Addressing an issue of first impression, the Second Circuit held recently that bankruptcy courts have inherent authority to impose non-nominal civil contempt sanctions, including per diem sanctions and attorneys’ fees, arising out of an attorney’s failure to comply with the bankruptcy court’s discovery orders.
On June 8, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products, LLC and provided some clarity as to the applicability of the “Rogers test,” a doctrine that grapples with the interplay of trademark law and the First Amendment. The case involved a trademark dispute between Jack Daniel’s Properties, the maker of the famous whiskey, and VIP, a dog toy company that makes and sells a product called “Bad Spaniels.” The Bad Spaniels squeaky toy is in the shape of a whiskey bottle and has a black label with white font similar to Jack Daniel’s; in place of “Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the toy reads, “The Old No. 2 On Your Tennessee Carpet.” After VIP initially filed suit against Jack Daniel’s seeking declaratory judgment that the product did not infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks, Jack Daniel’s brought counterclaims under the Lanham Act for trademark infringement and trademark dilution.
On October 4, 2022, a Second Circuit panel affirmed the lower court’s decision that defendant Sirius XM Radio Inc.’s ads showcasing The Howard Stern Show do not violate plaintiff John Edward Melendez’s publicity rights. The ruling affirmed the Southern District of New York’s grant of defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims under California common and statutory law, agreeing that plaintiff Melendez’s claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 301.
On March 28th, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith, a case involving the core issues around copyright fair use. The case involves a series of Warhol drawings and silkscreen prints adapted from an original photograph of Prince taken by Lynn Goldsmith. Likely to interplay with the recent fair use decision in Google v. Oracle, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case has the potential to reshape the contours of fair use and the fate of the transformative use test. The outcome of the decision will have a widespread impact on how artists, particularly appropriation artists and creators of “fan art,” draw from other works.
The Second Circuit recently held that a denial of a motion to dismiss a criminal indictment based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) is immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine but concluded that even if FSIA did provide immunity from criminal prosecutions, that immunity would not extend to a foreign sovereign’s or its instrumentality’s commercial activities.
If you ever noticed a coupon dispenser or colorful cardboard display while walking down the aisle of your local supermarket, there is a good chance it was put there by News Corp.’s News America Marketing (NAM) – in-store marketing’s dominant player. News Corp.’s dominance, however, was allegedly the result of anticompetitive conduct, according to its former competitor Valassis Communications, Inc. In a 2017 lawsuit, Valassis alleged that News Corp.’s practice of “staggering” the expiration date of exclusive contracts with retailers violated, among other things, sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and section 3 of the Clayton Act, and resulted in preventing Valassis from establishing itself as a viable competitor. After four years of litigation, the case finally went to trial last month, but the parties settled after the jury indicated it would be unable to reach a verdict. Nevertheless, Valassis’ allegations raise an interesting question: what supporting facts and allegations might suggest staggered exclusive contracts constitute anticompetitive conduct?
Earlier this month, the Second Circuit overturned a decision by the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) holding 1-800-Contacts violated antitrust law by entering into trademark settlement and related agreements that restricted bidding on auctions held by companies that operate search engines. 1-800 Contacts v. Federal Trade Commission. Although the Second Circuit recognized that trademark settlement agreements are “not immune from antitrust scrutiny,” it disagreed with the FTC’s analysis of the alleged restraints set forth in the agreements.
The Second Circuit recently upheld a ruling that streaming giants Apple, Amazon, and Netflix engaged in fair use, in a case concerning the use of plaintiff musicians’ song in a documentary film available for viewing on defendants’ streaming platforms. In doing so, the Court found the eight-second snippet of the song was performed in a way that was transformative, and reasonably necessary to convey the film’s message. Brown, et al. v. Netflix, Inc. et al.