1) The U.S. Supreme Court takes up copyright dispute over Andy Warhol’s paintings of Prince

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the copyright dispute between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the Andy Warhol Foundation over Warhol’s iconic series of paintings of the rockstar Prince. The Andy Warhol Foundation had appealed the lower court’s ruling declaring that Warhol’s paintings were not protected by the copyright law doctrine of “fair use” permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in special circumstances.

In 1984, Rock Photographer Lynn Goldsmith had licensed one of her photographs of Prince to Vanity Fair for use as reference in an illustration which was passed to Warhol who created a new version of the original image. Warhol’s version of the photograph was used by Vanity Fair and credit was provided to Goldsmith. However, Warhol later created more than a dozen versions of the photograph including silkscreen prints and pencil illustrations which became popular as the Prince Series. Vanity Fair’s later use of Warhol’s version of the photo for its memorial for the rockstar in 2016 led to Goldsmith instituting legal action for copyright infringement.

Now, the Court finds before itself the task of definitively defining transformative work and determining whether Warhol’s version of the photograph qualifies as it. 

2) Western Sanctions lead to Rampant Trademark Squatting in Russia

In the wake of the war and imposition of western sanctions on Russia leading to a large exodus of western brands from Russia, large amounts of unauthorized trademark filings targeting these brands have been observed. The basis of the examination of these trademark filings by the Federal Service for Intellectual Property in Russia (Rospatent) is uncertain amidst the political ruckus.

A growing list of Western titans including Christian Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Adidas, Puma, McDonald’s, etc are falling prey to these bad faith filings as a consequence of the temporary shutdown of their operations in Russia due to the war. The Russian government is thus considering introducing a moratorium on trademark protections for companies in “unfriendly countries”. A Russian court in its recent decision was observed dismissing a trademark and copyright case against a Russian individual for his infringement of the popular cartoon Peppa Pig citing Western sanctions as the basis to refuse the rights of Peppa Pig’s owner Entertainment One’s rights.

The unpredictability of enforcement of intellectual property in Russia makes the return of these brands extremely uncertain. The fraudulent applications may attempt to hold those marks and extort these Western brands with a licensing agreement to be able to use their own marks in Russia again. However, the value of these spin-off trademarks would fizzle out should they fail to deliver the high standards of these brands. 

3) Shashi Tharoor introduces The Protection of Traditional Knowledge Bill, 2022 in Lok Sabha 

The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram – Shashi Tharoor on April 1 introduced The Protection of Traditional Knowledge Bill, 2022 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill sets forth a non-IPR kind of protection, stipulating traditional knowledge (TK) to be beyond the realm of a patent or intellectual property regime. The Bill does not intend to create any rights but recognises traditional knowledge holders/communities as custodians of TK with the States/Union Territories having deemed ownership. If a specific TK is practiced in numerous States/Union territories, then respective governments are regarded to have joint ownership and an equal and undivided share of any claim or interest in that traditional knowledge. Only until TK holders/communities have registered a “knowledge society” in accordance with local legislation will they be recognised as custodians. They should also seek recognition from the proper government, which is the TK’s ‘deemed owner.’ In short, the Bill recognises the Union of India’s total and absolute ownership of everything TK found inside its national territory and attempts to compensate indigenous populations, its custodians, by granting some licensing rights (deemed licenses), including the right to self-determination.

4) Meghan Markle tries to trademark centuries-old word ‘archetypes’ for upcoming podcast

Spotify has filed an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on behalf of Meghan Markle to trademark the word, ‘Archetypes’, after choosing it as the title of her upcoming Spotify podcast. The word ‘archetype’ is derived from ancient Greek and can be traced back to the 16th century when it was first used in the English language in the 1540s. The dictionary defines it as ‘the original pattern from which copies are made’. ‘Archetypes’ will see the actress host uncensored conversations on labels and stereotypes “that try to hold women back” in our patriarchal society. If the trademark is approved, Markle would technically own the word “Archetype” whenever it is used “in the fields of cultural treatment of women and stereotypes facing women”. The word ‘archetype’ is derived from ancient Greek and can be traced back to the 16th century when it was first used in the English language in the 1540s. The dictionary defines it as ‘the original pattern from which copies are made’.

5) Parliamentary panel examines Inidan Patent law shortcomings 

The Parliamentary panel observed that despite the impressive rise in patent filings by individuals and organizations in India, it is still far outnumbered by the massive filing records in the United States and China. The underlying reason given for the same is the inadequate protection given to patents in India.

The Committee gathered that its interactions with stakeholders revealed that this hesitancy was particularly high in the manufacturing sector. As a result of this lapse in protection, people of Indian origin resort to filing international patents in other jurisdictions with more robust and guarded Intellectual Property Rights. Other suggestions included lower rates of corporate tax on products backed by or based on Indian patents; specifically those made or produced in India. 

Apart from regular recommendations including policy revamp and tax benefits, the panel also suggested a reduction in time expended on the patent examination – especially in highly innovative fields like communication, computers, biomedical, food, biotechnology, and textile industry.

6) Bangladesh passes new Patent Bill 

The parliament of Bangladesh has introduced the Bangladesh Patents Bill 2022, intending to replace outdated protection mechanisms for patents in the state. The existing patent law dates back to 1911 and has had very minimal changes excluding a 2016 division of its provisions into patent law and design law.

Following a very liberal approach to it, the bill allows for patents to any additional novelty brought in the industry. A statement from the University of Dhaka has reflected the Bills’motive:  to update the patent law in tune with current trends. The Bill also seems to be a reaction to the Global Innovation Index which has ranked Bangladesh as the least innovative country in Asia. 

The law, among others, extends the validity period of patents from 16 years to 20 years. Analysts say this would attract foreign investment as it protects intellectual property and works as a safeguard in stopping generic versions of new products or innovations from coming up, according to experts. The law seeks to comply with Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and other global standards relating to patent and innovation, it allows for joint registrations on patents and also institutes a registrar’s office to issue or cancel patents as and when necessary. 

Despite these advancements, scientific theories, mathematical and business methods, algorithms or rules of performance for pure mental theories or sports, etc. have been left out. Abiding by the public and moral ethics of Bangladesh several other items have been rendered unprotectable. Regarding pharmaceutical patents – Bangladesh seeks to strike a balance between medical innovation and access to medical services. The 12-month delay in getting an application approved is another criticism surrounding this upcoming legislation.

7) Delhi High Court To Consider whether Use Of A Trademark As A Keyword On Google Ad Program Would Constitute Infringement? 

In a matter enlisted to consider the usability of a trademarked word as a keyword in Google advertisements, the Delhi High Court has passed an order after a part-hearing. The Court had earlier held that the defendants must refrain from such use; however, if the same constitutes an ‘infringement’ or not is yet to be considered. 

To summarise the background, the plaintiff – udchalo.com – has a registered trademark under the same name. Being a reputed travel agency, it has received several awards and positive customer reviews. The cause of action arose when two other travel agencies – Easy Trip Planners Pvt. Ltd. and happyfares.in were found to use the same mark – UdChalo, in their advertisements, to gain greater market access and goodwill.

The aforementioned ad-interim injunction upon the use of udChalo was following the discovery that being rival and competing businesses, such use might amount to trademark infringement. The matter awaits a hearing in the Delhi High Court.  

8) Ed Sheeran wins the long copyright battle surrounding ‘Shape of You’

The longstanding copyright battle between British songwriter Ed Sheeran and Sami Chokri (Stage name: Sami Switch) has come to a close with the former winning the matter against alleged plagiarism in his name.  

The case concerned two songs – ‘Oh Why’ by the plaintiff and ‘Shape of You’ by the defendant. The alleged infringement was regarding the very chorus line which reads “Oh Why” in the plaintiff’s work and “O I” in that of the defendant. The judge commented that despite striking similarities in the phrases, they have their differences when subject to musical analysis. The court found itself satisfied that the two works were unrelated and did not amount to a violation of copyright.

Following the decision, both parties made public statements; while Ed Sheeran gave his comments on his perception of such claims plaguing the copyright industry, the plaintiff – Sami, talked in terms of gratitude to his supporters and well-wishers. The underlying legal debacle continues to be a proper assessment mechanism for such copyright issues wherein overlaps can be more objectively recognized in cases of infringements.

 

Image Source:

  1. Court Documents on Artnet
  2. Alexey Mak on Unsplash
  3. Farzana Cooper on SpicyIP
  4. Meghan Markle on RoyalUK
  5. Indian Patent Office by iPWire
  6. Bangladesh parliament 
  7. Delhi High Court by High Court of Delhi 
  8. Ed Sheeran by Drew de F Fawkes