Ira S. Sacks

Ira S. Sacks

Ira Sacks practices in the area of litigation with an emphasis on trademark and branding matters. He handles complex and high-profile cases involving trademark, copyright, and patent infringement issues, distribution disputes, false advertising, price fixing, dealer termination, monopolization and unfair competition, unfair trade practices, and trade secrets. Ira’s clients include fragrance and fashion companies as well as national scientific laboratories, real estate developers, and financial institutions.

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Supreme Court: Disparaging Speech Protected By First Amendment; Lanham Act Section 2(a) Unconstitutional: A Win for the Slants and the Skins

In a unanimous (albeit fractured) decision written by Justice Alito, the United States Supreme struck down a provision of the Lanham (Trademark) Act barring registration of “disparaging” trademarks, handing a victory to Asian-American rock band The Slants. In Matal v. Tam, No. 15-1293 (June 19, 2017), the Court held that the Lanham Act’s prohibition on registering federal trademarks that … Continue Reading

Application or Registration? Eleventh Circuit Widens Circuit Split

The Eleventh Circuit has widened the circuit split on whether a copyright application or completed registration is required before filing a copyright infringement lawsuit. In Fourth Estate Public Benefit v. Wall-Street.com, the Eleventh Circuit held that a pending application to the Copyright Office is not sufficient. As a result, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Southern District of Florida’s dismissal … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Affirms That Designs Of Cheerleading Uniforms Are Copyrightable

As we previously blogged, the Sixth Circuit held in 2015, that the colors, stripes, chevrons, and similar graphic designs of the plaintiff’s cheerleading uniforms “are copyrightable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works” and are “not uncopyrightable useful articles.” The Supreme Court, in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., Doc. No. 15-866, affirmed, 6-2, in an opinion by Justice … Continue Reading

The Yellow Pages Live On

Calling the district court’s action an “abuse of discretion,” the 11th Circuit reversed a decision that cut by more than 90 percent a successful copyright infringement plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees and costs. Yellow Pages Photos, Inc. v. Ziplocal, L.P., No. 16-11868 (January 24, 2017). This is the latest decision issued in the long-running dispute between Yellow Pages Photos, … Continue Reading

Making United States Consumer Safer For Tequila?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) recently dismissed Luxco, Inc.’s (“Luxco”) opposition to registration of the mark TEQUILA (in standard character format) by an official Mexican regulator as a certification mark for “distilled spirits, namely, spirits distilled from the blue tequilana weber variety of agave plant.” Luxco, Inc. v. Consejo Regulador del Continue Reading

The New Joint DOJ/FTC Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property

On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission released updated Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property (the “Guidelines”). These Guidelines replaced those issued on April 6, 1995, and state the agencies’ policies regarding the licensing of patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and know-how; the Guidelines do not cover the antitrust treatment of trademarks.… Continue Reading

A Family Victory! Victory! Just Not for Little Caesars

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) modified its treatment of the “family of trademarks” doctrine in the recent case In re LC Trademarks, Inc., Serial No. 85890412 (December 29, 2016) [precedential]. All but breaking with its past decisions on the doctrine, the Board has now announced the new rule that ex Continue Reading

NY Common Law Does Not Provide Creators With Control Over Public Performances of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

On December 20, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) issued a landmark state copyright law decision, holding in response to a certified question from the Second Circuit in Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., that New York law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings … Continue Reading

First Circuit BAP Protects Trademark Licensees In Bankruptcy Despite Section 365(n)

The First Circuit recently issued an important interpretation of bankruptcy law that directly impacts trademark licensing rights. In In re Tempnology LLC, 559 B.R. 809 (1st Cir. BAP 2016), the First Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held that a debtor-licensor’s rejection of a trademark licensing agreement “did not vaporize” the licensee’s contractual right to use the debtor’s mark and logo.  … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Grants Cert. in USPTO Appeal of Slants Decision: Whether The Ban On Offensive Trademarks Violates The First Amendment

The Supreme Court granted the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s petition for certiorari in In re Tam, 117 USPQ2d 1101 (Fed. Cir. 2016), discussed here and here. In that case, the USPTO denied registration of an application to register the trademark THE SLANTS for a rock/dance on the grounds that it was offensive to Asians or Asian-Americans.… Continue Reading

Trade Dress Claim Based on Shoe’s Rectangular Metal Toe Plate Booted by SDNY

The Southern District of New York recently booted shoe manufacturer LVL XIII Brands, Inc.’s trade dress infringement suit against Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. in LVL XIII Brands, Inc. v. Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A.. At issue in this lawsuit was Plaintiff LVL XIII’s claim to exclusive trade dress rights in a rectangular metal toe plate on its athletic shoe and … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Revives Trader Joe’s Federal Trademark Claims Brought In Washington Against “Pirate Joe’s” Operating In Canada

In Trader Joe’s Company v. Michael Norman Hallatt, the Ninth Circuit recently found that Trader Joe’s allegations of infringing conduct occurring within Canada supported a cognizable claim under the Lanham Act.

In particular, Trader Joe’s, a well-known American grocery store chain, filed suit in federal court in Washington State in 2013, alleging trademark and unfair competition claims under the … Continue Reading

BMI Redux: BMI Seeks To Move To “Clarify” The DOJ Position On Partial Licenses

As we have previously blogged, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) rejected proposed modifications to the existing Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”) and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (“ASCAP”) consent decrees. Nor did the DOJ purport to change any of the existing interpretations of the decrees.

As we predicted, BMI and ASCAP are challenging the DOJ action. … Continue Reading

DOJ Rejects Modifications of ASCAP, BMI Consent Decrees

On August 4, 2016, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) rejected changes to the 1941 consent decrees with ASCAP and BMI. These decrees have been in place since 1941, when the DOJ settled antitrust claims with ASCAP and BMI relating to joint licensing of competing songs. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (“ASCAP”) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (“BMI”) are … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Revives Copyright Claims Against Sony and Ghostface Killah

In Urbont v. Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 15-1778, the Second Circuit recently revived claims against Sony and Ghostface Killah, holding that although third parties may raise a work for hire defense, here there were factual issues that precluded summary judgment. The Court affirmed, however, summary judgment on plaintiff’s state law claims as preempted by the Copyright Act.… Continue Reading

The FTC Social Media Consent Order Against SmartClick

The FTC continues its efforts to combat deceptive social media advertising. Recently, the FTC brought an enforcement action against SmartClick Media LLC and its owner. The FTC alleged that SmartClick engaged in the following deceptive and misleading conduct:

(1)        operating a “Doctor Trusted” certification program under which “Doctor Trusted” seals were sold for use on websites that indicated to consumers … Continue Reading

FTC Acts Against Warner Bros.’ YouTube Promotion Campaign

Last week, the FTC announced an agreement containing a consent order, subject to final approval, resolving its claims against Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc. (Warner Bros.) for the company’s misleading use of social media influencers to promote one of its video games before its official release in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act. This represents another … Continue Reading

Second Circuit In Vimeo Narrows The Red Flag Knowledge and Willful Blindness Exceptions To DMCA Safe Harbors

The Second Circuit recently decided Capitol Records, LLC, et al. v. Vimeo, LLC (2d Cir. June 16, 2016) (“Vimeo”), a landmark decision concerning the interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (the “DMCA”).  The DMCA gives qualifying internet service providers a safe harbor (protection) from copyright liability with respect to user-posted material.  In this case, Plaintiffs, … Continue Reading

The Importance of Being Earnest and Objectively Reasonable

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. continues to make controlling copyright law, visiting the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time on an issue of great importance to copyright owners and litigants. This time, the issued raised for consideration was whether the lower court properly exercised its discretion in denying a $2 million fee application by Kirtsaeng who had … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit “Strikes A Pose” For Madonna And Music Sampling In “Vogue” Copyright Dispute

In a copyright decision that rocks the music industry and splits from the Sixth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit recently held that Madonna’s mega-hit “Vogue” did not violate copyright rights by sampling a 0.23-second horns segment of the 1980’s song  “Love Break.” In VMG Salsoul v. Ciccone, the divided appellate court affirmed the Central District of California’s ruling that “de … Continue Reading

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