Intellectual Property: Conan O’Brien, Doobie Brothers, ‘Happy Birthday’, Michael Jordan

By | July 31, 2015

Conan O’Brien Sued Over Jokes

Comedian Conan O’Brien was sued for copyright infringement for using several jokes on his late-night talk show that he’s accused of lifting from the Internet.

In a complaint filed in San Diego federal court July 22, O’Brien, Turner Broadcasting System and Time Warner Inc. were accused of copyright infringement by Robert Alexander Kaseberg.

Kaseberg listed four jokes he said he wrote and posted to his blog and Twitter account. He said that O’Brien used all four on his “Conan” show without permission.

Kaseberg said he’s seeking copyright registration for the jokes, and that he’s damaged by O’Brien’s alleged commercial use of his work without permission. He wants a ban on further unauthorized use of his writing, as as well money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Claiming the infringement is deliberate, he asked for an additional, punitive monetary award.

O’Brien’s show is carried on Turner Broadcasting System’s TBS network, a Time Warner unit. An e-mail seeking Turner Broadcasting System’s and O’Brien’s comments on the suit didn’t receive an immediate response.

The case is Kaseberg v. Conaco LLC, 3:15-cv-01637, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

Doobie Brothers Sue Roger McNamee’s Band Over Similar Name

Members of a band started by a founder of private-equity firms Elevation Partners LP and Silver Lake Partners LP was sued for trademark infringement by the Doobie Brothers.

The Doobie Brothers, known for such hits as “Jesus Is Just All Right With Me” and “Black Water,” is claiming its marks are infringed by the Doobie Decimal System. One of the two members of the band is Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation and Silver Lake. The band’s logo depicts a raccoon smoking what might be a marijuana cigarette, or “doobie.”

The Doobie Brothers say in their pleadings that they began using the term “Doobie” in the 1970s, and that over five decades they’ve sold more than 40 million albums and still perform in the U.S.

The band says it holds U.S. trademark registrations for “Doobie Brothers” and “Doobies.” According to the complaint filed July 24 in San Francisco federal court, both bands promote and perform music in the same classic-rock genre.

The Doobie Brothers complained that although it has exchanged “some communications” with the Doobie Decimal System, that group “stopped responding” and continues to perform under the name.

In addition to seeking an order barring the use of the “Doobie Decimal System” name, the Doobie Brothers are asking for awards of profits derived from the alleged infringement as well as money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Doobie Decimal System didn’t immediately respond to an e- mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Doobie Brothers Corp. v. McNamee, 3:15- cv-03422, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Challengers Say Song in Public Domain

Challengers to the copyright for the “Happy Birthday to You” song have presented evidence they say proves the tune is in the public domain.

In a July 27 court filing, filmmakers producing a documentary about the song say they discovered a 1927 book that identifies the work as a piano arrangement of an earlier song, “Good Morning to All.” They claim the document proves existing copyrights cover only a particular piano arrangement and not the melody itself.

In their filing, the filmmakers said the document proves the song is in the public domain and argued that the court need not decide the scope or the validity of the copyrights.

The case is Good Morning to You Productions Corp. v. Warner/Chappell Music Inc., 2:13-cv-04460, U.S. District Court, Ventral District of California (Los Angeles).

Michael Jordan’s Name Not Infringed by Qiaodan, Court Rules

Former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan lost a trademark suit against China’s Qiaodan Sports Co., the Hong Kong Standard reported.

Jordan, whose Chinese name is Qiaodan, had sued the company for trademark infringement, saying its name caused consumers to believe falsely that a connection existed between him and the company, according to the newspaper.

The Beijing Higher People’s Court dismissed the case, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the sporting-goods company’s name was intended to refer to the National Basketball Association player, the Standard reported.

The court said that “Jordan” isn’t the only possible interpretation for the Qiaodan mark, according to the newspaper.

Twitter Sued by Photographer Who Claims DMCA Request Was Ignored

Twitter Inc., the San Francisco-based social networking company, was sued for copyright infringement by a Rhode Island photographer.

Kristin Pierson said a photo she shot of guitarist Herman Li of the band Dragonforce was shared on Twitter without her permission. She accused Twitter of failing to respond to a takedown request she made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and claimed that because of this failure, Twitter is infringing her rights and contributing to others’ acts of infringement also.

She asked the court to order the destruction of all copies of the image that are under Twitter’s control, as well as awards of money damages and attorney fees. Claiming that the infringement was deliberate, Pierson requested an increase in the damages award.

Twitter didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Pierson v. Twitter Inc., 2:15-cv-05668, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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