1. China launches campaign to clamp down on Olympic IP Infringement ahead of 2022 Winter Games

China has launched a special intellectual property campaign in an attempt to clamp down on any Olympic IP infringements associated with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. This campaign aiming to put “high pressure” on Olympic associated IP violations, began in October and will run till June keeping a check on malicious trademark registrations making use of popular Olympic athletes etc. In December 2021, Beijing customs announced its seizure of 100 fabric patches with the Olympic five-ring logo in a parcel. Since the sender had failed to show authorisation by the International Olympic Committee, it was declared the year’s first instance of cross-border goods case involving an Olympic logo infringement.

2. Meghan Markle wins 3-year copyright and data privacy battle against Daily Mail 

In a recent ruling by the Court of Appeal UK, Associated Newspapers Limited, the publisher of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline lost its appeal in the 3 year long legal battle against Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex. In February 2018, the duchess had sued ANL alleging copyright infringement and breach of privacy for its publication of extracts from her “private and personal” letter to her father.

 In its appeal against the High Court summary judgement in favour of Meghan, ANL argued that its use of the letter was within the copyright exception of “fair dealing” for the purposes of reporting current events. However, it was held that the purpose of the publication of the letter seemed to be for reporting its contents which was not regarded as a current event. The court also disagreed with the submission that the publication was made in public interest. Therefore, the summary judgement was upheld by the Court of Appeal, and ANL was held liable for copyright infringement and breach of privacy.

After speculations about ANL considering approaching the Supreme Court to appeal the decision, the British outlet finally accepted defeat and published a court ordered public apology to Meghan Markle. 

3. China Prohibits Copyright Deals for Digital Music Platforms

Amid a regulatory crackdown on monopolistic behaviour in China’s private sector, its copyright authority has prohibited digital music platforms from signing copyright agreements except in special circumstances. The National Copyright Administration of China said that while there was an improvement in copyright practices since 2015 after it banned unlicensed music streaming and ordered platforms to remove millions of songs, there is a further need to standardize the sector. The NCAC held talks with digital music, record and songwriting companies. The discussions emphasized payment settlement to these companies according to a guaranteed sum plus a share of actual usage, and not signing exclusive copyright agreements except under special circumstances. 

4. Delhi High Court refuses to stay Legends League Cricket

The Delhi High Court has refused to stay the staging of the upcoming Legends League Cricket tournament in Samir Kasal v Prashant Mehta and Ors. Samir Kasal claimed that a tournament of retired players in a two-innings format of 10 overs was his idea and that he had discussed it with the respondent. However, the respondent went on to start the League along with the other defendants. Hence, the applicant argued that the Legends League Cricket scheduled to be held in Oman has been stolen from him.

The High Court observed that no one can claim copyright on the game of cricket and there can be no copyright on the evolution of the game from five-day test matches to the recent format of T-20 cricket either. It further said that retired cricketers have been playing matches worldwide, and the ten-over cricket match is not new, having been introduced in 1997 in New Zealand. Lastly, the court held that the purpose of conducting matches is to obtain monetary benefit, which in case of a stay of the tournament would lead to losses that can’t be compensated. 

5. UPC preparation phase officially begins

On Wednesday, January 19, Austria deposited its instrument of ratification of the Protocol for the Provisional Application of the UPC (PAP) with the European Council. The PAP entered into force immediately after. Following this, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced that, an eight-month provisional application period will begin to handle technical and infrastructural preparations with the goal of beginning operations at the UPC by the end of 2022.

The Unified Patent Court is a proposed common patent court open for participation of all member states of the European Union. Austria was the 13th member state to deposit its instrument of ratification.  Protocol dictated that 13 UPC countries must ratify and deposit the instrument in Brussels, in order for the protocol to enter into force.

6. Banksy NFT collection to launch from controversial multimillionaire trademark activist

Controversial multimillionaire trademark activist, Mike Lin, called “Banksy of Trademarks” expressed his intent to launch a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) collection featuring well known street-artist Banksy’s works in an exclusive interview with the World Trademark Review. He offered to share 50% of the profits with the street artist if the latter chose to confirm his identity. He has also pledged a portion of his profits to Doctors Without Borders.He boldly asserted that he is “hoping for legal trouble” from the  sale of these NFTs. 

This is not the first time the famed street artist is subject to conflict in IP Battlegrounds. A hacker reportedly sold a ‘fake Banksy NFT’ for $336,000 in August 2021, while Banksy’s ‘Love is in the Air’ artwork will be digitally divided into 10,000 pieces and sold as NFTs last month by a group that purchased the original piece for $12.9 million.

7. Google loses Sonos smart speakers patent fight

US based smart-speaker firm, Sonos, has won a major legal battle against the tech giant Google; the contention was regarding an alleged infringement of Sonos’ patents by Google. The present decision has upheld the initial ruling from August, 2021, where it was judged that Google had infringed upon all the five patents held by Sonos.

The disputed infringements were surrounding the multi-room speaker technology which synchronizes music played across multiple rooms or zones – this was a standout feature of Sonos that attracted much fame and recognition – including an innovation award in 2005. Google has expressed its disagreement with the judgment of the US International Trade Commission; however it sees relief in the fact that the commission has accepted the modified designs that the company has presented. Sonos claims that Google can either pay due loyalty to their company and fairly use the technology lest they must compromise on product quality in order to circumvent the ruled ban.

8. China starts rebuff of various metaverse trademark applications amid rush to hype the internet’s next generation

Trademark applications with the words “yuan yuzhou” – English: metaverse in Mandarin – have been denied registration by the National Intellectual Property Administration, China. Notably, recent applications by companies such as video gaming company NetEase, video streaming provider iQiyi and commerce platform operatorXiaohongshu have also been flagged red. The intended reason seems to be the prevention of abuse of the registration process amid the rapid inflow of such submissions.

Applications filed by companies such as Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and ByteDance are still awaiting regulatory approval.

These actions by the Chinese intellectual property (IP) regulators indicate a deliberate attempt to prevent trademark squatting amidst the sudden rush in the metaverse domain. As per reports, around 1,510 mainland Chinese companies have applied to register trademarks related to the metaverse – a shared virtual space for users within the internet. 

Image Sources: 

  1. Thomas Peter for Reuters
  2. Reuters on The Economic Times
  3. Firmbee on Unsplash
  4. Michael Weir on Unsplash
  5. Christian Lue on Unsplash
  6. Dominic Robinson on WikimediaCommons
  7. Jako Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash
  8. Nick Fewings on Unsplash