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Intellectual Property Christmas Crackers 2017

December 20, 2017


Partners Richard Watts

Intellectual property

As we head into the silly season, it is time to look back on some of the unusual and interesting IP matters that hit the headlines in 2017.

Attack of the Ninja Knits

The waterfront at Tauranga, New Zealand, was the target of the Ninja Knits group of yarn bombers earlier this year. Their colourful knitted works were fixed to public sculptures of Hairy MacLary and his fictional animal friends situated along the esplanade. Knitted coats, leggings, pigeons, and sausages were included amongst the works attached to the sculptures.

Hairy Maclary, a small dog, is a beloved children's storybook character created by Dame Lynley Dodd, and has featured in books selling upwards of five million copies. Dame Lynley reportedly disapproved of the Ninja Knits’ additions, citing concerns over vandalism and infringement of intellectual property rights.

Bloody Barber Poles

Despite their bloody origin, barber poles are still often used, and well-known, as indicia of barber shops. Such is the repute of the barber profession that in certain states in the USA only licensed barbers are able to use barber poles to advertise their services.

There has reportedly been increased enforcement activity by regulatory agencies, such as the Arizona State Board of Barbers, wanting to ensure that barber poles are only used for licensed barbers. This may have come as a surprise to some hairdressing and beauty salons trying to stay a cut above the competition. 

Doggie Doo-Doo and Trade Mark Boo-Boo

Activision, the creators of the well-known Call of Duty video games, recently obtained an extension of time to oppose a third party trade mark application in the US for CALL OF DOODEE, covering dog waste removal services. Extensions of time are not unusual in trade mark matters, but the wit of the trade mark application was enough to cause a stink in the media.

The CALL OF DOODEE trade mark application has since been abandoned, according to the USPTO database.

What’s taken in Vegas, belongs to Vegas

The Statue of Liberty is at the centre of a copyright infringement lawsuit after the United States Postal Service used a photo of the replica sculpture in Las Vegas, rather than the original New York sculpture, on its postage stamps. The designer of the Las Vegas replica issued proceedings in 2013, contending that copyright subsisted in his design because it differed from the famous New York sculpture.

Earlier this year, the Federal Claims Court denied summary judgment applications from both parties, and determined that the matter should proceed to trial. This was after billions of the popular stamps had reportedly been produced.

This isn’t the only time the USPS has found itself in a sticky situation. In 2015, the USPS was ordered to pay over US$570,000 in damages plus interest for infringing copyright in an artist’s Korean War memorial sculptures, which featured in photographs used on stamps.

Perhaps the USPS can be saved by a Statute of Liberty?

Until Next Year

We are happy to discuss how we can assist you with your intellectual property matters. In the meantime, we wish you a safe and happy festive season!