IP In The News – 23 September 2015

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Summary: Our regular update on developments in the world of IP, this week featuring the controversy over copyright in the selfie photo taken by a monkey, a US case confirming that Warner/Chappell Music does not own the copyright in the “Happy Birthday To You” lyrics and the ECJ ruling on trade mark reputation in the EU.

Photographs and copyright


Just over a year after the controversy over copyright in the selfie photo taken by a monkey, animal rights group PETA have issued copyright proceedings in the US seeking a declaration that the copyright is owned by the monkey.

Music, lyrics and copyright


It appears that we are all safe to sing Happy Birthday To You without fear of having to pay royalties to Warner/Chappell Music after their claim to own copyright in the song was rejected by a US Court. The music was based on an earlier song already in the public domain, and Warner/Chappell Music were found not to own the copyright in the lyrics (aren’t they just “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear [name], happy birthday to you”?). Which leads us nicely on to another US case which found that no copyright subsisted in the phrase “Everyday I’m hustlin’”, so that pop group LMFAO were allowed to sell their “Everyday I’m shufflin’” t-shirts.

Reputation and trade marks


The ECJ has ruled that if a trade mark has a reputation in a substantial part of the EU it can be used to oppose a national trade mark application in any EU state, even if (as in this case) the opponent’s product was not sold in that state (the Iron & Smith v Unilever case). Note that this is different from the criteria required to show “genuine use” of a trade mark within the EU.

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