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Licensing Law

Legal Updates: Netflix/Chooseco, Rihanna, Sears & More

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Indie publisher Chooseco files suit against Netflix in federal court alleging infringement of its “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark, which is used on the classic interactive children’s book series. Chooseco alleges that Netflix failed to license its use in the streamer’s latest interactive feature, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which explicitly referenced the mark as a key plot point. On top of that, the publisher claims that Netflix disparaged its mark by the film’s dark content, which featured violence, drug use, “and other upsetting imagery.” Chooseco is seeking injunctive relief and at least $25 million in damages (which carry the potential to be trebled). In 2007, Chooseco settled a similar trademark infringement suit with Daimler Chrysler over a Jeep ad.

Rihanna is suing her father, Ronald Fenty, and his business partner for $75 million alleging that the pair misappropriated her “Fenty” trademark in a “fraudulent effort to solicit millions of dollars from unsuspecting third parties.” The singer, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. At the core of the complaint are allegations that the pair misrepresented their relationship with her and her brands.

Heineken applies for an “Official Beer of Soccer” trademark from the USPTO as North American World Cup looms. The brewer has been supporting soccer since 2014; just last year, it expanded its partnership with MLS in a five-year sponsorship deal through to 2022/23. The application is not without its merits—although it can be difficult to register broad marks, some “official beer” marks have been registered in the past.

Payless ShoeSource hires an adviser to help it look into a sale, a restructuring, store closures, and other strategic alternatives less than 18 months after the discount retailer emerged from bankruptcy.

Eddie Lampert’s ESL Investments is the winning bidder for substantially all of Sears Holdings’ assets. The $5.2 billion bid is scheduled for bankruptcy judge approval on Feb. 1; if approved, the transaction will close in approximately one week and would preserve 425 Sears stores and 45,000 jobs. A committee of unsecured creditors are expected to take Lampert to task and request a public hearing to air, among other grievances, allegations that Lampert engaged in a years-long scheme to asset-strip the retailer. Lambert is Sears’ largest creditor; approximately $35 million of ESL’s offer is a credit bid for the amount he is due.

General merchandise store operator Shopko files for bankruptcy with the end goal of restructuring to help shed excess debt and better fight against ongoing competitive pressures. After closing 45 stores last year, Shopko is looking at shuttering another 38 locations in bankruptcy.

The Gymboree Group files for bankruptcy in separate proceedings within the U.S. and Canada. The company is looking to use the proceedings to wind-down its Gymboree and Crazy 8 operations, while preserving its Janie and Jack operation through a going-concern sale. It will close around 800 locations.


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