Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law – Copyright and Trademark Law

Copyright lCopyright law has evolved ever since it was first enacted. The field has become infinitely more complicated with the advent of the Internet. Piracy has multiplied often starting in a movie theatre in China where the original movie is filmed with a handheld video device and then copied and sent, spiraling either in stores or on the Internet. Ms. Feigen, as well as all other copyright attorneys, can only advise their clients on how best to protect themselves, starting with registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office, which allows for treble damages if the registered work is shown to have been taken or used by others unlawfully. Ms. Feigen has negotiated on behalf of rights owners whose copyrights have been infringed. This has led to her successful representation of one author whose work had been "used" by the BBC without acknowledgment or payment, another whose non-fiction historical tome had been plagiarized by a novelist without credit, another whose academic publication had been the basis of a play without so much as a mention.

Ms. Feigen counsels her clients about areas of the law, including fair use and what constitutes a sufficiently transformative work to avoid being accused of infringing on someone else’s copyright. She also starts at the beginning to assure her client and herself that the work in question can be copyrighted. This often involves her engaging one of several companies that search to find out if any other similar work has already been copyrighted.

Because names may not be copyrighted, Ms. Feigen counsels clients to start the process of obtaining a trademark. She urges them to make up a name that is "crazy-sounding" (e.g. Google, Yahoo), i.e. as far away and different as possible from what the company is doing. Or, she urges the use of the name(s) of the people whose company it is. Then the process of registering the mark begins and Ms. Feigen works with select companies whose sole enterprise is searching to find anything similar either in the state or, if necessary, nationwide. (In rare cases, it is also necessary to do a worldwide check, e.g. when Dreamworks adopted its logo in anticipation of their movies being released globally. If nothing is found, the next step is for the client to work with an artist who is able to create a unique logo and look that appeals to the client, at the same time that it becomes even harder for confusion to ensue in the mind of the public. This is the key element in the ability to obtain a trademark. Since the process can take several years, Ms. Feigen advises her clients about how to use the name and logo during the waiting period. This often involves securing the mark for the primary state in which the mark will be used.

Trademarking is also the beginning of branding, be it a product, a tentpole for a movie and its sequels, a TV pilot or the first of a series of novels. This involves marketing, as well, and Ms. Feigen teams her clients with artists and marketers in an effort to create an unusually appealing product.