U.S. Supreme Court Protects Varsity Brands Uniform Designs

By now it’s hard to say anything new about the U.S. Supreme Court victory of Varsity Brands in the STAR ATHLETICA, L.L.C. v. VARSITY BRANDS, INC. copyright infringement lawsuit.

If you don’t know the case it’s fairly straightforward: Varsity Brands has over 200 copyright registrations for two- dimensional designs (lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes) used on the surface of the cheerleading uniforms that they design, make, and sell. Varsity sued Star Athletica, who also markets cheerleading uniforms, for copyright infringement. Star won in District Court on theory that the designs were ineligible for copyright protection. Varsity won on appeal to the Sixth Circuit who held the graphics could be “identified separately” and were “capable of existing independently” of the uniforms qualifying for protection under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Justice Thomas writing for the Court held: “an artistic feature of the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work either on its own or in some other medium if imagined separately from the useful article.”

What seems plain and simple on its face may prove otherwise. The Star Athletica decision is simply the jumping-off point for future controversies regarding the existence and scope of protection for fashion designs and concepts. While the Court does note the commercial aspect of the situation, “two- dimensional designs—consisting of various lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes—appearing on the surface of the cheerleading uniforms that they design, make, and sell,” little is made of this fact elsewhere in the opinion. Given the $2.4 Trillion global value of the Fashion Industry, I suspect the case will form the basis of many IP enforcement cases soon to come.

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Contract Basics for Interior Designers

Ever had an Interior Design client refuse to pay, not give you credit for your work, or use your design without actually hiring you? As unfair as these situations sound, the truth is they happen often. Poor planning, client management or incomplete contracts account for most of these situations. Get expert legal advice from a Chicago-based lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the design industry and learn how to address some of the biggest risk factors designers face today and how your contract can (and more importantly, should) protect you. Follow the link for access to the free informational prevention about improving your interior design contracts.

presentation-contract-basics-for-interior-designers

Do we need a Federal Right of Publicity Statute?

From film to fashion, creative industries are taking steps to protect and promote original work. Designers and manufacturers need to know what steps they can take to protect their designs, their businesses, and their profits. As more interior designers develop signature styles and product lines, protecting original design is more important than ever. Many industry leaders have honed in on this idea, and are exploring the line between inspiration and replication.

In my recent CEU presentation “Contract Basics for Interior Designers,” I discussed repetitional harm that comes from bad clients, bad projects and competitors. My lecture is part of the Business of Design Lecture Series curated by Design Center at The Merchandise Mart. This event was held February 23, 2017. The growth of sites like Yelp! and other unmoderated opinion sites create an easy way to vent frustrations that may end up causing problems or designer professionals later.

Curiously, few have studied the application of State rights of privacy or right of publicity rights to Interior Design.

Right of publicity law is defined solely by reference to a patchwork of of state statutes and common law decisions. Different states have widely divergent right of publicity laws. This creates risks and uncertainty for a wide range of content producers. At the same time, strong federal protection to free speech rights often color these risks.

For example, take the State of Indiana. This state’s right of publicity statute is the most plaintiff-friendly in the nation, and it contains sweeping jurisdictional and choice of law provisions.

Privacy & Security Issues In Smart Home and IoT Devices

Comprised of connected devices such as thermostats, automobiles, electricity, televisions, fitness trackers, security/baby-monitoring cameras, medical devices, cell phones and tablets, IoT adoption is penetrating some of the world’s most regulated industries such as healthcare, energy, government, financial services, and retail. The potential size of the IoT market is staggering. Commercial-device-focused GE estimates the “Industrial Internet” market will reach $10-$15 trillion over the next 20 years. Consumer-focused Cisco estimates the “Internet of Everything” will be $19 trillion by 2020.

Several recent examples from researchers and manufacturers have shown just how easily privacy and security can be comprised by these devices. In April of 2014, research on Nest Smart Thermostats by Matthew Burrough and Jonathan Gill at U. of I. at Urbana-Champaign revealed two observations impacting privacy and security.

First, Nest appears to be “offline,” yet responds immediately to cloud-based (online) temperature control changes. Second, by interacting with the thermostat or triggering the motion sensors, persistent connections can be made. Taken together, the potential exists to exploit seemingly reasonable functional expectations (e.g., monitoring temp changes).

These technology and privacy legal issues are only likely to proliferate. Regardless of the outcome, the case highlights lessons for IT departments and others charged with safeguarding data on devices. As a precaution, it is useful to consult with the outside technology counsel to better understand you’re rates, obligations, and any limitations to your responsibilities for disclosure.

Top 5 questions asked by entrepreneurs

Over the last 20 years I have worked with many technology companies and entrepreneurs in the Chicagoland area. For a time, I also ran the start up and entrepreneurial ventures subcommittee of the Chicago Bar Association.

The entrepreneur panels are always the best attended and also seem to have the liveliest discussions.

Drawing on those experience is it, here are five of the most common questions asked by entrepreneurs.
  1. What is the best legal structure for my business?
  2. How do I protect my idea?
  3. What kind of contracts do I need?
  4. Should I use employees or independent contractors?
  5. Who else should be on my professional team?

Ordinarily one would tackle these in order. However, because the answer to #2 will inform the discussion around #1, it makes sense to address this first.

For Immediate Release @Adlerlaw Has Been Nominated for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Contest

 


For Immediate Release @Adlerlaw Has Been Nominated for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Contest.

Chicago, IL October 7, 2016 @Adlerlaw has been selected to compete in The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition.

From a field of hundreds of potential nominees, @Adlerlaw has received enough nominations to join the one of the largest competitions for legal blog writing online today.

Now that the blogs have been nominated and placed into their respective categories, it is up to their readers to select the very best. With an open voting format that allows participants one vote per blog, the competition will be a true test of the dedication of each blog’s existing readers, while also giving up-and-coming players in the legal blogging space exposure to a wider audience.

Each blog will compete for rank within its category, while the three blogs that receive the most votes in any category will be crowned overall winners.

The competition will at 12:00 AM on November 14th.

The competition can be found at https://www.theexpertinstitute.com/blog-contest/

Please search for @Adlerlaw and vote for us!

Contact: David M. Adler (866) 734-2568 david@adler-law.com

@Adlerlaw is a blog devoted to helping executives, entrepreneurs and creative professionals identify, protect and monetize their ideas and exploit digital business platforms. Content is directly relevant to entrepreneurs and businesses that generate creative content like software developers, mobile application developers, start-ups, and even physicians.

The motivation to create @Adlerlaw stems from my experiences as a nominated member of the Illinois State Bar Association Intellectual Property Committee, running the Entrepreneurial & Start-up Ventures Committee and the Media, Arts & Entertainment Committee of the Chicago Bar Association, as well as public speaking in the areas of intellectual property, information technology, privacy, security and social media. Every forum meeting or presentation ended with in-depth questions from the audience. Since I rarely had time to answer these questions or provide any depth to my response, I decided to publish @Adlerlaw to share my knowledge and educate creative professionals to be better consumers of legal services.