidence that consumers mentally associated Δ’s mark with Π’s famous mark).
IV. Is Δ entitled to remedies other than an injunction? § 1125(c)(2).
Rule. “The owner of the famous mark shall be entitled to injunctive relief as set forth in section 1116 unless the person against whom the injunction is sought willfully intended to trade on the owner’s reputation or to cause dilution of the famous mark.” § 1125(c)(2).
Π is entitled to ownership of Δ’s domain name if (I) Δ’s domain name is identical or confusingly similar to Π’s trademark, (II) Δ has no rights or legitimate interests in its domain name, and (III) Δ’s domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith. ICANN Rules, 15(a); § 1125(d); Wal-Mart (noting that a § 1125(d) claim is very similar to a ICANN claim).
Policy. UDRP was aimed at cybersquatters. 1st Amendment policies rival the preemption of cybersquatters, in particular barring Π from killing criticism of it with this cause of action.
I. Is Δ’s domain name “identical or confusingly similar” to Π’s mark?
Rule. Assuming Π has a valid mark (see supra Infringement), Δ’s domain name is “identical or confusingly similar” if (A) there is “a likelihood of consumer confusion” under the Lanham Act, and (B) Δ’s domain name is not used for “parodic or critical purposes.” Wal-Mart at 111.
A. Is there “a likelihood of consumer confusion”?
Rule. The usual Polaroid test determines whether there is “a likelihood of consumer confusion.”
“sucks” domains. Bally and Wal-Mart are strong authority for the proposition that “sucks” domains are unlikely to present a likelihood of confusion.
B. Was the domain used for “parodic or critical purposes”?
Rule. A domain is used for “parodic or critical purposes” if it conveys “two simultaneous and contradictory messages”: that it is the original, but also that it is not the original but actually a parody. Wal-Mart at 113 (citing Spotlight).
Policy. Domains used for parody are unlikely to be “identical or confusingly similar.” Where Δ’s purpose was parody, the information on the page is unlikely to confuse the consumer. Wal-Mart at 111. I.e., a parody depends on a lack of confusion to make its point.
PETA (finding no parodic purpose in Δ’s use b/c not “simultaneous” when Δ’s “People Eating Tasty Animals” presented only one message – eating meat is good).
Spotlight (finding no parodic purpose in Δ’s use b/c not simultaneous when Δ’s website simply flamed the competition).
Wal-Mart (finding parodic purpose).
II. Does Δ have rights or legitimate interests in the domain name?
Rule. Undefined. Criticism and parody are legitimate interests. Wal-Mart.
III. Did Δ register and use the domain name in “bad faith”?
Π is entitled to various remedies if (I) Π owned a valid copyright, and (II) Δ copied elements of Π’s work that are copyrightable, unless (III) Δ can plead an affirmative defense.
Watch for copying. I tend to miss incidents of possible “copying”, e.g., programs that do similar functions, programs and websites with similar layouts, operating systems for similar devices (iTunes v. iGot), device interfaces. Don’t forget that an actionable “copying” occurs when Δ uses a copyrighted work in a manner not authorized by the terms of the copyright owner’s license (e.g., playing a copyrighted song on the iGot, though it was licensed for the iTune; e.g., using software in a prohibited manner).
I. Did Π own a valid copyright?
Rule. Π has a valid copyright if (A) the work is within the affirmative scope of copyright, (B) and outside the prohibited scope of copyright. § 102. Π has prima facie evidence of a valid copyright, shifting burden of proof onto Δ, if Π has a certificate of registration. § 411.
A. Is Π’s work within the affirmative scope of copyright? § 102(a).
Rule. Π’s work is within the affirmative scope if it is (1) “original” and (2) “fixed.” § 102(a).
1. Is Π’s work “original”?
Rule. A work is original if it is (1) independently created by the author (excludes plagiarized works), and (2) possesses some minimal degree of creativity (excludes “discovered” (facts) and banal works). Feist. The requisite level of creativity is relatively low. Feist. Special rules have evolved for compilations (and databases), derivative works, software, and functional art.
Policy. To reward and subsidize those in the cult of authorship. Originality = work originating in act of authorship = creation. Non-originality = non-authorship = discovery, plagiarism, or banality. Feist.
Definitions. Feist did not formulate a positive definition or test for the degree or quantum of creativity required for originality. However, Feist did recite a litany of the missing characteristics of the directory that failed to qualify as original: It is a work “in which the creative spark is utterly lacking or so trivial as to be virtually nonexistent,” “so mechanical or routine as to require no creativity whatsoever,” “garden variety,” a work whose selection, coordination and arrangement “could not be more obvious,” “it is practically inevitable,” a “time-honored tradition.”
Flair. There is originality when the author injects part of his personality or flare in his work. Bleistein (“the work is personal to the author”). Under such a test, any aesthetic decisions made by the “author” during the “creation” would prompt a finding of originality.
What is non-original? Facts, individual words, short phrases, slogans, and familiar symbols (b/c “traditional,” “garden variety,” and “obvious”). Feist.
Derivative works. Derivative works can qualify as original. § 103(a). In derivative works, the determinative question for originality is whether the author “slavishly or mechanically copied” from the underlying work. Hearn. Transferring the principal work to another medium weighs in favor of a finding of “originality.” Hearn.
Compilations. A compilation of non-original elements warrants copyright protection if there is the requisite degree of creativity in the selection and arrangement, but protection extends only to those aspects of the compilation that are original. § 103(b); Feist; Kregos. The standard for originality in a compilation is (1) independent creation as to the selection and arrangement of the facts and (2) selectivity. Kregos. I.e., a compilation is original only if it is selective (i.e., how many facts did author take from the universe of relevant data?) and creative (was the selection of those facts obvious?). Kregos. The central focus is on selectivity. Merger is apparently a predominant concern limiting protection. See Kregos.
Databases. Perhaps the most significant implication of the originality requirement is that databases qua compilations receive only thin protection: a competitor may copy the data in the compilation so long as it does not present the data with the same selection and arrangement. West Pub. I; West Pub. II. It remains possible that Congress could constitutionally extend quasi-copyright protection to databases if acting under the Commerce Clause. See Moghadam. The central question there is whether the originality requirement is fundamental so that it functions as an implicit prohibition on Congress.
Computer programs. Software is copyrightable. The literal elements are clearly protected. So are some of the non-literal elements, including the program’s organization. The copyrightable non-literal elements are sorted from the non-copyrightable through the abstraction-comparison-filtration test. See infra.
Kregos (reversing summary judgment on a finding that the pitching form qua compilation of facts lacked originality b/c it could not be said as a matter of law that the author did not exercise the requisite, but small degree of creativity in the selection and arrangement of the facts).
Hearn (holding that the illustrators copies of famous pictures were not copyrightable as derivative works b/c lacking in requisite degree of creativity when the illustrator simply slavishly copied the works).
NBA v. Motorola (finding that basketball games are not “original works of authorship” b/c there is no underlying script and can result in wholly unanticipated occurrences; however, the recorded broadcast of the game is copyrightable b/c of the creative choices made in how to record the game).
Prod. Contractors v. WGN (finding that a Christmas parade is not a work of authorship entitled to copyright protection).
West Pub. I (finding the rearrangement of information and the addition of citations in judicial opinions was trivial and obvious, precluding a finding of originality).
2. Is Π’s work “fixed”? § 101.
Rule. A work is “fixed” if its “embodiment in a copy … is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicate for a period of more than transitory duration.” § 101; Moghadam (Ct.App.1999); MIA Systems (holding that the loading of software onto RAM was “copying” when the image was “sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived ... for a period of more than transitory duration”).
Policy. Unclear. Likely the requirement simply demarcates the parameters of Π’s entitlements, i.e., fixation is just a little white picket fence around the property right.
B. Is Π’s work outside the prohibited scope of copyright? § 102(b).
Rule. Π’s work is within the prohibited scope of copyright if the work is an “idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.” § 102(b). Effectively, the prohibited scope is facts, ideas, expressions that merge into ideas, and functional expressions. Only a few works is totally lacking in elements outside the prohibited scope of copyright. Since most works are technically copyrightable, the “thinness” of that protection is the critical determination. See infra.
Functional arts. Copyright of “works of applied art” is not prohibited. § 101. However, only the nonfunctional/aesthetic aspects of a functional work are copyrightable. Drawing the line between what is copyrightable and what is not is difficult. E.g. Brandir (articulating the conceptual severability test for “works of art”), Altai (articulating the abstraction-filtration-comparison test for software). See infra.
Merger. It is unclear whether merger doctrine should be applied here, to prohibit a copyright, or later, after infringement is proven, as an affirmative defense. Kregos (dissenting opinion) (advocating the application of merger doctrine when making a finding on the validity of the copyright b/c merger qua affirmative defense prompts the inference that merger is a means of explaining away unintentional similarities, which is false given that you can legitimately and intentionally copy merged expression). I apply merger here, and again, if the work as a whole has some copyrightable elements, to filter out those elements that are not copyrightable. Still, I should note the split in my analysis.
II. Did Δ infringe Π’s copyright?
Rule. Δ infringed Π’s copyright if (A) Δ “actually copied” elements of Π’s protected work, (B) those elements were actually copyrightable, §§ 107 – 120, and (C) the copying was so extensive as to render the two works “substantially similar.” Lotus. Engineering Dynamics. Sturdza.
Divisible rights. The § 106 bundle of exclusive rights is infinitely divisible. § 202. Thus, the owner may entitle a user with a privilege to “copy” his work through either a license or transfer. However, the moment that the user steps outside the privileges entitled by his contract with the owner, the user becomes liable for infringement (except of course if that breach of contract is a fair use).
Watch for copying. I tend to miss incidents of possibly actionable “copying”, e.g., programs that do similar functions, programs and websites with similar layouts, operating systems for similar devices (iTunes v. iGot), device interfaces. Don’t forget that an actionable “copying” occurs when Δ uses a copyrighted work in a manner not authorized by the terms of the owner’s license (e.g., playing a song on the iGot, though it was licensed for the iTune; e.g., using software in a prohibited manner).
Registration requirement. Registration of the copyrights must be attempted before an action for infringement can be commenced. § 411 However, a successful registration is not an essential prerequisite to suit. Where registration has been refused, the applicant is entitled to institute an action for infringement if notice of the action is served on the Register of Copyrights. The Register may, at his or her option, become a party to such action but only on the issue of registrability of the copyright claim. Finally, though registration is prerequisite to an infringement action, it may be obtained at any time during the copyright term. Thus, the fact that plaintiff did not register a copyright until after an alleged infringement has occurred does not preclude the plaintiff from recovering for infringement of copyrights occurring before the date of registration.
A. Did Δ “actually copy” elements of Π’s copyrighted work?
Rule. This is a self-defining, apple-like concept. However, to constitute a “copy” there must be “fixation.” MIA Systems (holding that the loading of software onto RAM was “copying”); § 101.
Evidence. Π can prove Δ “actually copied” either (1) through direct evidence of copying, or (2) through circumstantial evidence that (a) Δ had access to the works, and (b) there is “probative similarity” (which is distinct from “substantial similarity”) between the works. Lotus. The stronger the showing of access, the less the similarity necessary to prove copying. “Access” is a “reasonable opportunity to copy,” i.e., access cannot be proven by mere speculation or conjecture. Π must prove more than a bare possibility of access.
B. Are the allegedly copied elements actually copyrightable?
Rule. Like works as a whole, a constituent element is copyrightable if the element is (1) within the affirmative scope of copyright, § 102(a), and (2) outside the prohibited scope of copyright, § 102(b). (Effectively, a constituent element is copyrightable if it is (1) not a fact and (2) not an idea or expression that merges with its underlying idea.)
Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works. Functional arts present some difficulty in determining the extent of copyright protection. Copyright protection is limited to their “artistic craftsmanship insofar as their form but not their mechanical or utilitarian aspects are concerned.” § 101. Furthermore, “the design of a useful article … shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.” § 101. “A ‘useful article’ is an article having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information.” § 101. Courts have created the conceptual severability test to apply these limiting principles to applied arts; under the test, the art is divided up into conceptual elements and each is examined to determine whether copyrightable. E.g. Brandir.
Software. Software qua functional expression presents the same problem as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.” Congress clearly stated that non-literal aspects of software are within the affirmative scope of copyright. Still, some of that non-literal expression is also within the prohibited scope of copyright. Thus, given a computer program, a court must determine which non-literal aspects of the program are both within the affirmative scope and outside the prohibited scope. Courts have adapted the principles limiting copyright of applied art to copyright of software. Under the abstraction-filtration-comparison test, a computer program is divided up into constituent elements with each element examined to determine whether copyrightable. E.g. Altai.
1. Is the constituent element within the affirmative scope of copyright? § 102(a).
Rule. A constituent element is within the affirmative scope of copyright if it is “original” and “fixed.” See supra.
2. Is the constituent element outside the prohibited scope of copyright”? § 102(b).
Rule. A constituent element is outside the prohibited scope of copyright if it is not an “idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery . . . .” § 102(b). Effectively, the prohibited scope is “ideas,” including expressions that merge into ideas. The prohibition on copyright of ideas is enforced through the doctrines of (a) merger and (b) scenes a faire. Lexmark (stating that the doctrines of merger and scenes a faire help define the “elusive boundary line” between idea and expression). Finally, (c) functional expressions are within the prohibited scope of copyright (though perhaps this limitation on copyright is a simple application of merger). § 101.
Policy. “The principle problem – simply stated, if difficult to resolve – is to stimulate creative expression without unduly limiting access by others to the broader themes and concepts deployed by the author.” Lotus (Boudin concurring). § 102(b) is partly about advancing 1st Amendment policies. Besides protecting freedom of expression, § 102(b) and § 101, as enforced through merger and scenes a faire, also effect competitiveness/efficiency policies, e.g. avoiding the welfare losses of super-patent monopolies and preventing monopoly leveraging into other markets through network/lock-in effects.
Brandir (holding that all the aesthetic elements of the bicycle rack were the product of functional / utilitarian considerations and thus not copyrightable b/c barred by § 101, or arguably b/c falling within the “idea” of efficiency).
Lotus (typing the “menu command hierarchy” / “user interface” as a “a method of operation,” arguably thus an “idea,” and thus within the prohibited scope of copyright; this was an innovative solution to the unique problems of software, especially the problems for monopoly abuse of network effects).
Altai (recognizing that non-literal aspects of software are within the affirmative scope of copyright, and then using the abstraction-filtration-comparison test to determine which non-literal elements were outside the scope of copyright b/c “idea” or not “original”).
a. Does merger doctrine bar copyright of the element?
Rule. Merger doctrine bars copyright of an expression if granting a copyright would effectively grant a monopoly over the expressed idea/method, i.e., if the expression is one of a very few modes of communicating the expressed idea. I.e., it is the size of the set of expressions for that idea that matters.
Policy. The hope is to prevent a person from monopolizing an idea simply by copyrighting the few modes of expressing the idea.
Application. The doctrine is difficult to apply. First, the court must define what is the underlying idea that the expression communicates. This is a contentious point for debate.
Functional art. Either merger could filter utilitarian elements or a separate § 101 limit could. See infra.
Software. The ideal of efficiency is an “idea” protected by merger doctrine and, to a lesser extent, scenes a faire. Altai. When applied to software, an expression is barred by merger if there is not a practical alternative expression to accomplish the efficiency goal/ideal. Lexmark.
Kregos (dissenting opinion) (holding that merger barred copyright of the pitching form b/c author was attempting to copyright a method/idea of predicting a pitcher’s performance).
Baker v. Seldon (holding that author of double-entry accounting system could not own a copyright in the book b/c that would effectively grant a monopoly in the idea).
Altai (holding that “elements [of the non-literal expression] dictated by efficiency” are within the prohibited scope of copyright).
b. Does scenes a faire bar copyright of the element?
Rule. An expression is within the prohibited scope of copyright if it is “incidents, characters, or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least standard, in the treatment of a given topic.” Sturdza (citing Atari).
Software. In computers, industry standards (e.g., particular business practices, purchaser design standards, or I/O formats) are scenes a faire. Engineering Dynamics, Sturdza.
Engineering Dynamics (finding that I/O formats could be an industry standard and thus within the prohibited scope of copyright b/c scenes a faire).
Altai (holding that “elements dictated by external factors” are within the prohibited scope of copyright and that the “standard techniques” of the computing environment include (1) the mechanical specifications of the computer on which a particular program is intended to run, (2) compatibility requirements of other programs with which a program is intended to run, (3) computer manufacturers’ design standards, (4) demands of the industry being serviced, and (5) widely accepted programming practices within the computer industry).
c. Is the expression functional?
Rule. An expression is functional if it has a utilitarian aspect.
Relationship with merger. Arguably this limitation is a simple application of the merger doctrine, where the idea is “efficiency.” However, some cases have used § 101 as the hook for this limitation, e.g. Brandir, which implies that some courts consider it a separate limitation.
Applied art. An aesthetic element of an applied art is copyrightable if it is “conceptually separable” from the utilitarian aspects. Two competing tests for conceptual separability: (1) an element is “conceptually separable” if it stimulates in the mind of the beholder a concept that is separate from the concept evoked by its utilitarian function; (2) an element is “conceptually separable” if it is the product of artistic expression instead of functional considerations (“functional influence” test).
“Method of operation”. A “method of operation” is functional and thus within the prohibited scope of copyright. Lotus (finding that this was a case of copying of a literal, not non-literal, expression, but typing that literal expression – the software’s “menu command hierarchy” / “user interface” – as “a method of operation” and thus holding Δ not liable for infringement).
Brandir (applying the “functional influence” test to a bicycle rack and finding that all aesthetic aspects of the rack were influenced by functional considerations).
C. Is there “substantial similarity”?
Rule. The most common test is the ordinary observer test: Would the similarity in the works lead the average observer to recognize the alleged copy as having been appropriated from P’s work? Courts also differ on whether the test should consider the entirety of each work, or only the copyrightable elements (i.e., after filtration). While the amount copied is relevant, a finding of “substantial similarity” is reasonable if that portion is qualitatively significant. Murray Hill.
“Average observer” defined. Some courts hold that when P’s work is directed toward a particular audience or market, it is the average observer in that subset that is relevant to the test. This would be especially important in a software case, where the consumer is potentially a sophisticated, informed party.
Other tests. There are numerous tests for “substantial similarity”: abstractions test, patterns test, the total concept/feel test.
Relationship to “actual copying”. A finding of “substantial similarity” is always necessary, even when proof of actual copying is by direct evidence of access and “probative similarity.” Bridgmon v. Array Systems.
III. Does Δ have any affirmative defenses?
A. Does D’s infringing use fall into any of the exceptions in §§ 108-120?
B. Is Δ’s infringing use a “fair use”? § 107.
Rule. Δ’s use is a “fair use” if the creative merit of the copier’s work is greater than the harm to the market for the original and its derivatives. See Campbell. § 107 specifies four factors. These factors can not be treated in isolation from one another, but must be weighed in light of fair use policy. Campbell. Also, these are not the only relevant factors. E.g. Harper & Row.
Policy. Fair uses effects the usual “access” policies underlying all property law. In particular, fair use guarantees that copyright doesn’t stifle the creativity that copyright intends to promote. Campbell. More concretely, fair use is about subsidizing, at the owner’s expense, the copier’s use when that use creates a positive externality. Sony (Blackmun J., dissenting); but see Sony (holding time-shifting of public broadcasting was a fair use b/c non-commercial and no market harm, despite lack of public benefit to the fair use). In addition to subsidizing creativity and expression, I would argue that fair use qua access policy also advances competitiveness/antitrust policies. In tension with these two policies is the usual copyright policy of incentivizing creativity. As usual, this means that courts must balance the creative merit of the copier’s work (plus any competitiveness concerns) against the harm to the market for the original and its derivatives.
Other relevant factors. The § 107 factors are not exclusive, and there are others: e.g., author’s right to first publication, Harper & Row, junior work’s parodic nature, Campbell, Suntrust, the senior user’s attempt to leverage its monopoly power into another market, Sony, the junior work’s educational nature, Michigan Document, and the junior user’s good faith, Harper & Row.
Circularity of “fair use”. The balance to be struck is between harm to senior’s market and harm to junior’s creativity. The problem is that the senior’s market is a function of the scope of § 106 entitlements and § 106 entitlements are a function of harm to senior’s market. That is, at first glance, circular. An escape hatch is to define the market harm of the “traditional, reasonable, or likely to be developed” markets. Michigan Documents (en banc).
1. Purpose and character of the use
Rule. A finding of fair use is more likely if (1) the junior work is “transformative” and (2) not “commercial.”
Policy. The more transformative a work is the more it contributes to Progress and the less likely it will serve as a market substitute to the original. Campbell. The less commercial a work is the less widespread it will be and thus the less likely it will serve as a market substitute to the original.
a. Is the use “transformative?
Rule. A work is “transformative” if the new work “adds a further purpose or different character”, Napster, and not motivated by an intent to “avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh”, e.g. a satire, Campbell, Suntrust. “Parody has an obvious claim to transformative value.” Campbell. Satires are less likely transformative. Campbell. Retransmitting an original into a different medium is not especially “transformative.” Napster.
Parody. A “parody” is a work that imitates the style of the work, i.e. takes aim at the original, to criticize or ridicule it. It is in contrast to “satire,” which “has no critical bearing on the substance or style of the original,” i.e., takes aim at something other than the work, and thus can “stand on its own two feet and so requires justification for the very act of borrowing.” Campbell. While parodies receive extra deference, satires receive less deference b/c there the original work is not critical to the expression (and thus not critical to creativity). However even a parodic use is not “presumptively fair.” Campbell. Indeed, “parody, like any other use, has to work its way through the relevant factors and be judged case by case, in light of the ends of copyright law.” Campbell.
Educational use. The “obvious statutory exemption to this focus on transformative uses is the straight reproduction of multiple copies for classroom distribution.” Campbell n.11.
Napster (finding the act of downloading MP3 files does not transform the copyrighted work).
Suntrust (finding TWDG author did not copy the original to “avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh.”).
Michigan Documents (finding the lack of transformative value, though there was some, was not determinative b/c the coursepacks were for classroom use).
b. Is the use “commercial”?
Rule. There are competing definitions of “commercial.” The narrow definition of “commercial” requires economic gain. Suntrust (finding fair use b/c D’s use was published for profit). The broad definition requires that the user acquire something that it would otherwise have had to pay for. Harper & Row (“The crux of the profit/nonprofit distinction is not whether the sole motive of the use is monetary gain but whether the user stands to profit from exploitation of the copyrighted material without paying the customary price.”); Napster (“Direct economic benefit is not required to demonstrate a commercial use. Rather, repeated and exploitative copying of copyrighted works, even if the copies are not offered for sale, may constitute a commercial use.”).
Downstream products. This factor presents complications for users who must rely on a copyrighted work to produce a downstream product to compete with the copyright owner that is attempting to leverage its monopoly power into the downstream market, e.g. software. Arguably, there is a difference between copying the copyrighted work and selling it (forbidden) and copying the copyrighted work to use as an input in a downstream product (fair use?). Lexmark (specifying that D’s use is not “commercial” unless the exploitation is of the copyrighted material itself and not merely the use of the copyrighted material as an input).
Campbell (holding rapper’s use was fair despite the commercial nature of D’s use).
Suntrust (finding The Wind Done Gone a fair use despite its commercial nature).
Michigan Documents (finding “significant” that Δ could copy the coursepacks at a cheaper cost than the students and professors, who were entitled to fair use copying, and thus the for-profit aspect of Δ’s use did not weigh against a finding of fair use).
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
Rule. A finding of “fair use” is more likely if the original is highly creative, Campbell, or unpublished, Harper & Row. There is “given little weight in parody cases.” Suntrust.
Suntrust (finding a fair use even though “GWTW is undoubtedly entitled to the greatest degree of protection as an original work.”)
Michigan Documents (dismissing, rather strangely, the creative nature of the material in the coursepacks as doing “little more than confirm[ing] that the works at issue are protected by copyright”).
3. The portion used
Rule. A finding of “fair use” is more likely if the “amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole” was “reasonable in relation to the purpose of the copying.” Campbell at 1175. This factor is not just about quantity but also quality: did the copy usurp the “heart” of the original? Campbell. No more may be taken from the original than is necessary. Campbell.
Policy. This factor provides insight into whether the allegedly infringing work is transformative and also the likely extent of the market harm (“by revealing the degree to which the parody may serve as a market substitute for the original or potentially licensed derivatives”). Campbell at 1175.
Campbell (finding a fair use even though the rapper copied much of the original, including the opening riff, arguably “the heart” of the song, b/c parodies need to borrow more than other uses so that it can conjure in the mind of the listener the original).
Harper & Row (finding no fair use even though only 300 words were used from the memoirs b/c those quotations amounted to “the heart of the book”).
Michigan Documents (finding a fair use when there was no evidence that the excerpts in the coursepacks were so substantial so as to supersede the original works, i.e., serve as market substitutes).
4. Effect of use on the market
Rule. A finding of “fair use” is more likely when there is little or no effect on the market for the original and its derivatives. Campbell. Alternatively stated, “[T]o negate fair use, one need only show that if the challenged use ‘should become widespread, it would adversely affect the potential market for the copyrighted work.’” Harper & Row. This factor may be the most important. Harper & Row (“This factor is undoubtedly the single most important element of fair use.”); Michigan Documents (en banc). Only the potential for market harm, not actual harm, need be proven. Sony.
Relevant market. The relevant market is the current market for the original, any potential markets for the original, and the current and potential market for derivatives of the original. To escape the circularity of § 107, only “traditional, reasonable, or likely to be developed markets” should be considered.” Michigan Documents (en banc). The existence of a licensing system is evidence of a relevant market segment.
Market substitution. Essentially the question of market harm is just a question of whether the copy can serve as a market substitute for the original or its derivative works. Suntrust.
Parody. When a parody happens to kill the market for the original through critique (as opposed to through substitution), this is not a legally cognizable harm under copyright. Campbell at 1178 (“There is no protectible derivative market for criticism.”).
Burden of proof. The burden of proof on this element is confused. Campbell suggests the presumption of market harm does not apply in a case “involving something beyond mere duplication for commercial purposes,” e.g. for parody and other transformative works. See also Suntrust (in a review of Tr.Ct.’s grant of injunction, Ct.App. did not invoke the Sony presumption despite the commercial nature of D’s use). On the other hand, Sony held there is a presumption of market harm when the junior use is commercial. Sony at 422 (“What is necessary is a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that some meaningful likelihood of future harm exists. If the intended use is for commercial gain, that likelihood may be presumed. But if it is for a noncommercial purpose, the likelihood must be demonstrated.”); see also Napster (“The proof required to demonstrate present or future market harm varies with the purpose and character of the use.”). Alternatively, the burden might rest on the junior user, but decrease the less commercial is the junior’s use, until it disappears at non-commercial or parodic and transformative uses. Michigan Documents (en banc) (“The strength of the Sony presumption may vary according to the context in which it arises, and the presumption disappears entirely where the challenged use is one that transforms the original work into a new creation. Perhaps the presumption is weaker in the present case than it would be in other contexts. There is a presumption of unfairness here, nonetheless, and we are not persuaded that the defendants have rebutted it.”).
Sony (holding D’s VCR was capable of a “fair use” when the VCR could be used for time-shifting of programming which was a fair use b/c the use was noncommercial, putting burden of proof on P, but Π did not prove a likelihood of present or future market harm).
Napster (finding Δ’s use caused market harm in two ways: first, by creating barriers to P’s entry into the market for digital downloading of music; second, it reduces sales among college students).
Michigan Documents (finding b/c this was a noncommercial use, Π had the burden of proving market harm, and that Π had failed to prove that when it was undisputed that professors would not have assigned the readings if there were no coursepacks).
Michigan Documents (en banc) (finding market harm when the burden was on Δ and when Π had an existing licensing system for these types of uses, evidencing the harm to a relevant market).
I. Is Δ liable for contributory infringement?
Rule. Δ “infringes contributorily by intentionally inducing or encouraging direct infringement.” Grokster at 5. The evidentiary basis for a finding of culpable intent depends on whether Δ’s distributed product is (A) capable of substantial lawful uses, Sony, or (B) incapable of substantial lawful uses.
A. Δ’s product is capable of substantial lawful uses
Rule. Culpable intent cannot be presumed simply by Δ’s knowledge that its product is being used for infringement. Instead, culpable intent may be presumed only if Δ “distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe.” Grokster at 8. Examples of “active steps” to foster infringement include “advertising an infringing use or instructing how to engage in an infringing use.” Grokster at 8.
Policy. To leave “breathing room for innovation and a vigorous commerce” while also protecting the copyright’s value. Grokster at 6. Still, there is concern that Grokster chills innovation. Specifically, Grokster has created a club that a copyright owner can use to kill off rivals in downstream markets. That is because in a big firm there is often someone who speculates aloud that the firm would benefit from direct infringement. That speculation becomes contributory liability if there are small but “active steps.”
Mere knowledge. To be explicit, “mere knowledge of infringing potential or actual infringing uses would not be enough” to subject Δ to contributory liability. Grokster at 8. Sony (holding Δ not liable for contributory infringement, although Δ had knowledge of infringing acts by purchasers, b/c its product was capable of substantial lawful uses).
Grokster (holding Δ liable for contributory infringement, although its product arguably had substantial lawful uses, b/c it had taken “active steps” to promote direct infringement when it advertised the use of its product as an instrument of infringing, internal documents proved that Δ attempted to fill the void left by Napster, Δ never attempted to develop filtering tools or other mechanisms to diminish infringing uses, and Δ made money off the infringing activities by selling advertising space).
B. Δ’s product is not capable of substantial lawful uses
Rule. Culpable intent can be inferred from (1) the design of the product together with (2) mere knowledge of infringing uses. Grokster (“In sum, where an article is ‘good for nothing else’ but infringement, there is no legitimate public interest in its unlicensed availablity, and there is no injustice in presuming or imputing an intent to infringe.”).
II. Is Δ liable for vicarious infringement?
Rule. Δ “infringes vicariously by [A] profiting from direct infringement while [B] declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it.” Grokster at 5.
A. Did Δ benefit financially from the direct infringement?
Napster (finding Δ had a direct financial interest in the users’ downloading of MP3 when D’s revenues depended on continued infringement).
B. Did Δ have the right and the ability to supervise its users’ conduct?
Contributory infringement. Note that if Δ takes steps to police direct infringement so as to avoid contributory liability, it exposes itself to a greater risk of vicarious liability because it has increased the scope for supervision of users’ conduct.
I. Is Δ liable under § 1201(a)(1)(A) for circumventing a technological measure?
Rule. Δ is liable if (A) the work was protected by a valid copyright, (B) a technological measure “effectively controlled” access to that work, and (C) Δ “accessed” that work by circumventing that technological measure.
Policy. Copyright owners want to regulate the terms on which users can access their works. Copyright law only regulates copying. DMCA now entitles owners to a remedy when users access a work without complying with the owner’s terms, that is, by stepping around the owner’s technological measure that controls access so as enforce the owner’s terms for access.
A. Did Π own a valid copyright over the access-protected work?
Rule. See supra Copyright Infringement.
B. Was access to that work “effectively controlled” by a technological measure?
Rule. Practically any technological measure constitutes “effective control.”
C. Did Δ “access” that work by circumventing the technological measure?
Rule. Competing rules. V1 (Boyle’s): Δ “accessed” a work only if Δ’s use of the work would have constituted copyright infringement. Skylink (limiting liability under § 1201(a)(2) to an “access” that would also constitute copyright infringement). V2 (literal reading): Any access is a prohibited access. Corely. V3 (middle ground): “access” is limited to “forms of access that bear a reasonable relationship to the protections that the Copyright Act otherwise affords copyright owners.” Skylink. This rule-of-reason analysis, akin to Sherman Act analysis, attaches liability to unreasonable access, that is, access that will tend to let escape the pirating virus that plagues copyright owners in the age of the Internet.
Policy. A terrible conflict of policies. On the one hand, if “access” means literally any access of the work then (1) § 1201 puts copyright in conflict with the antitrust laws because copyright owners can use the DMCA-backed fences to leverage their monopolies into downstream markets by blocking generic versions, e.g. Skylink; Lexmark, (2) § 1201 enables copyright owners to bar fair use of their works, arguably in contradiction of § 1201(c), and (3) § 1201 enables perpetual copyrights because copyright owners need only mix a little new with the old and then wrap a DMCA-backed fence around the compilation. On the other hand, if “access” means only any access that ends in an infringing use, then (1) § 1201(a) and § 1201(b) collapse into one because (b) prohibits the selling of devices that facilitate infringement, as now does (a), (2) this allows the trafficking in circumvention devices, so long as for a noninfringing use, which lets escape the virus of pirating.
§ 1201(f). Note that Δ may access a DMCA-protected work in order to facilitate reverse engineering, if the copy was legally obtained. This exception explains why Skylink was not liable under § 1201(a)(1), i.e., why Skylink was sued for trafficking, not access.
II. Is Δ liable under § 1201(a)(2) for trafficking in a circumvention technology?
A. Did Δ traffic in a “circumventing technology”?
Rule. § 1201(a) defines. Essentially, a “circumventing technology” is a technology with no other substantial lawful uses besides circumventing these technological measures.
B. Did that technology enable the circumvention of a technological measure that
“effectively controlled” access to a work?
C. Was that work protected by a valid copyright?
D. Did the circumvention of the measure lead to “access” of the work by T?
Rule. See supra.
Policy. See supra.
III. Is Δ liable under § 1201(b) for trafficking in a technology that facilitates infringement?
Under Skylink, the same as § 1201(a)(2). Under Corely, the effect of the circumvention must have been an infringing act, not just mere access.
[Am I missing something here? What’s the difference between § 1201(b) and a contributory infringement action?]
Π has a valid patent if the invention (I) satisfies the formalities of registration, (II) is within the subject matter of patent, (III) has utility, (IV) is novel, and (V) is non-obvious.
I. Are the formalities of registration satisfied?
Rule. The applicant satisfies the formalities if the invention is “fully disclosed.” An invention is “fully disclosed” if (1) the “claiming requirement” is met, (2) the “enablement requirement” is met, and (3) the “best mode requirement” is met.
A. Is the “claiming requirement” met?
Rule. The “claiming requirement” is met if the applicant includes one or more claims which clearly and distinctly describe the invention.
B. Is the “enablement requirement” met?
Rule. The “enablement requirement” is met if the applicant describes how to make and use the invention with sufficient clarity and detail to enable a person with ordinary skill in the relevant art to make and use it without undue experimentation.
C. Is the “best mode requirement” met?
Rule. The “best mode requirement” is met if the applicant sets forth the best mode that he contemplates for carrying out his invention as of the application filing date.
II. Is the invention within the subject matter of patent?
Rule. An invention is within the subject matter of patent if it is “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” § 101. Implicitly, an invention is not within the subject matter of patent if (A) the invention is a “naturally occurring” thing, or (B) a “law of nature” or “abstract idea.” Practically any invention is within the subject matter.
State Street (Ct.App.1998) (holding that there was no business method exception and finding that a system for calculating and allocating mutual fund revenues and expenses was within the subject matter).
Diamond v. Chakrabarty (S.Ct.1980) (holding that “living things” are patentable subject matter if not “naturally occurring” and finding that this organism had “markedly different characteristics from anything found in nature” and thus within the subject matter).
A. Is the invention a “naturally occurring” thing?
Rule. “Naturally occurring” is not equivalent to “animate.” Indeed, patents may be granted for animate matter, i.e., living things, if the animate matter has been altered by the inventor to have characteristics it would not have had naturally. Chakrabarty.
Purifications. Are purifications “naturally occurring”? 613 n. 4.
B. Is the invention a “law of nature” or “abstract idea”?
Rule. “Idea” is a self-defining, apple-like concept. E.g., computer programs qua mathematical algorithms are “laws of nature” and not within the subject matter. (Although a process or device that incorporates a computer program may itself be within the subject matter.)
Business methods. These are within the subject matter. State Street.
Medical procedures. These are within the subject matter.
III. Is the invention “useful”?
Rule. An invention has “utility” if there is a current, beneficial use for the invention or, in the case of a process, the product of the process has such a use. Brenner (S.Ct.1966).
Policy. The motivation for this condition is unclear. Why not allow patents over worthless inventions? Apparently the rationale is that the requirement helps delineate the “metes and bounds” of the monopoly grant. Brenner at 625. Opposing this requirement is the policy in favor of encouraging R&D. Because of this requirement, (1) the results of primary R&D are not patentable, (2) other researchers have less incentive to find a use for those primary R&D results because that application is not patentable (once the patent is rejected, the intermediate inventions fall into the public domain), (3) any later invention that builds on that intermediate invention might not be patentable because “obvious,” and (4) Arrow’s disclosure paradox continues to haunt these intermediate inventions.
How-to-make patents. A proposed solution to the dearth of incentives to work intermediate inventions. 631 n. 4.
Brenner (finding no “utility” b/c the product of the process, a homologue, was not know to have a beneficial use, although analogous homologues were known to have beneficial uses in fighting cancer).
IV. Is the invention “novel”?
Rule. An invention is novel if there is no single reference that (A) anticipates the invention, and (B) was accessible to the public.
Policy. There is no reason to incentive the creation of inventions that are not “new.” To do so would be to grant superfluous monopolies, each with deadweight losses, and also to undercut the reliance interests of those who are already using the non-new inventions.
Gayler (finding novelty in a fire-proof safe when a similar prior safe had never been tested as fire-proof and therefore its fire-proofness had never been accessible to the public).
Ogden (finding no novelty when the prior reversible door latch had been put into use by one or two other door manufacturers).
Scripps (finding Tr.Ct. erred in finding no novelty as a matter of law when it was unclear that the prior dissertation actually described every element of the process sought to be patented).
Coniferous Sprouts (finding no novelty when the prior references on the healthiness of eating sprouts implicitly included every element of the process claim for growing sprouts).
A. Do the contents of the reference “anticipate” the invention?
Rule. The reference “anticipates” the invention if the reference “contains enough information to allow the public to practice the invention,” i.e., if the reference contains “all of the elements and limitations of the claim.” Scripps.
Inherency. Every element need not be explicit in the prior reference. If every element is implicit in some reference, the invention has been “anticipated.” Sprout Litigation (finding inherency in a patent on a process when implicit in the prior art references was the assertion that eating sprouts was healthy).
Scripps (finding that every element in the Scripps invention was not described in the Harris dissertation and thus the Harris dissertation did not enable the Scripps invention b/c more work was necessary).
B. Was the anticipating reference “accessible” to the inventor?
Rule. A reference was accessible if (1) in the case of knowledge or use of the invention, that knowledge or use occurs in the United States, or (2) in the case of a prior publication or patent on that invention, that publication or patent occurs anywhere in the world.
Operability. If the ability of the invention to do something has not been determined by making it operable, i.e. testing it, then the knowledge of that feature was not “accessible.” Gayler (finding no anticipation when the prior safe had never been exposed to fire and thus its operability had not been determined); Ogden (finding anticipation when the latch had actually been placed on a door and thus its operability had been determined).
V. Is the invention “non-obvious”?
Rule. The invention is obvious if, at the time of the invention, it would have been “obvious” to a person having ordinary skill in the pertinent art. § 103. The determination of whether “obvious” follows a four-step process: (1) the definition of the scope and content of the relevant prior art, (2) the definition of the differences between the prior art and the invention, (3) the definition of the ordinary level of skill in the pertinent actor, and (4) an assessment of any secondary considerations. John Deere (S.Ct.1966). Note that courts do not appear to follow an especially distinct, step-by-step analysis as implied by this template. The analysis all runs together.
Policy. The novelty requirement policies also motivate this requirement, namely protection of the public domain from superfluous patents. The novelty requirement misses some inventions already in the public domain, in particular those inventions that were disclosed in a series of sources instead of one source (as required by the novelty bar). Nonobviousness bars patents on those inventions. Unfortunately, the test for nonobviousness is itself incoherent, apparently mixing the policies tied to the inventor qua genius and the “sweat of the brow” visions of IP. Rivaling the policy of protecting the public domain is of course the desire to incentivize: note that patent now provides no incentive to do (some) improvements on existing inventions b/c obviousness precludes a patent on those improvements.
Relation to novelty test. While the novelty test looks for the presence of every element in one single reference, though in any field, the obviousness test looks to find a combination of the elements from all the references, but with that search limited to only those references in a related field. In other words, the novelty test still has teeth: it excludes some inventions that the obviousness test does not, in particular those inventions that are barred because of “inherency” and those inventions that appear in one single reference in an unrelated field. 707.
Prima facie cases. PTO makes use of such burden-shifting approaches in some fields. For example, in chemistry, there is a prima facie case of obviousness if there is substantial similarity between the claimed invented compound and compounds in the prior art. E.g. In re Dillon.
Combination patents. If the invention combines old, known elements in a new way, the combination must be synergistic in order to be “non-obvious.” Ag Pro (S.Ct.1976).
Asking for a license. A party’s efforts to obtain a license to an invention is evidence that the invention is non-obvious.
John Deere (finding obvious the movement of the spring on a plow designed for rocky soil from the top to the bottom of the device b/c such an improvement would have been “obvious” to the ordinary).
Ag Pro (finding obvious a tank that released lots of water onto the floor to clean dairy barns of manure b/c all the components were not “new” and there was not the requisite “synergy” between the parts).
Stratoflex (finding obvious fuel hosing that embedded carbon to prevent arching of static electricity buildup when the prior art, specifically rubber hosing patents and research, had explored the embedding of carbon as a solution to the arching problem).
In re Dillon (finding obvious chemical compounds added to fuel to reduce emissions when similar compounds were added to fuel, though for different purposes, which created a prima facie case that claimant had not attempted to overcome).
In re Bell (finding non-obvious nucleic acid molecules b/c the prior art taught away from the invention).
A. What is the scope and content of the relevant prior art?
Rule. The scope of the prior art is that which is “reasonably pertinent to that particular problem with which the inventor was involved.” Stratoflex; §§ 102(a), (e), (f), (g). The prior art includes references in the scholarship to similar problems and solutions and also includes patents in related fields that solved similar problems. Even if not “reasonably pertinent,” a reference becomes part of the “relevant prior art” upon proof that the inventor actually consulted the works during the invention process. Stratoflex.
B. What are the differences between the invention and the prior art?
Rule. Relevant difference are: (1) whether the prior art “teaches away” from the invention, Stratoflex at 683; Bell, (2) whether the invention was “obvious to try.”
Teaches away. Does the prior art obscure the problem that the inventor needs to solve?
Obvious to try. Were there only a limited, though perhaps large, number of possibilities?
C. What is the level of ordinary skill?
Rule. Relevant factors are education, field, and experience.
Stratoflex (finding that the level of ordinary skill was that of a chemical engineer having substantial experience in the extrusion arts).
D. Secondary considerations?
Rule. The secondary factors “might be utilized to give light to the circumstances surrounding the origin of the subject matter sought to be patented.” John Deere at 674. The factors include commercial success, long felt but unsolved needs, and failure of others. However, for the secondary factors to be relevant, there must be a showing of “nexus,” i.e., that the factors are present because of inventiveness. 704.
Commercial success. “Recognition and acceptance by competitors who take licenses under it to avail themselves of the merits of the invention is evidence of non-obviousness.” Stratoflex.
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An Act of Congress is constitutional if (I) it is authorized and (II) it is not prohibited.
I. Is the Act of Congress authorized?
Rule. Acts of Congress on IP subject matter have historically been authorized by (A) the Copyright Clause, or (B) the Commerce Clause.
A. Is the Act authorized by the Copyright Clause?
Rule. A congressional grant of an “exclusive right” to an “author” is authorized if (1) the grant is to an “author,” (2) the grant is for “limited times,” (3) the exclusive right is to a “writing,” [and (4) the grant “promotes the Progress.”]
Patents. Patents are similar. The grant (1) must be to an “inventor” (originality requirement), (2) for “limited times,” [and (4) “promotes the Progress.”]
1. Is the grant of the exclusive right to an “author”?
Rule. The grant is to an “author” if the writing is “original.” Feist; Trademark Cases (S.Ct.1879); Graham v. John Deere (patent law). Some courts hook the originality requirement to “writings.”
Trademarks. Trademark law is not authorized by the Copyright Clause because there is no “originality” in a trademark. Trademark Cases. The Commerce Clause does authorize trademark law. Moghadam (Ct.App.1999).
“Originality” defined. “[W]hile the word ‘writings’ may be liberally construed … it is only such as are original, and are founded in the creative powers of the mind.” Trademark Cases at 37.
2. Is the grant for “limited times”?
Rule. The concept “limited times” has not been defined.
Extension of copyright terms. Eldred.
3. Is the exclusive right to a “writing”?
Rule. The grant is for a “writing” if the work is “fixed.” Moghadam (S.Ct.
B. Is the Act authorized by the Commerce Clause?
Rule. An Act is authorized by the Commerce Clause if it (1) meets the usual Lopez conditions, and (2) does not exceed the “fundamental limitations” of the Copyright Clause. The “limited times” limitation is “fundamental,” but the “fixation” limitation is not “fundamental.” Moghadam. The status of the originality requirement has not been determined.
II. Is the Act of Congress prohibited?
Rule. We focused only on the 1st Amendment prohibitions. Apparently, most congressional acts on IP subject matter are subject to the O’Brien test. Under the O’Brien test, a state act is prohibited if … USOC; Dallas Cowboys; jpmirabeau was here; LL Bean.
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