— Jessica Gutierrez Alm, Attorney

WWE wrestler Randy Orton has some unique ink on his arms and back, created by tattoo artist Catherine Alexander.  Orton—and his tattoos—are featured in the WWE 2K video games.  Alexander claims ownership of copyright in the tattoos, and is suing WWE and the makers of the video games for

A month ago the hot news was the federal copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill against Warner Brothers Entertainment, and Whitmill’s attempt to block the Memorial Day release of the highly anticipated blockbuster sequel movie The Hangover Part II, based on the film maker’s unauthorized reproduction and/or derivative of the tattoo design permanently inked on Tyson’s face, but still owned by the artist and creator of the design.

More recently, within the last week, the hot related news was the federal court’s decision to deny Whitmill’s motion for a preliminary injunction (brought to prevent the release of the film), but in reluctantly permitting the film’s timely release Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry seemed to foreshadow the likelihood of Warner Brothers paying dearly for not inking and negotiating a copyright license in advance.

What I find most interesting about the fact pattern of this lawsuit and the many presently unknown facts is the all-too-common potential for overlapping and competing intellectual property rights to the underlying subject matter in question — in this case, an artistic design that is copyrightable as an original work of authorship, and it also may function as a trademark or service mark, much like a logo or visual element of a brand. And, because the design now forms a permanent part of the visual appearance, persona, and likeness of a famous individual, it may also function as an element or aspect of Mike Tyson’s right of publicity.

When all possible intellectual property rights are bundled together and neatly owned by one party it permits the single owner to fully exploit the subject matter in a variety of ways by relying on multiple and differing legal rights, theories, and remedies. It gets pretty interesting, however, when not all of the intellectual property rights are owned by the same party — and, that’s when talented IP lawyers are needed to sort it all out, hopefully well in advance of the need for any enforcement.


Continue Reading Tattoos & Hangovers: The Headache of Competing IP Rights

Learning at least a few new things each day is a good thing. One of the many things the special women in my life (wife and daughter) taught me today is the meaning of the apparently ubiquitous acronym BFFL: “Best Friends for Life.” So, the special men in my life learned something along with me today. I’m not sure what that says about me and my boys?

Anyway, this acronym got me thinking about all the billboard advertising promoting Friends reruns I have encountered over the last several months. It’s everywhere. What has struck me about this advertising (besides the sheer volume) is how different it is from the advertising that used to run while the television series was still being filmed and before the syndication of Friends, at least, as I recall. The website for KSTC-TV Channel 45 (based in the Twin Cities) depicts the kind of promotional photograph I recall seeing reguarly while the series was running and pre-syndication:

All six Friends cast members were promoted together as a united group or ensemble of, well, friends, apparently subscribing to the belief that the whole (the program) was greater than the sum of its parts (the cast members). This marketing approach (apparently required by Warner Brothers in the early days of the program) also was consistent with and reminiscent of the solidarity the Friends cast demonstrated during their multiple contract re-negotiations with NBC and Warner Brothers over the years. It is reported that each of the six received $1 Million per episode during the last two seasons, despite the likelihood that each of their relative values most likely was not commercially equivalent.


Continue Reading The Syndication of Friends: Jennifer Aniston Playing BFFL Role?