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Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Blog

California claim says Disney swiped story for ‘Frozen’ teaser

The world of imagination is a serious, sometimes high-risk business for California movie makers. Investments can be unrecoverable when a movie flops. While some filmmakers can afford the financial sting of failure, others place all their bets on a single project.

The Walt Disney Co. is flying high off the success of its billion-dollar animated movie "Frozen." Far fewer people responded to the debut of an animated film called "The Legend of Sarila," released at about the same time. The Hollywood Reporter claimed Disney filed and won a trademark infringement suit against the makers of "Sarila," after Phase 4 Films repackaged the film as "Frozen Land."

California claim: Universal’s ‘Section 6’ is a OO7 rip off

Popular stories about a British secret service agent have been the fodder for the "James Bond" movie franchise for decades. The movies injected life into the Ian Fleming novels. Even people who have never seen a Bond movie may be familiar with the larger-than-life character's quirks.

James Bond's publicly-identifiable characteristics as Agent 007, a member of the elite MI6 squad, are at the center of a Los Angeles copyright infringement lawsuit. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, associated subsidiaries, United Artists and Danjaq – the company that produces the James Bond features – are suing NBCUniversal, Universal Studios and a screenwriter. The federal complaint alleges Universal's planned "Section 6" movie lifts blatantly from the Bond character and franchise.

California judge bans Typo Keyboard to satisfy BlackBerry

Ryan Seacrest, according to, is widely known for his Los Angeles morning radio show and his on-air and behind-the-scenes involvement in television shows like "American Idol" and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Many of Seacrest's ideas have paid off handsomely, but his ownership stake in Typo Keyboard may not be one of them.

It's likely you've never heard of Typo Keyboard or Seacrest's founding membership in the startup, but BlackBerry has. Typo makes a cover for iPhones that contains a keyboard, a feature to supplement Apple's touchscreen product. BlackBerry is unhappy because Typo's keyboard resembles its own.

California cybersquatting suit filed by ex-'Jersey Shore' star

California businesses outsource website development and maintenance, because owners lack the time or knowledge to do the jobs themselves. A third party may have full control of a client's online presence, from purchasing domains to the design and content of a website. The strength of a business contract keeps one party from taking advantage of another.

Painted Nail is a salon in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks. The nail business is owned by a former MTV reality show personality, Katie Cazorla of "Jersey Shore." Cazorla and her record-producer boyfriend made a deal with the Canadian-born owner of Digital Welders.

California judge to rule on validity of Tarantino's Gawker suit

Compare contributory infringement to aiding and abetting. An accessory knows about and assists with a crime in a subtle way, without getting his or her hands too dirty. An example might be storing stolen merchandise without taking part in a robbery – you're guilty of facilitating the crime.

Movie maker Quentin Tarantino filed a lawsuit in January accusing Gawker Media of revealing his entire screenplay to the public. Tarantino had plans to produce the "The Hateful Eight" movie but scrapped the idea after Gawker's published links to the script in a blog. Gawker wants a California judge to throw out the lawsuit, claiming the company could not be held as an accessory for copyright infringement that hasn't occurred.

Verdict is in for California DuPont economic espionage case

Most California intellectual property cases do not involve criminal charges. The cases are worked out through settlements or civil court judgments. One party may walk away from a ruling poorer or richer, but penalties are financial ones.

You probably don't give much thought to why the middle of Oreo cookies look so white, but DuPont Co. does. DuPont uses a special process to make titanium dioxide, an unappetizing-sounding chemical used to whiten Oreo centers and other worldwide products. U.S. prosecutors said when China's offer to buy the valuable chemical was rejected by DuPont, the only other option was to steal it.

Trump wins cybersquatting suit but not the damages he wanted

It's not easy, even for some of the wealthiest Los Angeles residents, to identify with Donald Trump. The man's fortune is in a financial stratosphere all its own. However, if you own or manage a business, you certainly can understand the importance of winning a domain name dispute.

Donald Trump's recent court victory probably was more satisfying emotionally than financially. The billionaire scored $32,000 in a cybersquatting countersuit initiated by a 34-year-old domain collector. Trump was upset the man owned four domains containing his trademarked name.

Hank Azaria freed from copyright infringement claims by ruling

It's not mandatory for a Los Angeles artist to register a copyright to have legal protection. Intellectual property laws cover registered and unregistered copyrights, but physical evidence comes in handy. Visible proof of a copyright beats a spoken claim when there's a dispute over copyright infringement.

Actor and voice talent Hank Azaria proactively filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing legal arguments over a character creation. Azaria's baseball-announcer character, named Jim Brockmire, was used in a widely-seen 2010 Funny or Die video. The actor wanted a court to confirm the character and copyright belonged to him.

California musicians could be rocked by fair use changes

Fair use rules are under review by federal officials. The doctrine -- title 17, U.S. code, section 107 in the copyright law -- sets boundaries for the reuse of artists' original works. The rules cover what and how copyrighted materials can be reused, with or without the permission of the creator. The doctrine may seem too vague or too restrictive, depending on your position in a copyright infringement dispute.

The U.S. Department of Commerce issued a paper last summer raising ideas about fair use changes that have more than one well-established musician upset. Steven Tyler, long-time front man for the rock band Aerosmith, recently delivered a written commentary to the government agency. At issue is the agency's suggestion that fee-based compulsory licenses could be employed to permit the reuse of copyrighted work, minus an author's permission.

Judgment may not be the goal of a California patent suit

One way to make a profit from an invention is to license its use to others. Universities in California and across the U.S. collect royalties from license holders for patents generated by research.

Universities have been allowed to own patents derived from federal research since 1980. Surveys by the Association of University of Technology Managers indicated universities pocketed about $2 billion every year through patent licensing.