Our of Counsel Ken Weinfield gave a guest lecture at the Skyline College Business Law class taught by our Associate Angel Riley on Thursday, March 24. Addressing various intellectual property topics, Ken found the students particularly interested in questions of copyright infringement concerning the music and fashion industries. Other topics covered included trademark, trade secrets and patent law.
A jury verdict last year against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke which awarded Marvin Gaye’s heirs $7.4 million for infringement of Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” (by Williams’ “Blurred Lines” song) helped demonstrate the sometimes nebulous nature of copyright protection. It also afforded an opportunity for students to understand the fair use doctrine, which allows one to use another’s work in transformative ways. Fortunately, the doctrine also protects playing another’s work for educational purposes, since one of the students streamed the songs in question during class to facilitate discussion of multiple similarities (and differences) between the two.
A comparably thin line – between protectable trade secrets and non-confidential information – was addressed in the context of start-up companies where the founders’ interests diverge. Students were also curious about the protection accorded privacy and right of publicity interests, as illustrated by recent cases involving Hulk Hogan and athletes whose likenesses were used in video games without their permission.
Trademark rights and prohibitions against false advertising were discussed in the context of soft drink and candy products. Due to the instructors’ desire for nourishment (or at least, empty calories) during this evening session, most of the visual aids used to explain the latter subjects were consumed by the end of class. Fortunately for all concerned, the level of trademark protection accorded alcoholic beverage names was not covered this semester.