World Copyright Day, and other news of the week

This week was World Book and Copyright Day, an annual event organised by the United Nations to foster a global appreciation for reading and to promote writing, publishing and familiarity with copyright laws around the world. And the week brought plenty of IP-related news.

No monkey copyright

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a photographer, and not a monkey, owns the rights to a now infamous “monkey selfie.”

It all started back in 2011 when the photographer, David Slater, got a crested macaque called Naruto to take a selfie with his camera.

A few years later some publishers started using the photo without permission, claiming it was the monkey who had copyright because it was the creator of the image. Slater was also sued by an animal rights charity, who claimed Naruto was the real owner of the selfie.

This week’s ruling upheld a previous 2016 one arguing that the monkey “lacked statutory standing because the Copyright Act does not expressly authorize animals to file copyright infringement suits”.

Slater had already agreed to donate 25% of future profits from the selfie to an animal welfare charity. He recently said that all the legal troubles have left him broke and exploring different careers.

Messi is a brand

Barcelona’s superstar player Lionel Messi, has won an EU court challenge over the trademark rights to his own name, defeating a Spanish cycling clothing maker who owns the name Massi.

His original application to trademark his own name was challenged by the cycling brand, which argued that the names were too similar and would cause confusion.

But the EU’s General Court ruled that the footballer was too well known for confusion to arise.

The ruling comes days after France Football magazine reported Mr Messi had overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo as the highest earner in football, with an income of €126m (£108m). More details here.

Tea, or modern art?

In another trademark dispute, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is suing a newly opened cafe called MoMaCha for trademark infringement, arguing the cafe’s logo is too similiar to its own.

In the complaint, filed in a Manhattan federal court, the museum argues that MoMaCha’s “willful intent here is clear as there is no possibility that they were not aware of MoMA or its famous MOMA mark prior to starting their business earlier this month”.

The cafe owners have responded by arguing that they are not a museum and have no intention of competing with MoMA. All they do, they say, is sell a green tea called “matcha”.

There is a picture of the cafe storefront here; and this is the link to the Museum’s website. You decide!

Academic publishers reach agreement with collaboration platform

A group of academic publishers has reached an agreement with Researchgate, an online collaboration platform dubbed ‘Facebook for scientists’, which partly resolves a contentious copyright dispute.

The Berlin-based startup said on Thursday it had reached an agreement with publishers Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press and Thieme to work together on sharing articles while protecting the rights of authors and publishers.

But other publishers, among them Elsevier and the American Chemical Society, are not happy and have said they will not support the agreement. They claim that there are still 4 million articles on the ResearchGate hub that infringe on its members’ copyright – even after the removal of 1.4 million last autumn. They have taken ResearchGate to court in Germany.

More details here.