World Intellectual Property Organization

In the News

November 2005

Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity has sold over 50 million LIVESTRONG bracelets. (Courtesy of Lance Armstrong Foundation)
Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity has sold over 50 million LIVESTRONG bracelets. (Courtesy of Lance Armstrong Foundation)

Lance Armstrong Defeats Cybersquatters

The American cycling champion, Lance Armstrong, who fought cancer with the same determination that made him a seven-time winner of the Tour de France, has notched up another victory – this time against cybersquatters.

The California-based respondents had been cashing in on the popularity of LIVESTRONG bracelets. These distinctive yellow rubber bracelets are sold by the nonprofit Lance Armstrong Foundation, which the cycle champion set up in 1997 to fund cancer-related research and to support cancer survivorship. CSA Marketing and Chris Angeles had registered three domain names incorporating the term livestrong, from which they were selling the bracelets for commercial gain. The Lance Armstrong Foundation brought two cases before the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center for resolution under the fast, low-cost Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) procedure.

The independent panel appointed by the Center ruled on October 13 that ownership of the domain names should be transferred to the Foundation. The panelists did not mince their words as they concluded: “There is nothing, in short, to persuade the Panel that the registration and use of the domain names was anything other than opportunistic and abusive conduct of a kind that the [UDRP] Policy was designed to correct.”

The Foundation first registered LIVESTRONG as a trademark in 2004. Under the UDRP procedure, a trademark owner whose mark has been registered as a domain name by someone else can file a complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. The panel can order the transfer of the domain name to the Complainant if it determines that the Complainant owns trademark rights, that the domain name is confusingly similar to the trademark, that the Respondent has no legitimate interest in the domain name, and that the domain name is registered and used in bad faith.

See http://arbiter.wipo.int for more information on the Arbitration and Mediation Center, which specializes in cases arising out of intellectual property and technology transactions

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“Thought Thieves” Film Competition

The challenge to budding film-makers – issued by Microsoft Limited with the United Kingdom Film Education foundation and other partners – was to produce a short film depicting in less than 45 seconds how intellectual property (IP) theft affects individuals and society. The winners in the two age categories, announced on October 27, were Alex Clough and Amy Sutton.

“I wanted to get away from hi-tech and piracy, and show IP theft in its rawest form,” says 21-year old Alex of his film, Pitfalls of a Stone Age Inventor. With his sights set on a career in film-making, questions of copyright and protecting authorship are real to Alex. But he expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of some recent campaigns in the U.K: “A lot of my age group are quite cynical about advertisements which make out that if you buy pirate DVDs you are funding terrorists. Telling the facts without hype or threats probably works better.” He cautions, however, that anti-piracy campaigns alone can only ever go so far in tackling problems which, he believes, are exacerbated by young people’s negative perceptions of the music and other industries.

Amy, 15, also comments thoughtfully, “Lots of kids just blank out if you try and preach something to them. So I think things like these film competitions are good things which young people can really get involved in. If they're actually working on it themselves it becomes much more interesting for them and they learn more.” Amy’s own enjoyment of the challenge shines through her film, Jitterbug, the tale of an entrepreneur whose rival steals his design for a novel toy and beats him to the market.

Representatives from Microsoft and Film Education were impressed by the creativeness of the many entries and expressed their hope that the competition will have contributed to raising awareness of the problems of IP theft. (For more information see www.msn.co.uk/thoughtthieves.)

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Strawberry “smell-mark” squashed

The latest attempt to register a smell as a trademark has been turned down by a European Union (EU) court.

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French company Eden SARL had sought to trademark the smell of ripe strawberries for use in soaps, cosmetic products and accessories. The original application had been rejected by the European trademark agency (OHIM) on the grounds that it was not capable of being represented graphically, and was neither unequivocal nor precise. Eden SARL appealed to the EU Court of First Instance, which upheld the OHIM decision on October 27. The court cited test results in which examiners on a sensory panel were able to distinguish the smells of five different varieties of strawberries, concluding that “strawberries do not just have one smell.”

The judgment concluded: "At the present time, there is no generally accepted international classification of smells which would make it possible… to identify an olfactory sign objectively and precisely." But the judges left open the door for future applications, noting: “The olfactory memory is probably the most reliable memory that humans possess. Consequently, economic operators have a clear interest in using olfactory signs to identify their goods."

Very few smell marks have been successfully registered to date. Notable exceptions include the European Trade Mark registration by a Dutch perfume company of the smell of fresh cut grass for use in tennis balls; and UK trademark registrations of “a floral fragrance/smell reminiscent of roses” applied to rubber tires; and – wait for it – “the strong smell of bitter beer” applied to darts.

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The Orchard comes to Kenya

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Mzee Ingosi, the "Pied Piper of Kakmega"(Photo Joe Kiragu)

In early September 2005, The Orchard, the world’s leading distributor of independent music, extended its activities to Kenya, signing a licensing agreement with the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) for its entire list of artists. With over 40 different ethnic groups and an immigrant population from Europe, India and the Middle East, Kenya’s music includes a wealth of genres, such as classic benga, new taarab, rumba-based Swahili and Lingala music. The Orchard will promote the digital distribution of Kenya’s music with over 125 international digital music stores, including iTunes, eMusic, Napster, MSN and Yahoo! The company has a track record of introducing indigenous music styles to western audiences, having launched a similar program in India in 2004.

The MCSK is among the African copyright societies whose collective management operations have been computerized using WIPO’s specially developed AFRICOS software for collective management.

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IFRRO General Assembly

The International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO) held its General Assembly in Madrid on October 25. In her keynote speech, WIPO Deputy Director General Mrs. Rita Hayes referred to the Cooperation Agreement between WIPO and IFRRO, concluded in October 2003, and to the successful implementation of joint activities. She emphasized the role of digital rights management in the field of reprography and highlighted copyright challenges in the digital era, such as the enforcement of rights, licensing of content, exceptions and limitations, as well as the issue of the balance between the interests of rights owners and the public in the context of accessing protected works.

A WIPO-IFRRO joint working committee met to take stock of past and planned activities. WIPO also participated in a seminar, Copyright Creating Access, Collective Management of Copyright at the Service of Creators, Publishers and Users.

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