The over-arching economic problem that dogs all of American patent and copyright law is one of demarcation—when is the marginal utility of  an incentive provided to one innovator “to promote progress in science and the useful arts” outweighed by the burden it places on the creativity and economic freedom of everyone else and is therefore counterproductive?  In The…

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Bill Loizon, a Birminghan, Michigan entrepreneur with a self-proclaimed “passion for humor,” sought to register the trademark FRANKS ANATRA for his award-winning catering business.  FRANKS referred to his specialties, hot dogs and sausages, and ANATRA is Italian for “duck.”  Get it? Neither did Frank Sinatra Enterprises, which filed an opposition proceeding in the Trademark Office to…

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I sometimes compare the protagonist of my book Unfair to Genius, Ira B. Arnstein, to Leopold Bloom of Joyce’s Ulysses.  A despised outsider, but an acute observer, he is an entertaining and illuminating vehicle for exploring matters that far transcend his quotidien comings and goings.  So I was delighted to have a chance to talk about him with Sean…

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This morning’s Wall Street Journal contains a generous and perceptive review of my book, Unfair to Genius, by Ken Emerson, the author of an excellent history of the early days of rock and roll, Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era.  To mark the occasion, I have temporarily suspended my…

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Vermont’s finest ice cream purveyors, Ben & Jerry, scored a quick, preliminary legal victory this past week against porn producer Caballero Video.  A few excerpts from the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the U.S. District Court in Manhattan will convey the flavor of the dispute:  Defendants are hereby restrained from using the designations BEN & CHERRY’S,…

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Here is what I know about Louboutin shoes — the bottoms (what I have now learned are called “outsoles”) are bright red.  Given how far removed I am from the vanguard of women’s shoe fashion, my association of red outsoles with the Louboutin brand ought to be conclusive evidence that red outsoles are one very powerful trademark. …

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” Imagine for a moment that you earned a nickel every time that Marilyn Monroe’s “name, likeness, or persona” was exploited for commercial purposes.  Now imagine it was hundreds or thousands of dollars every time.   The California Legislature  tried very hard to gift wrap that bonanza for the beneficiaries of Monroe’s estate, primarily her acting coach Lee Strasberg’s…

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