31 October 2022CopyrightStaff Writer

Five frightening IP tales for Halloween

There are many issues that keep those in the IP world up at night but, with Halloween upon us, we’ve hunted down some of the creepiest cases over the past two years. Happy Halloween!

‘Satan Shoes’

Who could forget the battle between Lil Nas X and  Nike early last year? Nike claimed  victory in the clash, managing to halt the sale of Brooklyn art collective  MSCHF’s ‘Satan Shoes’.

MSCHF developed customised trainers in collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X alongside the release of his new music video “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”.

Based on Nike Air Max 97s, the custom shoes were met with controversy due to their prominent satanic imagery. Only 666 of these limited ‘Satan shoes’ were manufactured, with alterations to the shoe including the addition of red ink and human blood to the midsole, red embroidered “satanic themed detailing” and a bronze pentagram feature to the laces.

However, while Nike may have secured an injunction, all but one of the 666 shoes were already sold and shipped before the court entered its order.

To find out more about the dispute and whether the outcome might have been different in the UK, click  here.

Fast fashion frights

Back in October 2020, Playboy  sued fast fashion company Fashion Nova over its version of the ‘Bunny Costume’. The popular Halloween costume features a strapless satin corset and a pair of bunny ears.

At the time, Playboy accused  Fashion Nova of attempting to “piggyback off of the popularity and renown” of the brand. Fashion Nova had also allegedly used the slogan ‘Bunny of the Month’ to promote the costumes, which Playboy claimed is a “clear and unauthorised reference” to Playmate of the Month.

While Playboy sought an injunction blocking Fashion Nova from infringing the trademarks, the pair have now settled now their dispute. In response, Fashion Nova claimed that the suit was “objectively baseless and was filed for unfair, improper, and anti-competitive purposes”.

“It is a sham designed to cause Fashion Nova to pay Playboy a ransom or otherwise incur the expense of mounting a legal defence to Playboy’s meritless and anticompetitive claims,” alleged Fashion Nova.

However, in November last year, the parties signed a settlement agreement and dismissed the claims with prejudice.

A swarm of claims

Halloween product manufacturer Seasons USA Inc and its parent company Seasons (HK) released a swarm of copyright claims against competitors in early October this year.

Shops selling Halloween products, including Dollar Tree, were accused of infringing Seasons’ copyright through the sale of sculptures of animal skeletons.

Seasons has created “unique sculptures of animal skeletons that are marketed to consumers as decorations for display in connection with Halloween”, according to the claim. These items include: the Skeleton Spider, Unicorn Skeleton, Wolf/Buster Bonez, Vulture, Bat Bonez, Skeleton Owl, and Skeleton Gecko.

Each of the defendants is allegedly selling similar products that infringe Seasons’ copyright. For example, Dollar Tree is selling unicorn, owl, vulture and spider skeletons.

“Defendants’ intentional, infringing conduct was undertaken to reap the creative, artistic, and aesthetic benefit and value associated with the works,” alleged the suit.

Silencing the Scream

National Basketball Association (NBA) player Terry Rozier received a treat just before Halloween last year, when a judge agreed to grant summary judgment in his favour against costume company Easter Unlimited.

Easter had  accused Rozier of infringing its Ghost Face Mask, which had been licensed for use in “Scream” in 1996.

“As a result of the Scream movies, plaintiff’s Ghost Face Mask has become widely famous and remains a popular Halloween costume mask,” Easter said in its 2018 complaint.

Easter claimed that Rozier has paired the famous mask design with his alter ego, Scary Terry, and produced merchandise featuring depictions of the Ghost Face Mask to promote his nickname.

Three years later, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York sided with Rozier, finding that his use of the mask constituted fair use.

Flat-pack fears

IKEA has reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to an indie game developer, demanding the developer makes changes to an unreleased survival horror game.

The game, “The Store Is Closed” is set in an “infinite furniture store”, with players needing to “craft weapons and build fortifications to survive the night”.

According to video game website  Kotaku, IKEA's lawyers claimed that the game “uses, without our client’s authorisation, indicia associated with the famous IKEA stores”.

“Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical striped shirts identical to those worn by IKEA personnel, a grey path on the floor, furniture that looks like IKEA furniture, and product signage that looks like IKEA signage. All the foregoing immediately suggest that the game takes place in an IKEA store,” the letter allegedly states.

Ziggy disputes the claims, saying that yellow and blue signage is only visible on the game’s main menu, and that he had bought generic furniture asset packs to make the game. However, some news outlets have compared the game to IKEA.

Ziggy reportedly has ten days to remove all the claimed “indicia” from the game.

An IKEA spokesperson told WIPR: “While we think it’s flattering that others are inspired by the IKEA brand, we must be diligent to ensure that the IKEA trademarks and trade dress are not misapplied.

"Various elements of the video game currently correspond in appearance with the IKEA brand features. We’ve reached out to the creator of the video and asked them to make changes to those elements to ensure that this is no longer the case. They expressed that they understand our request and agreed to make those changes. This should all be well in time for the expected 2024 launch of the game.

"We wish the creator of the game the best of luck!”

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