Better to be Absolutely Ridiculous Than Absolutely Generic: The Estate of Marilyn Monroe’s Trademark Woes

Picture1By Gwen Wei

On Monday, March 13 2017, a ruling in the Southern District of New York threw trademark practitioners nationwide into a tumult when the presiding judge left open the possibility that a celebrity name could become too generic to enforce as a trademark. The issue: the court’s “serious doubts that V. International will be able to establish that the contested marks are generic”, pitted against its concern that “[r]eaching that conclusion at this state would be premature.”  The celebrity hanging in the balance: Marilyn Monroe. Continue reading

Animal-Style v. Cali-Style: The Better Burger Battle

Caliburger-Seattle-03-1024x683By Kelsey O’Neal

Everyone who has been to Southern California has probably seen a bright yellow arrow pointing to the promise of the ultimate meal: a double-double, animal style fries, and a Neapolitan shake. Where does the arrow point? In-N-Out Burger. The company typically stayed within a certain radius of its original store in Baldwin Park, CA, and it wasn’t until 2011 that it opened a restaurant in Texas. In-N-Out has been notoriously slow to expand. So, it must have been a shock for the residents of Shanghai to see animal style burgers in the Jing An Temple District in 2011. However the force behind the new store was not In-N-Out, but rather Caliburger, LLC, a Diamond Bar, CA-based company that trademarked In-N-Out’s menu items in Asia and Eastern Europe. In-N-Out wasted no time; it sued Caliburger in Santa Ana, California. The two companies settled, and the settlement was likely contingent on Caliburger’s willingness to change its menu. (For example, a “double-double” is now a “Cali-double,” and “animal style fries” became “wild fries,” which then morphed into “Cali-style fries.”) Continue reading

California Hits the Brakes on Google’s Driverless Cars

car.jpgBy Yayi Ding

On December 16th, California’s DMV released a set of proposed regulations that could potentially delay or curtail the development of autonomous, driverless cars. Car developers, including Google, Tesla, and BMW, have quickly expressed their disappointment in these legal proposals. Nonetheless, the proposed rules will go through months of comment and review before finalization, and two relevant public consultations will be held in California in early 2016. Continue reading

Is Google the New Cookie Monster? Third Circuit Google Case Gives Californians Something to Complain About

cookie monsterBy Samuel Daheim

On Tuesday, November 10th, the Third Circuit vacated a district court’s dismissal of freestanding privacy claims against Google Inc. (Google) under California law. Plaintiffs alleged that Google’s actions constituted a breach of privacy, under both California Tort law and the California State constitution, when it deceitfully bypassed internet privacy settings in order to track internet usage. The Third Circuit rejected the district court’s ruling that the alleged intrusive practices of the company did not amount to an “egregious breach of social norms” – the standard under the California constitution. Continue reading

California Sets the Bar for State Regulation of Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 1.28.28 PMBy Brooks Lindsay

Last month, a California law went into effect allowing autonomous vehicle testing on any California public road. The law, signed in May by Governor Jerry Brown, is the most important regulatory framework to date surrounding autonomous vehicle testing. The law deserves critical examination considering the societal changes that autonomous vehicles may bring and the likelihood that California’s law will be used as a legislative template by states around the nation.

California’s law purely regulates test-driving and does not attempt to regulate anything further—such as the commercial sale or consumer use of autonomous vehicles on California roads. Future legislation will have to include much broader provisions on the commercial sale and consumer use of these cars. In the meantime, testing requires here-and-now regulation, like that in California. Continue reading