Articles Posted in Copyright Litigation

Guitar Center sells musical instruments. It created a new brand of woodwind and brass instruments produced by Eastman known as “Ventus.”

Barrington owns the trademark “Vento,” which is used in relation to instruments it sells.  Barrington began using its mark in commerce in 2009 and achieved gross sales just under $700,000. Barrington filed for registration of its “Vento” mark in January 2010. In March 2011, Guitar Center began selling instruments using the “Ventus” mark, with gross sales totaling about $5 million.

Barrington filed suit against Eastman, Music & Arts, Guitar Center and Woodwind.

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In a case involving a default judgment in the amount of $421,582 against an Illinois corporation, Mama Gramm’s Bakery requested that a Cook County judge pierce the corporate veil of Silver Fox Pastry and put the liability on Haitham Abuzir. Abuzir was never a director, officer, shareholder or employee of the corporation, Silver Fox.

In the attempt to pierce the veil, Mama Gramm’s alleged that Abuzir funded Silver Fox, “made all business decisions” and “exercised ownership control over the corporation to such a degree that separate personalities of the corporation and defendant did not exist.” The trial judge dismissed the complaint for failing to state a cause of action against Abuzir. The Illinois Appellate court reversed that decision and provided an opinion on the issue of “whether the veil may be pierced to reach non-shareholders.”

The underlying case that resulted in a default judgment was a trade secret case. The appellate court discussed the ways to create and organize a sham corporation. “In some instances, the wrongdoer neither holds stock nor serves in an official capacity. Making officer, director or shareholder status a pre-requisite to veil-piercing elevates form over substance and is therefore contrary to veil-piercing’s equitable nature.”

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The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed a decision dismissing a copyright claim brought by Catherine Conrad, who was a self-employed singing and dancing entertainer. Conrad calls herself the “Banana Lady” and performs wearing a costume in the shape of a giant banana.

Conrad was hired by several credit unions to perform a “singing telegram” at a credit union trade association event. Conrad claimed that she told the arrangers that members of the audience were not to take photos or video of her performing except for their own personal use. The exception to the rule that she imposed was that postings on Facebook pages would be allowed.

In Conrad’s pro se lawsuit brought against the credit union, she alleged that the organizers did not inform the audience of these restrictions until after she completed her performance. As a result, she claimed several audience members took photos and videos during the performance and posted them to the Internet.

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed a ruling by the federal district court judge over a copyright lawsuit involving a song. Guy Hobbs composed a song entitled “Natasha” while working on a Russian cruise ship.  This song was registered as a copyright in the United Kingdom in 1983.  His attempts to publish the song were unsuccessful. 

A few years later, Elton John and Bernie Taupin released a song entitled “Nikita.”  “Nikita” was released through a publishing company; Hobbs had sent a copy of “Natasha”  to the same company. Hobbs believed that “Nikita” was a knock-off of his song “Natasha” and demanded compensation from John and Taupin. 

Hobbs was unsuccessful, and he filed suit in 2012 asserting copyright infringement. The U.S. District Court dismissed Hobbs’ suit for failure to state a claim;  Hobbs appealed. 

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