Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Snow White and the Seven Angry Lawyers

Now for an IP case that does have merit. Posted on Slashfood, here's an article about a promotional campaign for an Australian brewer that was... poorly thought out.

Jamieson's Brewery is launching a new raspberry ale under the slogan "Anything but sweet", aimed at convincing Aussie beer drinkers that fruit beers don't all taste like candy. Unfortunately they used a depiction of a certain "Ho White" and the seven renamed dwarves ("Smarmy", "Randy", etc.).

The Mouse was not amused.

And rightly so. This is clearly a derivative work, damaging to the wholesome reputation of the original movie. And since Disney will push to extend copyright terms any time any of its characters nears the public domain (Mickey first appeared in 1928!), it will also defend those copyrights. And here they'd be justified. Since it's an advertisement selling beer, any Fair Use parody defense will almost certainly fail.

Of course the use of a 'Snow White' character isn't itself a copyright violation. The stories have long been in the public domain, most notably the Brothers Grimm version. Using the basic storyline (Beautiful girl has problems with stepmother, flee to woods to live with creepy short guys, oops poison apple, Prince Charming saves day) wouldn't be a violation at all. But the picture is obviously derived from the Disney characters and this is just what copyright is designed for.

Even though this ad is a lot closer to the original story than Disney's movie ever was.

Monster vs. Vermonster

The brewing community has been buzzing over a trademark dispute between Monster Energy Drink maker Hansen's Beverages and Rock Art Brewery in Vermont. Rock Art makes a barleywine called 'Vermonster' and when it announced plans to market outside the state Hansen's sent them a cease and desist for using their trademark on "Monster". Apparently, Hansen's has plans to enter to alcoholic beverage market. (Almost undoubtedly with an alcoholic energy drink, the difficulties of which I've commented on before.) Of course, Rock Art was already in the alcoholic beverage market...

It would seem that Rock Art is in the right. There is little risk of confusion or dilution of Hansen's mark. Monster's argument that 'Vermonster' might create the impression that Monster endorsed the use of the mark holds little water. Ben and Jerry's makes a Vermonster Ice Cream (Maple ice cream, roasted pecans and caramel swirl. Mmmm....) and Hansen's is not suing them. (And interestingly, B&J aren't suing Rock Art, in a very Vermont kindof way.) But defending a trademark dispute against a large corporation can bankrupt a small company. Yet owner/brewer Matt Nardeau decided to fight, and angry beer drinkers joined in. Calls for boycotts and angry letters to Hansen's appeared all over. Then Nardeau released this video which has 64,000 views as of 3:00, Oct 21st.

Apparently the parties have reached an amicable agreement, as of today Rock Art is claiming victory on their website.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Russell H. Everett, Esq.

So I took quite a break after the WA Bar Exam and I suppose it's fitting that I return with this post:

I passed!

I'm filled with an enormous sense of relief and, indeed optimism for the future. And I am so relieved that I won't ever have to take that test again.

I figure it is time to get posting again and I have a few things in mind that should go up tomorrow.
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The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.