12 April 2012

Rights to band names: One Direction

Today's free Metro newspaper had an article about US band One Direction complaining about British boy band One Direction. A lawsuit has been filed. The British group are in Simon Cowell's Syco label.

The US band formed in 2009 and are quoted as saying that they were the "first to file a patent and trademark application."

You can't patent a name or wording (a common error), but you can certainly register trade marks. In February 2011 the trade mark "One Direction" was filed for as a US trade mark, which is awaiting registration, for "Entertainment, namely, live performances by a musical band". Oddly, despite the claim to formation in 2009, it states that its first use in commerce was on the 2 October 2010.

There is also Bandname.com™ , a free registration site even if you only want to search for band names (why make life hard for bands ?) where new bands can list unique names to avoid possible conflict, although I am not sure of its legal standing.

The US group is asking for the British group to change their name and for one million dollars, as the British group has been successful in a US tour.  According to an InsideCounsel page, the lawsuit is based on trade mark infringement -- which is strange, as the US application for a trade mark is still awaiting registration.

[The IPKat blog has a very useful post which shows that the British group have applied for a US trade mark. Ed., 17 April]

27 October 2010

The end of Sony's Walkman® personal stereo

It has been announced that Sony stopped production of its Walkman® personal stereo in April 2010, after over 200 million had been made.

When it was introduced in 1979, this audio cassette device began to sell in huge numbers, even though it lacked a record function, which at the time was thought vital in a cassette machine. It came about when Akio Morita, the company chairman, wanted to listen to opera on his many flights. Existing prototypes of a small cassette player designed for dictation, and tiny headphones were adapted to make the product. 

Morita hated the brand name, but it had been chosen without consulting him and was already being used in promotion, so he couldn't change it. He himself thought that making them so that two can listen at once was a good idea, as he had noticed his wife looking annoyed as he listened to music on it. Large numbers of that model were made, but it turned out that people regard them as personal accessories. 

The biggest mistake, though, was not applying for a patent (Sony thought it unpatentable) and therefore, perhaps, not being aware of a patent by Andreas Pavel. Here is the main drawing from his High fidelity stereophonic reproduction system.

Pavel audio system patent 
The equipment was to be worn on a belt but the principle was fairly similar, hence litigation. Pavel's patent application, made from Italy where he was living at the time, was made in 1977 and therefore predated the Sony work.

Court litigation dragged on for years.  A detailed analysis of the arguments for and against Pavel was made by Judge Peter Ford in his Patents County Court judgment in 1993, Court Decision CC/14/93 (held at the British Library), where Ford said the patent's technology was old and obvious. The case later went on to the Appeals Court, where Pavel lost again in 1996.

An out of court settlement with Pavel for using his technology (said to be in excess of $10 million) was made by Sony but, it has been said, was only possible after Morita's death in 1999.