30 October 2020CopyrightSarah Morgan

Six spooktacular Halloween stories

While Halloween may be held behind closed doors this year, in the world of IP there is still plenty to keep us up at night. Disputes over costumes, horror films, and vampire wine are just some of the killer stories we spotted. Read on if you dare...

Paranormal activity

Earlier this year, Warner Bros Entertainment sued a Canadian woman it claimed is the “architect” of a fraudulent enterprise distributing unlicensed works related to the late paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Vancouver resident Bea Loyd was allegedly responsible for selling books, e-books, and MP3 recordings which stole from the Warrens’ 1990 TV series “Seekers of the Supernatural”, according to the claim.

The couple’s accounts of their paranormal investigations are the basis of “The Conjuring” film series.

Loyd, who had a minor role working for the Warrens on their TV series in the late 1990s, was also reportedly filing fraudulent trademark registration applications across the world.

The suit has not yet been exorcised—last month, the entertainment company filed a motion for leave to submit a second amended complaint with the court. Bench trial is set for July next year.

A soul-crushing horror story

Director Francesca Gregorini took on Apple TV and famed director M Night Shyamalan earlier this year, claiming a TV series devised and developed by Shyamalan was a “brazen” copy of her 2013 film “The Truth About Emanuel”.

Gregorini claimed that the Apple’s psychological horror series “Servant”, which deals with a couple's emotional trauma following the death of their young child, includes a number of striking similarities with Gregorini’s earlier work.

“Having a very personal labour of love stolen is soul-crushing,” Gregorini said in a press release at the time.

The dispute is now before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, after a Californian court dismissed the suit and Gregorini appealed.

Judge John Walter of the US District Court of Central District of California dismissed the suit in May this year, after finding that Gregorini’s film and episodes of “Servant” were not substantially similar.

“In sum, the alleged similarities between the works pale in comparison to the differences in the plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events, and the court concludes that the works at issue are not substantially similar as a matter of law,” said Walter.

Bunnies vs fast-fashion

Earlier this week, Playboy took Fashion Nova to court over its version of the ‘Bunny Costume’. According to the claim, Fashion Nova is attempting to “piggyback off of the popularity and renown” of the brand.

The outfit, which features a strapless satin corset and a pair of bunny ears, is a popular costume for Halloween.

Fashion Nova has 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.

Playboy is seeking an injunction blocking Fashion Nova from infringing the trademarks, as well as an accounting of all profits earned from the allegedly infringing sales.

Vampire facial

What IP list would be complete without a reference to the Kardashians you ask (or not). Late last year, Kim Kardashian accused the doctor behind the controversial ‘vampire facial’, Charles Runels, of misappropriating her name and likeness in promoting his services.

The ‘vampire facial’ involves separating platelets in the blood and injecting them back into a person’s face in order to promote skin healing and repair. It gained widespread attention after Kardashian posted a selfie on Instagram receiving the ghoulish treatment.

The reality TV star and business owner subsequently registered the “vampire facial selfie” with the US Copyright Office but then learnt the image was being used on the doctor’s website, as well as numerous references to Kardashian.

Kardashian said she was “horrified to discover that her name and likeness were plastered all over Runels’ website”, according to the complaint.

In late January, the parties settled. Runels agreed to be subject to a permanent injunction, which stops him from using Kardashian’s name, image or likeness in connection with any goods or services sold.

The court terminated the case in March.

Avoiding the costume curse

Once again, the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has warned of the fake fancy dress dangers ahead of Halloween.

PIPCU has urged people to buy their Halloween fancy dress outfits from legitimate sellers and not be tricked into buying counterfeit costumes, which pose risks of suffocation, poisoning and strangulation.

Fake costumes aren’t tested or subjected to the same rigorous testing as genuine items, said the unit, adding that the packaging of the clothing also does not meet safety standards.

Ros Lynch, director of copyright and enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office, added:“In spite of restrictions on Halloween this year, it can still be a fun time for families.

“We echo PIPCU’s advice, and would urge the public to think twice before buying fake fancy dress costumes—the dangers are alarming, with potentially shocking implications to public safety.”

Taste of immortality

Californian company Vampire Family Brands finds itself on our list once more. Last year, Vampire Family accused US restaurant chain Applebee’s of trademark infringement through the sale of $1 ‘Vampire’ alcoholic cocktails. That case is ongoing.

This year, Vampire Family has taken online marketplace Zazzle and Texas supermarket HEB Grocery Company to court, among others.

Zazzle was accused of refusing to take down counterfeits which, according to Vampire Family brands, were wine labels that bear the Vampire Family’s trademarks ‘Vampire’ and ‘Dracula’.

In addition to owning US trademarks for ‘Vampire’ and ‘Dracula’ for wine, Vampire Family also owns trademarks for ‘Taste of Immortality’ and ‘Sip the Blood of the Vine”.

“Defendants are encouraging consumers to purchase their counterfeit wine labels and apply them onto an inexpensive bottle of wine, so they can save money from buying an actual bottle of Vampire wine or Dracula wine,” said the suit.

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More on this story

28 October 2020   Playboy is suing online retailer Fashion Nova over Halloween costumes which the media company says are unauthorised copies of its ‘Playboy Bunny’ trademark.
23 January 2020   Warner Bros Entertainment is suing a Canadian woman it says is the “architect” of a fraudulent enterprise distributing unlicensed works related to the late paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.