Former UCLA men’s basketball player, Reeves Nelson, has filed a lawsuit for defamation against Sports Illustrated resulting from SI’s March 2012 article entitled, Special Report: Not The UCLA Way. The scathing article, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author George Dohrmann (more on him later), portrayed the UCLA men’s basketball team as dysfunctional and out of control, placing much of the blame on Nelson’s conduct. The revelations added salt to the open wound of a UCLA hoops season that saw the Bruins finish in the middle of a weak Pacific 12 conference and miss the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.

Those who know me know that I am a rabid UCLA sports fan, particularly as to the UCLA men’s basketball team. I have had season tickets for over 20 years, follow the team in road games around the country and am a donor to UCLA Athletics. I am in all sense of the word a UCLA basketball “booster.”

During the 2011-12 season, UCLA men’s basketball fell far short of expectations — suffering embarrassing losses to “lesser” basketball programs, losing by double digits to top teams and failing to earn a postseason bid which most of us consider to be UCLA’s birthright. Plus, UCLA fans had to endure the indignity of having to attend most “home” games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, an arena which cross-town rival USC abandoned years ago, while the Bruins’ home arena, Pauley Pavilion, underwent major renovations. Beaten on the court and essentially homeless, the UCLA basketball team then had to face SI’s blistering and embarrassing accusations just days before one of the worst seasons in UCLA basketball history was about to end.

Unlike most subjects on this blog, the SI “expose” and Nelson’s alleged conduct within the team detailed in that article was (and is) intensely personal. Nevertheless, as an attorney with substantial experience in defending the media as well as representing plaintiffs in defamation claims, I could not pass on the opportunity to comment on Nelson’s defamation lawsuit. After the jump, you can read Nelson’s complaint, and evidence he submits at the outset of his lawsuit, as well as my views on his claims.
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Roger Clemens must feel like he’s under siege these days. Once certain that he’d be elected to the baseball hall of fame, Clemens is now on trial for the second time on perjury charges for lying about his supposed use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). (Clemens’ first trial ended in a mistrial when prosecutors showed a video that had previously been ruled inadmissible.)

I previously wrote about Clemens and his predicament well before his indictment and first criminal trial. My first post was about how much a celebrity’s reputation is worth and whether suing for defamation is an appropriate strategy to defend that reputation. I updated that first post about the crucial decisions on how to defend celebrities and their reputations when the judge dismissed most of Clemens’ claims in his civil lawsuit for defamation against his former trainer.

Since then, Clemens was indicted and now is undergoing his second trial on federal perjury charges for allegedly lying to Congress in his testimony about the use of PEDs in baseball. After the jump, I’ll discuss how a celebrity’s reputation, and perhaps his freedom, depends on the quality and strength of the advice he receives from his representatives and friends.
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HOP-HOP LABEL FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST GROUP DAY BEFORE MCA LOSES FIGHT WITH CANCERAdam “MCA” Rauch co-founded the “Beastie Boys” hip hop group with Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Adrock” Horovitz. Together the trio enjoyed tremendous success, selling over 40 million records, having our #1 albums and being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. MCA was too ill with cancer to attend that induction ceremony. On May 4, 2012, MCA lost his battle and died at his New York home.

In timing that can charitably be called “unfortunate,” hip hop label Tuff City Music Group (TufAmerica) filed suit against MCA and the other Beastie Boys, and their various record labels, the day before MCA died. Filed in federal court in New York City, the lawsuit claims that the Beastie Boys illegally “sampled” passages from two songs from the group “Trouble Funk” and incorporated them into four Beastie Boys songs, including songs on the Beastie Boys’ 1986 debut album, “Licensed to Ill” (the album cover is depicted on the right).

After the jump, I’ll summarize what I suspect will be key issues in the case and discuss the controversy concerning the timing of the suit.
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Darrell Bailey aka Clipper DarrellWith the arrival of new star players Chris Paul and deAndre Jordan, coinciding with the continued rise of mega-star Blake Griffin, the once hapless Los Angeles Clippers have a new identity (“Lob City”) and a rekindled fan base. Once the laughingstock of all sports franchises, the Clips find themselves leading the Pacific Division of the NBA’s Western Conference as of the date of this post (a half game over the Los Angeles Lakers), playing an exciting brand of basketball that’s the talk of the League. In fact, Clipper fans have boldly declared that their beloved team is now THE team of Los Angeles.

(As a long time Lakers fan, I scoff at this notion. Hang some banners and get your own arena before making such ridiculous statements.)

This week, the Clippers are making news off the court. The team has become embroiled in a controversy with its most visible fan, Darrell Bailey, known to Clipper Nation as “Clipper Darrell.” The team wants Clipper Darrell to go back to being just Darrell and drop the “Clipper” mark from his moniker.

After the jump, as a sports fan, and intellectual property litigator, I will discuss this burgeoning dispute between the club and its superfan and whether Lob City is better served enjoying its most visible fan’s support instead of stifling it.
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The 28th Chief Justice of California, the Honorable Tani Cantil-Sakauye, provided the keynote speech at the 2011 Japanese American Bar Association / Philippine American Bar Association Annual Installation & Awards Dinner last February. I was honored to introduce the Chief Justice at the dinner, as well as testify on her behalf at her confirmation hearing as I previously wrote in August 2010. The Chief Justice gave an inspirational speech. You can view the video here.




Material GirlBefore her appearance at the Super Bowl festivities this weekend, singer/songwriter Madonna was locked in a battle over the trademark “Material Girl” with a clothing manufacturer who has been manufacturing clothing under that name for almost 15 years. In 2010, Madonna’s company and retailer Macy’s began to sell a line of clothing under the “Material Girl” name. The clothing manufacturer sued Madonna and others.

In a motion for summary judgment last summer, the company defendants claimed that Madonna obtained a trademark over the phrase “Material Girl” as a result of her hit song of the same name and related sales of goods and merchandise with that name

After the jump, I’ll summarize the court’s analysis and describe why I believe that Madonna should be afforded trademark rights to “Material Girl” as a result of the popularity of her song and her public persona as the quintessential “Material Girl.”
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Original BatmobileDC Comics, publisher of the original Batman comic strip, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer and seller of vehicle modification kits that allow a consumer to create his or her own “Batmobile.” The original Batmobile (pictured on the right) was an integral part of the 1960s television series based upon the DC comic books. “Gotham Garage” sold kits allowing consumers to build and own a replica of the iconic Batmobile. DC Comics sued, alleging that the replicas infringe upon their copyright to the Batmobile.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the motion to dismiss proceedings before the Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew in the Central District of California. I’ll also provide some insight into the business replica Batmobiles and the potential implications of Judge Lew’s ruling upon the auto industry and car design.
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COMMUNICATION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGEVancouver coupleBy now, you’ve seen the image. In June 2011, the Vancouver Canucks lost game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins in Vancouver. Chaos ensued, and Vancouver burned. Sports fans rioting in disappointment over losing a championship (or in celebration of winning one) is hardly unusual. However, as the people of Vancouver rioted in the streets, a picture captured a couple in a private, intimate moment against a backdrop of smoke and police in riot gear. The photographer and the media reporting on the Vancouver riot did not know their names. They were simply the kissing couple.

Not surprisingly, the stark contrast between the violence in the background and the kissing couple lying on the street was a sensation — the picture went “viral” — disseminated worldwide on social networks as well as traditional media. With that kind of coverage, there was no chance that the anonymous couple would stay anonymous for long.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the implications of the instantaneous spread of information and social media — particularly on anonymity and expectations of privacy.
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The studios behind the “Cars” motion picture franchise ended their July with a bang — winning their litigation in Los Angeles federal court over the creation of the franchise. Cars II Movie PosterLast Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank of the US District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles dismissed all claims against the Walt Disney Company, Pixar and studio-related companies filed by a plaintiff who claimed that the highly successful “Cars” films were based upon his copyrighted screenplay and treatment.

Plaintiff Jake Mandeville-Anthony alleged that Disney/Pixar and the other defendants infringed upon his copyrights in two prior works and that the studios owed him compensation for using his materials based upon an implied contract. Mandeville-Anthony’s pursuit of damages against these studios came to an abrupt end with Judge Fairbank’s order dismissing his entire case on the pleadings.

After the jump, I’ll discuss the issues raised by the claims in this case and the import of the court’s decision dismissing the case at such an early stage.
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Hangover II Movie Poster

Late last month, Warner Bros. settled the copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the tattoo artist who designed the tatoo which appears on the face of former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement in April 2011 because Ed Helms’ character in The Hangover: Part II sports a similar tattoo to the one Tyson made famous. Whitmill initially sought (unsuccessfully) to prevent or delay the release of the film. When that failed, Whitmill pursued his lawsuit in Missouri federal court, seeking damages and removal of his purported copyrighted work in any further exploitation of the movie. The settlement, of course, now eliminates the chance that Warner Bros. might be forced to digitally alter the movie.

After the jump, I’ll discuss some of the legal issues raised by Whitmill’s claims and why Warner Bros. likely felt it had to settle the case.
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