#OscarsSoLitigious: Academy Sues Over Decadent $200k “Oscars” Swag Bags

Looks like the 88th Academy Awards couldn’t stay out of the spotlight if it wanted to, first dealing with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and now starting a lawsuit over the swag bags being given out at the awards. Forbes values this year’s swag bag at $232,000 and it includes such classics as: a $250 marijuana vaporizer; $1,900 “vampire breast lift” skin treatments; $250 vibrator; $275 Swiss-made toilet paper; and a 10-day first class trip to Israel, just to name a few. The company providing the gift bags is Distinctive Assets (DA), which specializes in “offering celebrity placement, product introduction and branding opportunities within the entertainment industry.”

You already know what it looks like anyway

NOT PICTURED: $250 Vibrator

Last year DA allegedly promised the Academy that it would change its ways and stop marketing its goodie bags in a manner that implies the Academy endorses DA or its products – so you can kind of see why the Academy would put its foot down when DA used slogans like “Everyone Wins At The Oscars®! Nominee Gift Bags,” and “Everyone Wins Nominee Gift Bags in Honor of the Oscars®,” this year. Continue reading

Sexy People Doing Sexy Things Isn’t Enough: YA Novelist Cassandra Clare Accused of Plagiarism Again

Sexy supernatural men falling in love with and protecting attractive young heroines, and the world, collide as NYT romance bestseller Sherrilyn Kenyon has sued YA bestseller Cassandra Clare for allegedly plagiarizing her hit Dark-Hunter series. Kenyon started writing the Dark-Hunter books in 1998, and has been releasing bestselling novels within that universe consistently ever since. Clare’s first Shadowhunters book, City of Bones, came out in 2007. Both series focus on “elite” warriors that protect the “human world” from an unseen paranormal threat, stopping the enslavement of humanity. Both introduce this concept through a heroine who does not know she is one of these warriors until saved by a handsome, gothic, tattooed, blond man who is a powerful warrior. However; where Kenyon’s books are decidedly adult, featuring some … steamy scenes, Clare’s YA (young adult) novels have reached a much broader audience. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was made into a movie in 2013, and although it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office, a TV show, “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments,” premiered on ABC Family in January of 2016. Apparently this was the last straw, and on February 5, 2016, Kenyon sued Clare for trademark and copyright infringement based on the similarities between the Dark-Hunter and Shadowhunters names and stories.

Ehhhhhhh....

Shadowhunters TV Show – Says it all, really

A juicy tidbit in this story is that this is not the first time Clare has been accused of plagiarism. Continue reading

Close but No Cigar – GRAN HABANO Refused as Geographically Misdescriptive

“I never smoke to excess – that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time,” Mark Twain once said about cigar smoking, a vice that many still share today. American cigar aficionados rejoiced when the Obama administration officially began to reestablish relations with Cuba in January of 2015, including provisions that allow $100 worth of alcohol or tobacco per traveler to be imported into the country. Cuban cigars are generally considered the gold standard in the USA, despite competition from around the world. Thus, it may come as little surprise that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) refused registration for GRAN HABANO for cigars when the manufacturer is from Miami, Florida. Continue reading

Nicki Minaj vs. Taylor Swift? Dangers when Real Time Marketing Meets Social Media

It all started with a tweet. Nicki Minaj, despite her music video Anaconda breaking the VEVO record for most views and working its way into mainstream culture through memes and body positivity think pieces, was not nominated for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. Minaj tweeted about the snub in an attempt to highlight the undercurrents of racism and sexism in the pop music awards, pointing out that music videos with similar track records by Caucasian artists (with Caucasian beauty ideals) have nearly always been nominated. Her larger point was that the artistic achievements of black people are frequently coopted and commodified by white culture, with the white celebrity praised as edgy or groundbreaking (Elvis is a classic example). However, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion when you’re limited to 60-character chunks, so it was almost inevitable that someone would misunderstand what Minaj was getting at. That someone happened to be Taylor Swift, who thought Minaj was taking a shot at her Bad Blood video that was nominated. It wasn’t long before the media dramatized the “feud,” even though Swift quickly realized that she misunderstood the message and apologized to Minaj, who accepted and reiterated how much she respects Swift.

They say there is no such as thing bad publicity, and maybe in the 1940s that was true, but in the era of social media and real time marketing it doesn’t seem that way anymore. Continue reading

POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola: False Advertising and Business Implications

Pomegranate juice is a trendy, health conscious drink, but are all pomegranate drinks equal?  Pom Wonderful sued Coca-Cola under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act claiming that the beverage giant was misleading consumers about the amount of pomegranate juice in its MINUTE MAID “Pomegranate Blueberry Juice.”  Although pomegranate seemed to be the selling point, the drink was actually comprised of 99.4% apple and grape juices.

Rather than substantively address this Lanham Act claim, Coca-Cola (“Coke”) sought to dismiss the suit as precluded by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. This past June (2014), the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) unanimously held that the regulatory provisions of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) do not preclude or limit the statutory private right of action provided in the Lanham Act. Instead, they are complementary statutes that provide greater protection to consumers in combination than either could alone.

What You Need to Know about the Case

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