New York New York Legal Blog

Novelist and playwright embroiled in intellectual property clash

What some in New York are claiming is an example of an artist defending his rights, others describe as a bitter rivalry sparked by jealousy over a partner's success. The case involves a struggling playwright whose ex-girlfriend's first novel won critical and popular approval. He says she plagiarized his unpublished screenplay, but she contends her ex is trying to sabotage her career and reputation by claiming she stole his intellectual property.

The couple met when she was just 20 and already an award-winning writer, having won acclaim for a literary short story published at the age of 17. Her ex was 33 and shared her dream of becoming a published writer. However, the relationship lasted only a few years, and she claims that during that time, he was abusive and unfaithful. Nevertheless, they often read and edited each other's work. It was in this way, the man claims, that his former girlfriend got some of her ideas for her successful book.

Patch and pin copies lead to intellectual property litigation

Independent artists and small-scale accessory designers may be flattered when a world-renowned fashion designer includes their pieces in a new collection. Such recognition and exposure could be just the nudge that turns a cottage industry into a corporation. However, a small group of artists is not flattered, especially when the famous designer allegedly gave no credit to the true designer of the items he included in his newly-revealed collection. The artists are now trying to regain control of their designs through intellectual property litigation in New York civil court.

Katie Thierjung and several others design fanciful enamel pins and embroidered patches, selling them through their websites and exclusive showrooms. In January, Thierjung was shocked to learn that some of the accessories in the new collection of international designer Marc Jacobs were nearly identical to items she had designed and sells on her company's website. Jacobs had apparently never sought permission from the designers to use or sell their designs.

Copyright law is no game

For some New York families, winter brings special traditions, such as long hours playing board games. Although the popularity of board games has waned, many vintage games have new life in electronic versions and apps. Such is true for one of the most beloved and enduring board games, The Game of Life. The future of this game hangs in the balance now due to a recently filed lawsuit concerning copyright law.

In 1959, Milton Bradley toy company commissioned the creation of a new game to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary. One man claims that he found an old game in the Milton Bradley archives and used that game as inspiration for The Game of Life. Unlike other board games of the time, The Game of Life's board was a winding, three-dimensional track around which players moved a car-shaped game piece according to the numbers on a clicking wheel. The stopping places on the board marked various milestones in life.

Legal malpractice when a lawyer files suit against wrong company

When a New York family loses a loved one in a horrific accident, they typically have a great deal on their minds in the days and weeks following the accident. There are family members and friends to contact, funeral arrangements to make and personal emotions to deal with. When the question arises of seeking potential compensation from those allegedly liable for the accident, many families leave that in the hands of a capable lawyer. However, one family in another state may now be adding filing a legal malpractice lawsuit to the list of things they have to do.

A 44-year-old man died in an explosion on an oil and natural gas rig where he was contracted to perform cleaning and maintenance on the pipes. Apparently, the owner of the rig subcontracted this work to two different companies. As with many oil and gas rig explosions, this one became high-profile. Some personal injury attorneys rush to solicit victims and families affected by such accidents for what they hope will be substantial payouts. One attorney with a successful record of such awards contacted the family of the deceased man and was hired to represent them.

Lebron James brands his intellectual property through trademarks

It is no secret that athletes can be an inspiration to people. Millions of fans watch their favorite sports, often spending outrageous money to see certain players perform in person. The average New York fan who, in childhood, tried Little League, high school football or dance lessons knows the physical and mental sacrifices that must be made to excel in a sport. This may be why fans appreciate the inspirational quotes and proverbs an athlete may come up with. For Lebron James, these quotes become part of his intellectual property.

In fact, James, who plays basketball for the NBA Cavaliers, started his own LLC called LBJ Trademarks. Through this company, James legally protects slogans, words or phrases for use on various products. For example, the saying, "Nothing is Given. Everything is Earned," is a recent addition to James' 30 or more registered trademarks, which he may use on T-shirts, posters or other products.

Intellectual property litigation: Disney versus tech inventor

Hollywood is careful to protect itself from pirating and other illegal uses of its products. However, it may seem to some in New York and elsewhere that the industry does not play by the same rules. While movie studios may be quick to accuse someone of stealing copyrighted materials, apparently, they do not expect intellectual property litigation when they use allegedly stolen technology. One man is about to take on some Goliaths in the industry to protect his intellectual property.

Steve Perlman, founder of Rearden LLC, created software called MOVA that was a breakthrough in special effects because it creates realistic graphics from digitally captured facial expressions and morphs them into other forms. For example, actor Chris Pratt's digital expressions became the crime-fighting racoon in "Guardians of the Galaxy." However, Perlman says the software for the technology was stolen and sold to a Chinese company.

Do stream-ripping sites violate copyright law?

It was only a short time ago when a New York music fan could borrow a friend's vinyl record and make a cassette tape of the music. In addition to not having to pay to purchase the album, copying the music to a tape made it portable since it was not feasible to carry around one's turntable. The music industry and recording artists complained about this as a violations of copyright law, but they may have had no idea of what technology would allow fans to do in the future.

Now, the Recording Industry Association of America is battling stream-ripping websites that allow music fans to download to MP3 format the audio portion of a licensed music video from YouTube. RIAA recently petitioned the Office of the United States Trade Representative to consider taking legislative action to shut down these stream-ripping sites, such as YouTube-MP3, Convert2mp3 and 2conv. RIAA believes such sites are damaging the recording industry because when fans rip songs for free, artists do not receive royalties from the sales of their copyrighted music.

Legal malpractice claims for lack of email security

New York residents who face legal situations are often flummoxed by the complexity of the issues involved. Because an attorney has specialized knowledge, clients often take a leap of faith that the lawyer is safeguarding the information with which he or she is entrusted. When that trust is misplaced, the lawyer may end up facing allegations of legal malpractice.

One woman wanted to buy a home -- a simple, three-bedroom ranch in another state. Following the advice of many, she hired a real estate attorney and sent a wire transfer of $73,401 from her bank, following instructions she received in a series of emails she believed were from her realtor. Despite the fact that the wire transfer for a local real estate transaction was being routed to an out-of-state trading company, the bank completed the transfer without confirming the details with the woman's attorney.

Is fanfiction stealing intellectual property?

Since the modernized fanfiction appeared in a magazine paying homage to the original Star Trek series, the world of fanfiction has evolved into a life of its own. The inception of fanfiction websites made such creative expressions more accessible, spawning derivative fiction for every conceivable literary genre. While some authors in New York and elsewhere welcome and even encourage fans to show their appreciation in this unique way, other authors argue that fanfiction violates their intellectual property.

In the world of fanfiction, writers may take the characters a published author has created and place them into new situations, taking them in directions the author may not have imagined. Fanfiction websites exist for thousands of books, such as Harry Potter, Twilight and even some classic works of literature, such as To Kill A Mockingbird. Copyright law may protect writers of fanfiction since those laws allow for derivative works as long as the authors abide by the fair use doctrine.

Banana costume sparks intellectual property litigation

For some in New York, it takes only the turning of the calendar page to October to begin preparations for Halloween. Cobwebs go up in trees, and pumpkins are arranged on the porch. Finally, the only thing left to do is to procure the perfect costume. Rather than becoming a goblin or Iron Man, some will purchase a costume to transform themselves into the funniest of fruits, the banana. However, banana costumes are currently the center of intellectual property litigation.

Rasta Imposta has long been the go-to manufacturer of affordable costumes. Among its most popular costumes is the banana, in which the wearer's face, legs and arms stick out from openings in the foam. The costume has so much "ap-peel" that other manufacturers have recently tried to copy it.


Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

FindLaw Network ${}${SEMFirmNameAlt}
Office Location:

Schwartz, Ponterio & Levenson, PLLC
134 W. 29th Street, Suite 1006
New York, NY 10001-5304

Phone: 917-338-3879
Fax: 212-714-1264
E-mail Us | New York Law Office Map

Back to top