Author: Robert Scott Lawrence

I am a commercial litigator and intellectual property lawyer in Orange County. Although my practice encompasses a wide variety of business disputes, I have a particular fondness for, and am prone to wax philosophical on, the subjects of copyright and trademark infringement in music, literature, art, and film.

Tattoo You!

Is it copyright infringement if I take a photograph of the tattooed lady at the circus? Or of the guy who was so fashion-minded he permanently engraved a Louis Vuitton logo on his head? How about my attempts to nab a celebrity photo courtside at the Lakers' game? Could this be copyright infringement?

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The Unhelpful Trademark

Those of you who watch Hulu on a regular basis will have noticed the ubiquitous advertising that is increasingly crowded into all the popular shows. From two or perhaps three 30-second advertisements when Hulu debuted, viewers are now subjected to five or six full-minute advertisements, transforming the vaunted "cable killer" into the equivalent of traditional cable TV -- except you can't skip or fast-forward through Hulu's ads like you can if you have cable and a Tivo. So Hulu viewers are now paying for the dubious privilege of being forced to watch advertisements

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Collaboration Blues

This is a tale with a simple premise. You and a friend decide to collaborate on a screenplay. He's got a great idea for Godzilla meets Colossus meets Gigantor meets angry mythological Greek from Wrath of the Titans, and you've got massive writing chops, as evidenced by the 14 screenplays you've got moldering in a box in the back of your closet.

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Faulkner Goes Folksy On Fair Use

While the astute reader may have noticed that the company that owns William Faulkner’s literary rights sued Sony for copyright infringement based on a misquoted snippet of a sentence that appeared in Midnight In Paris, it was news to me when I stumbled across the article in the ABA Journal this morning. Given that I try and keep abreast of happenings in the world of copyright, and this should really have been BIG NEWS (in all caps, even), I was shocked that the coverage was so ho-hum, with nary a vitriolic diatribe to be found anywhere. Given that Wilson is time-travelling back to 1920s Paris at the time he makes the statement, it’s more a reflection of his actual condition (i.e., the past is not past because he’s currently living in the past) than a comment on Faulkner’s line of dialogue

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Trademarking Christmas

You may be surprised to know that SANTA CLAUS is a trademark, but it is. Father Christmas Ltd., a British company and the proud owner of www.santa-claus.com, also owns the rights to sell Santa Claus merchandise in the United States. Of course, it's not an exclusive license, since Santa has been around since the days of jolly St. Nick, but one hardly expects a trademark to issue on a man who is such a public -- nay, mythological -- figure. Santa Claus as we know him today is the end-product of neo-Darwinian evolution, a marriage of disparate elements such as Odin leading the fey on the Wild Hunt . . .

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No News But Bad News

America is a land that thrives on hourly updates and has no talent for remembering yesterday's news. We find it perfectly normal to be told the sky is falling on Tuesday only to have the news anchor change his prognosis the following day, announcing with a wry grin that the experts got it wrong and the sky will remain in the firmament for the foreseeable future. In a way, this collective inability to recall the past is a blessing, as it serves to erase the memory of painful events and allows us to look forward as a nation our bright future.

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The Unbearable Ubiquity of Product Placement

I remember back in 1991 I was reading American Psycho, the Bret Easton Ellis novel about the yuppie serial killer and sexual sadist who was also fixated on material luxury items – Hermes ties, Bruno Magli shoes, Corneliani suits, cashmere gloves and other fetishistic items – that served as a kind of shorthand for his psychoses. His obsessive fixations were at first distracting and then after a chapter or so became part of the rhythm of the novel so that I stopped noticing them and began to participate in the flow of the narrative. Personally, however, I think it is a dubious proposition that a 14-year-old boy is going to be confused about whether Bell sponsors the latest edition of any Electronic Arts game . . .

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