Copyright and Intellectual Property Update

Music and chocolate cake have been high up the copyright and intellectual property news agenda of late.

Taylor Swift takes back control of copyright

Taylor Swift released her re-recording of her second album, Fearless.  In a move which creates great excitement among Swift fans and copyright lawyers alike (two groups which are not mutually exclusive), Taylor Swift has taken the first steps in regaining control of her music.  Last autumn’s announcement stated that not for the first time the ownership of the master copies of her first six albums had been sold against her wishes.  Many musicians would have to take this disappointment on the chin. Nevertheless, her previous unsuccessful attempts to purchase the rights to her recordings compounded Swift’s distress.  Taylor refused to shake it off and came up with a radical solution – record new masters!

Despite not owning the rights to the recordings, from a copyright law perspective Swift and her co-writers own the copyright to the songs. Owning copyright to the songs themselves, allows her to rerecord them.  Swift and her band rerecorded the album note for note.  This is because any sampling of the original recordings would have risked infringing copyright.  Early hints were revealed when the rerecorded Love Story was released in February 2021.  The first album completed, Swift has a further five to go. Then she’ll have gained complete copyright protection over all her music.  Musicians, record labels and copyright lawyers alike will have plenty to think about next time they negotiate copyright ownership.

Copyright and Intellectual Property Photo of guitar in sunlight

Intellectual property disputes.

The Pact assert their intellectual property rights

Playing to a similar tune to Taylor Swift, songwriters are banding together to protect their copyright interests in their songs.  Calling themselves The Pact, the writers of some of the biggest pop hits of recent years sent an open letter asking for the writing credit they deserve.  While many artists receive a songwriting credit, entitling them to royalties when the song is used, the actual writers who largely work behind the scenes often see their contributions marginalised.  The Pact is a loose collective of songwriters “simply asking that we give credit where credit is due”.  In seeking more even distribution of copyright ownership, and the accompanying royalty payments, one hopes that creativity will blossom. The result is that writers can focus more on the musicality rather than the commercial success of their songs.


Copyright and Intellectual Property Disputes

CaterpillarWars M&S and Aldi fight it out.

CaterpillarWars heads to court

Marks & Spencer has lodged an intellectual property claim against Aldi. M&S argues the supermarket’s “Cuthbert the Caterpillar” cake infringes its “Colin the Caterpillar” trademark.  Colin the Caterpillar is the family favourite chocolatey Swiss roll. It is decorated to resemble a caterpillar which M&S has sold since 1990.  Other supermarkets sell their own larval confections, including Cecil (Waitrose), Curly (Tesco) and Clyde (Asda).

It is Cuthbert who has attracted Colin’s attention however. M&S claims the similarity leads customers to believe it is of the same standard and “rides on the coat-tails” of M&S’s reputation.  If successful, Aldi would be required to remove Cuthbert from sale agreeing not to sell anything similar in future.

In the past chocolate shapes have had mixed success when searching for trademark protection.  Nestle was unsuccessful in attempts to trademark the four-finger shape of a Kit Kat.  Yet Lindt defeated a legal challenge from Haribo, which sought to prevent it making its gold-covered chocolate bears.

Aldi responded to the proceedings with good humour, tweeting: “This is not just any court case, this is… #FreeCuthbert.”  The trademark dispute social media calls the “battle of the caterpillars”, will hinge on whether the High Court thinks Aldi is aiming to benefit by selling a confusingly similar product.  No doubt intellectual property lawyers (and cake lovers too) will watch with anticipation. Will Colin’s case float like a butterfly, or will M&S get stung?

Information on Copyright and Intellectual Property law

Taylor Hampton specialises in all aspects of copyright and intellectual property disputes.  These include breach of copyright, as well as infringement of trademarks, patents and designs.  Do you suspect that someone is infringing your intellectual property rights? If so, our solicitors will help you stop the unlawful use, and pursue a claim for damages on your behalf.  We are also experts in defending clients  wrongly accused of breaching another company’s intellectual property. See our Intellectual Property page HERE

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