Welcome to Brand Protection Weekly, your snapshot of last week's essential IP, copyright, and trademark news. Today we're going to talk about legal battles in the world of business, music, and entertainment that shaped IP protection over the last week.
Counterfeit Apple Products Seized at Virginia Airport
In mid-March, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers at Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia intercepted four shipments from China containing counterfeit Apple products, says the Business Insider. According to a CBP press release, the counterfeit goods included 1,000 Apple AirPods Pro and 50 Apple Watches, with an estimated value of $289,500.
Trade experts at the CBP's Machinery Centers of Excellence and Expertise appraised the shipments, confirming the products' counterfeit nature. The shipments were detained, and documentation was submitted, leading to seizure on March 29. No criminal charges have been filed as of now.
In 2021, CBP seized nearly 25 million counterfeit items, with a combined retail value of $2.98 billion. Counterfeit Apple products are a known issue, and the company has a dedicated team working with law enforcement and stakeholders to monitor and remove counterfeit products from social media sites. In 2020, Apple removed over one million online listings for counterfeit products, primarily originating from China.
Ed Sheeran's Copyright Trial
Ed Sheeran's copyright trial commenced yesterday, as he faces accusations of plagiarizing Marvin Gaye's song "Let's Get It On" for his Grammy-winning track "Thinking Out Loud", says Digital Music News website. The lawsuit, filed by the family of Ed Townsend—Gaye's co-writer—claims that Sheeran copied a four-chord progression from the song. The case's outcome could have significant implications for copyright ownership of common musical elements.
During the trial, the plaintiff's lawyer argued that a video of Sheeran singing a mashup of the two songs is his "confession." Sheeran's defense team countered that over a dozen songs use the same chord progression, some predating "Let's Get It On." The trial experienced an unexpected delay when the plaintiff, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, collapsed in the courtroom.
Gen Z Embraces Counterfeits as a Money-Saving Strategy
Gen Z has found a way to save money by purchasing counterfeit goods, according to TikTok data, says The Hustle. With the rising cost of luxury items, such as a genuine Chanel flap bag now priced at $10.2k, many young consumers are opting for cheaper alternatives, or "dupes," on sites like DHgate. The trend has seen an increase in the past few years, with 37% of 15- to 24-year-olds buying at least one fake product in the previous year.
Counterfeit Appeal: Affordability and Indifference
The main reasons for purchasing counterfeit items among this age group are price, indifference towards the product being fake, and the belief that there's no material difference between genuine and counterfeit items. Despite efforts to curb counterfeit sales, TikTok has become a hub for promoting this behavior, coinciding with the platform's expansion of its shopping functionality.
Dassault Awarded 20 Million RMB in CATIA Copyright Infringement Case
According to National Law Review, on April 24, 2023, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court awarded Dassault Systemes Co., Ltd. 20 million RMB (2,893,434.60 USD) and an injunction in a copyright infringement case involving CATIA, a computer-aided design (CAD) software. The Court found that IAT Automobile Technology Co., Ltd. copied and installed 103 unauthorized copies of the CATIA software and obstructed the Court's evidence preservation process.
Unauthorized Use and Evidence Obstruction
Dassault claimed that IAT used their CATIA software without authorization, infringing on their legal copyright. Dassault demanded IAT to stop the infringement, compensate for the loss of 20 million RMB, and pay reasonable expenses of 80,500 RMB. The Beijing Intellectual Property Court conducted evidence preservation on the use of CATIA software in IAT's computers and servers. Dassault accused IAT of using virtual desktop software to obstruct evidence during the court preservation process.
Zimbabwe's 'Backyard Brewers' Create Fake Alcohol Boom
In Zimbabwe, "backyard brewers" are producing counterfeit whiskies, brandy, vodka, and other spirits to earn a living amidst dwindling economic opportunities, says Reuters. These homemade brews, made from ethanol concentrate, water, and brown coloring, have gained popularity among young people searching for affordable alcohol options.
Photo by: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Risks and Police Intervention
Authorities warn that these fake alcoholic beverages pose significant health risks, as backyard brewers lack the means to accurately measure alcohol content. In response, police have started conducting raids to shut down these brewing operations. Since January, 4,000 suspects have been arrested nationwide.
German Magazine Editor Fired Over AI-Generated Michael Schumacher Interview
According to the New York Times, the editor of German celebrity magazine Die Aktuelle, Anne Hoffmann, has been fired after the publication featured an AI-generated "interview" with retired Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher. The magazine had promoted the interview as Schumacher's first since his skiing accident in 2013, which led to a brain injury and his subsequent withdrawal from public life.
Apology and Legal Action
Funke Media Group, the magazine's publisher, issued an apology to Schumacher's family, who have been very protective of his privacy since the accident. The family, represented by spokesperson Sabine Kehm, is planning to take legal action against Die Aktuelle for the misleading article.
And there you have it – we've reached the end of this week's round-up of noteworthy legal battles in the world of trademarks and copyright.
As always, we at BrandMonitor are grateful for your continued support and interest in staying informed. We believe that knowledge is power, and staying updated is essential for making better decisions in your personal and professional lives. Have a fantastic week, and we'll see you in our next Weekly Digest! Stay vigilant, stay informed.
Yours sincerely, the BrandMonitor Team