State AGs Fail in Objections to Proposed Settlement in Class Action Challenging Godiva’s Labeling Practices

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The last thing the parties to a class action settlement want to see is an objection from state Attorneys General (AGs).  AG objections to class action settlements are relatively rare and courts tend to give AG objections more weight than objections from private parties.  Not all AG objections are successful, however, and in the recent consumer fraud case of Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., No. 1:19-cv-972-LAP (S.D.N.Y.), a six-state objection filed by the AGs of Florida, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah failed to persuade Judge Loretta Preska to reject the proposed settlement.

Hesse concerned Godiva’s use of the word “Belgium” in labeling and promoting its products.  According to the complaint, this practice led consumers to believe, incorrectly, that Godiva’s chocolates are made exclusively in Belgium and to pay higher prices for these products than they otherwise would have.  The parties’ proposed settlement of those claims is fairly standard stuff.  Anyone who purchased Godiva chocolate products between 2015 and last year could file claims to recover $1.25 per purchase.  Class members with proof of purchase could recover up to $25 (for 20 purchases); those without proof were capped at $15 (for 12 purchases).  Plaintiffs claimed actual damages to be $0.46 per purchase, so they characterized this relief as more than full recovery.

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Tips for developing an efficient worldwide trademark application filing strategy

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So you’re launching a new product line worldwide. Or maybe you’re rebranding a division of your global business. Or perhaps you’ve recently conducted an audit of your trademark portfolio and noticed several gaps in coverage.

Regardless, you’re ready to file new trademark applications around the world ‒ and we’re sure you want to make these filings as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

One way to keep costs down is to take advantage of trademark application filing systems that cover multiple jurisdictions. These systems allow you to register a trademark in more than one country by filing only a single application.

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The Impact on Brands when Trademarks are Used in Military Strategy

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Western companies with trademark rights in Russia are feeling the ripple effects of the Ukrainian conflict.  In response to the economic sanctions and boycotts imposed by the U.S. and other Western countries, Russia has threatened to suspend the intellectual property rights of companies that have ceased operations in Russia.  Additionally, there has recently been an increase in bad faith trademark filings for various brands across a wide range of industries from Chanel to Audi.  Moreover, it appears that Russian courts may allow the infringement and misappropriation of trademarks owned by Western companies in light of a recent decision involving the character Peppa Pig, where the court cited sanctions as a basis for refusing to recognize the Western-based company’s intellectual property rights in the popular cartoon character.

Even those businesses with longstanding ties within Russia don’t appear to be safe.  Certain companies closing locations in the country in response to the conflict in Ukraine are finding that third parties are filing trademark applications for blatant replicas of their brands.  Even more disturbing is that should the Russian government decide to remove trademark protections for Western companies altogether, then a third party could step in and offer goods and services under identical marks.  Depending upon how things play out in Russia, Western brand owners are in serious danger of losing their intellectual property investments in the country.  Exacerbating the problem for these brands is that finding local counsel willing to assist them may be extremely difficult.  Fear for personal safety and the threat of retribution may encourage many trademark attorneys in Russia to steer clear of matters involving companies from “unfriendly” countries.

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NFTs: The Harbinger of Property Rights in the Metaverse?

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Non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) continue to dominate the crypto-zeitgeist. It is beyond dispute that they are currently a major economic and cultural force. In 2021, sales surged to approximately $25 billion. They have been featured in high profile television commercials during the Olympics and the Super Bowl. And Nike recently purchased the NFT developer RTFKT Studios, signaling its intention to be a dominant provider of digital fashion in the metaverse.

Despite all this, it remains unclear what legal rights are conveyed with the purchase of an NFT. The academic consensus is that, absent a “smart contract” that expressly includes intellectual property (“IP”) rights, purchasing an NFT does not convey any copyrights or trademark rights. Yet, the creation of an NFT (called “minting”) is almost certainly limited by recognized IP and other legal principles. These issues have begun to percolate up through the courts.

This article explores lingering, undefined NFT questions through the lens of several pending lawsuits. While many articles just describe the facts of each case, this article focuses on the most interesting legal arguments that each makes. It also identifies how decisions by these courts may form the basis of property rights within the metaverse. And ultimately, it questions whether the emergence of such lawsuits undermines blockchain as a decentralized institution.

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NFT Infringement: No Free Taking or New Fair Transformations?

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Earlier this month sports apparel giant Nike sued StockX LLC, a Michigan-based sneaker and streetwear resale marketplace, for offering to its customers non-fungible tokens (NFTs) depicting Nike’s sneakers.  The claims asserted in the February 3 complaint filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York include trademark infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition, all stemming from inclusion of Nike’s trademarks (e.g. Nike, Air Jordan, Jumpman, the “Swoosh” Design) in the shoe images depicted in the NFTs provided by StockX.

This is not the first case of its kind.  In January, Hermes sued a digital artist for unauthorized reproductions of its well-known Birkin bag in a line of NFTs released by the artist called “Metabirkins.”  And before that, in November 2021, Miramax – the studio that produced the 1994 cult movie classic Pulp Fiction filed suit to enjoin Quentin Tarantino from releasing NFTs based off of his original handwritten script of the movie, including scenes from an early script that were cut from the final version.

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2021 Year in Review: OPDP Enforcement Actions Involving Prescription and Biological Products

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The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) issued a total of six letters in 2021 — four Untitled Letters and two Warning Letters — to pharmaceutical or biologics companies for promotional materials that allegedly misbranded prescription drug or biologics products. The two Warning Letters issued in 2021 addressed prescription drug promotion. Two of the Untitled Letters also addressed prescription drug promotion, while the other two letters addressed biologic product promotion.

OPDP also sent six letters in 2020; however, the majority that year (four) were Warning Letters, with only two being Untitled Letters. Both Warning and Untitled letters are made public on FDA’s website. Warning Letters are issued for violations of regulatory significance that may lead to enforcement action if not promptly and adequately corrected, whereas Untitled Letters cite violations that do not rise to the threshold of regulatory significance warranting a Warning Letter. Untitled Letters serve as the initial notification that FDA has taken notice of a violation and allow the company to come into compliance without further FDA regulatory action. Historically, OPDP has relied more heavily on Untitled Letters. 2020 was an outlier year with four Warning Letters versus two Untitled Letters, but 2021 signified a return to normalcy, as the agency issued twice as many Untitled Letters as Warning Letters.

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Help! Our Intellectual Property is Being Infringed – An Investigatory Checklist

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I don’t love surprises. Well, if you want to send me a surprise red velvet birthday cake, please feel free. Otherwise, I like being prepared – and infringement of intellectual property is one type of surprise that you can prepare yourself to handle. To assist in that effort, here’s a non-exhaustive list of questions you can ask yourself and your team members, to help determine next steps if you suspect infringement of your trademarks or copyrights. These questions may also come in handy if you find yourself on the receiving end of an allegation of infringement.

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Californiafying New Jersey’s Consumer Protection Laws

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Starting now, national advertisers and retailers may want to pay the same attention to legislative and judicial developments in New Jersey that they long have paid in California.

New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy, came into office in 2018 explicitly promising to remake New Jersey into “the California of the East Coast.”  Recently reelected and holding leadership posts in both the National Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association, Governor Murphy is building a national profile.

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Launching a Sweepstakes or Contest on Social Media – What You Should Know

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As discussed on our blog previously, here and here, a promotion sponsor must finalize Official Rules before a promotion begins. But using a third-party social media platform to administer your promotion or accept entries raises additional issues that must be considered, particularly when the promotion involves the submission of user-generated content (“UGC”).

Using a social media platform to administer your promotion raises two additional issues: (1) ensuring compliance with the platform’s specific promotion requirements; and (2) ensuring that the sponsor is protected from liability if the promotion involves UGC. This blog provides a high-level overview of issues to consider before administering your promotion on a third-party social media platform, and in particular when your promotion involves submission of UGC.

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Trademark Modernization Act: Final Rules

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The USPTO recently issued its final rules to implement the Trademark Modernization Act, whose goal is to clear away unused registered marks and make the trademark registration process more efficient. Below, we highlight public comments regarding the implementation of the Act, as well as the final details regarding the implementation of the Act.

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