A New Twist to Chubby Checker – Oh No, Not an App for That!

Chubby Checker, whose real name is Ernest Evans, is suing Hewlett Packard for trademark infringement. Chubby Checker, an iconic music entertainer, rose to fame when his song “The Twist” first reached No. 1 on the charts in 1960 and his appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand” helped spawn a national, if not international, dance frenzy. His 2008 song “Knock Down the Walls” reached the top of the dance charts and sparked a brief comeback for the music legend.

Ernest Evans Corporation, one of Mr. Checker’s companies, was originally granted trademark rights for the use of his name in connection with musical performances. Later, The Last Twist Inc., another of his companies, was granted trademark rights for “Chubby Checker’s” in connection with food products, based on the release of a line of snack foods.

The mobile “app” named “The Chubby Checker” – no, we couldn’t possibly make this up – ostensibly enabled users who downloaded it to calculate the size of a male penis based on the individual’s shoe size. The development shop named Magic Apps, now non-existent, had touted the international appeal of the app, noting “The Chubby Checker” allows calculations based on U.S., UK and European shoe sizes.

Lawyers for Mr. Checker had sent HP a cease-and-desist letter last September and apparently the app was removed from all HP or Palm-hosted websites later that month. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, lawyers for Mr. Checker, now 71 years old, claim that “irreparable damage and harm” has been done to the entertainer’s name and reputation, are seeking an injunction, and are asserting claims of millions of dollars in damages arising from “The Chubby Checker” app that Hewlett Packard Co. made available on Palm mobile devices starting in 2006. You may recall that HP acquired Palm in 2010, and a year later opted to shutter the production of Palm hardware, although it continued to provide technical support to existing Palm users.

The suit alleges that purchasers of the app, as well as anyone simply browsing the webpage, had been misled into believing that Chubby Checker had endorsed the app, and that the use of his name would confuse users who might reasonably conclude the singer had some association with the app bearing his name.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants made millions of dollars exploiting the name of one of the greatest musical entertainers of our time, and claims the “Defendants’ use of the name ‘Chubby Checker’ in its app is likely to associate the plaintiffs’ marks with the obscene, sexual connotation and images evoked by defendants’ app ‘The Chubby Checker.’” You can read the filing in its entirety right here at Evans, et al. v. Hewlett Packard Company, et al., Case 2:13-cv-14066-JEM.

The Advertising, Technology & Media Law Group at Rimon has lawyers with decades of experience in working with advertisers and agencies, marketing and promotional companies, online, mobile, and traditional, handling matters involving celebrity endorsements – good, bad and sometimes ugly. Let us know if you need us. Call me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work. We are happy to help.

Airlines May be Mobile But Delta Apps Irk California Regulators

In a civil action filed in California (People v. Delta Air Lines Inc., California Superior Court, San Francisco, 12-526741), the California State Attorney General’s office alleges that Delta Air Lines was distributing a mobile application without a privacy policy, in violation of the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (COPPA), which became effective July 1, 2004. The California statute provides a penalty of up to $2,500 for every violation.

Among other things, the Delta ‘app’ allows customers to check in, and display and make reservations; and, according to the lawsuit, Delta has been allowing customers to download and use the ‘Fly Delta’ app without a privacy policy, since at least 2010.

Of course, Delta is not the only company with user-friendly mobile apps for on-the-go busy travelers, and I’m guessing that company lawyers are now scrambling to determine if their apps are in compliance and whether changes need to be made and, just as importantly, how to make those changes to ensure compliance with the law and still maintain the customer friendliness mobile users are accustomed to and demand.

Our Advertising, Technology & Media law practice can help you navigate the challenges of compliance – preventive law as well as representing clients when the regulators come calling . . . and we have a group dedicated to legal support when your needs, defensive or as a defendant, turn to privacy, data protection and identity theft. So if you need help or more information, contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum (joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com), or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

MMA Releases Mobile App Privacy Guidelines – Appy Days Are Here Again

A few days ago (October 17), the Mobile Marketing Association released its MMA Mobile Application Privacy Policy, which the MMA asserts is the first industry guideline to deal with data protection and privacy specifically related to mobile and wireless applications. The guideline being made available for comment is slated to be finalized sometime after November 18, 2011, when the MMA’s comment period is scheduled to close. The press release notes that there are currently more than 425,000 iPhone/iPad apps available from Apple’s App Store, and more than 200,000 available for Android.

The document is intended to deal with some of the basic privacy principles and text that developers should consider incorporating into mobile apps to let consumers know how their data is collected and used, as well as information regarding confidentiality and the security of information that becomes available when a consumer installs and uses a mobile app. Obviously, legal disclaimers and disclosures and issues related to privacy and data protection are quite jurisdiction-specific, and compliance will always require consultation with legal counsel to be sure mobile, and all other online and other applications and processes, conform to the legal requirements of each jurisdiction that applies to consumers for that application or process.

Rimon’s offices around the world are open, coordinating with our Advertising Technology & Media law practice group, ensuring that lawyers knowledgeable in data protection and privacy, as well as in mobile technology and marketing, are available to help you. As always, if you want to know more about how lawyers who understand can help your business, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.

Who’s Right on Privacy? Rosenbaum on Legal Bisnow.

You’ll have to read the story to find out why Rimon’s own Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum thinks that “Privacy is the elephant-sized rubber band ball in the room.” Joe was recently interviewed by Jeff Gamsey, managing editor of Legal Bisnow, and is featured in yesterday’s lead story on Legal Bisnow entitled, “Who’s Right on Privacy?”

The Rise of Digital Outdoor Billboards – Signs of the Times

Although it might be intuitively obvious when you think about it, most people have simply overlooked billboards as a growing advertising medium. Did I say “growing”? Well yes, I did. More and more highways and roads are being built. More vehicles are on the road, fuel costs and mass transit subsidies notwithstanding. Stuck in traffic? Sitting on a commuter rail or waiting at the shelter for the next public bus to whisk you off to work? Guess what. You’re staring at an advertisement. Increasingly, outdoor space is being used to serve multiple advertisements – tri-fold slat advertising, roll-away-screen advertising. But in case you haven’t noticed, digital billboards are beginning to pop up everywhere – New York City has them on the sides of buses and the tops of taxi cabs.

Makes sense. As consumers have taken more control over the advertising they see on the devices they use, what better place to capture attention than on a billboard you are simply staring at while you are waiting, traveling or driving to your next destination. So yes, digital billboards are growing even faster (see, for example, an article posted by the BBC news service in the UK entitled, Outdoor Advertising Goes Digital).  Not only that, but digital billboards provide the ability to alter messages at will and can be interactive – with QR Codes, Bluetooth sensors, RFID tags, SMS Text message promotions (to see some examples, take a look at the slides from my recent presentation at the 10th Annual SME Digital Forum – Rosenbaum Presentation).

Legal issues? Well first, there is the intrinsically public nature of billboard advertising generally – which means you have to be more sensitive to standards, community norms and specific regulations applicable to categories of advertising (e.g., municipal ordinances regarding tobacco advertising near schools, etc.). Plug number 1 – you should always consult your legal advisors when reviewing billboard advertising. For example, could this have been approved? The disclosures are there, after all!

OK, just kidding. But that said, a new issue has arisen regarding the safety of digital advertising for drivers. Flashing lights, moving images, animated sequences can be distracting. Well the debate isn’t all that new. (Digital Billboards Spark Safety Debate (2007); Digital billboards: Good business or danger to drivers? (2010)). Nor is it limited to the United States (e.g., Do digital billboards add to danger on UAE roads? (2010)).

Perhaps the increased number of digital billboards is raising concern that every roadway, bus shelter and available space outdoors will be consumed with Times Square-like illumination all the time. So far, studies report that digital outdoor advertising is safe. For example, see the March report of Watchfire Digital Outdoor entitled, “Digital Billboard Safety Confirmed“. The safety issue likely will continue to rear its head periodically, along with questions about propriety of certain types of ads served on digital billboards, and I assume the inevitable claim that the lights are keeping everyone in the neighborhood up at night – although on a long drive late at night, perhaps flashing lights are a good thing.

In any event, outdoor billboard advertising isn’t dead. It’s being transformed, along with all other forms of advertising and marketing. Need help from lawyers who understand both advertising and digital transformation? Rimon is the place to look. Feel free to call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.

FTC Proposes to Update Dot Com Disclosure Guide to Online Advertising

"Dot Com Disclosures" [PDF], the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidance for online advertisers, was issued in May 2000.

Yesterday, the FTC issued an announcement [FTC Staff Invites Comments Regarding "Dot Com Disclosure" Business Guidance Publication [PDF]] asking for comments and suggestions from interested parties regarding updates to the online advertising guidance, based on the fact that when Dot Com Disclosure was first released, social media, mobile marketing, "apps" and similar innovative advertising and content distribution mechanisms either did not exist, or were in their infancy.

The online world and the online and mobile world of advertising has changed radically and continues to evolve dynamically since 2000, and if you want your comments to be considered, the FTC must receive them by July 11, 2011. Comments will generally become matters of public record at http://www.ftc.gov/os/publiccomments.shtm.

Are you in the online or mobile advertising industry? Do you create, use, share or obtain data from "apps"?   Do you want your views to be considered – whether as part of an industry association or individually, or both? Need help crafting your submissions and comments?

If you need help from lawyers with decades of experience, Rimon is the place to look. Feel free to call me, Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers within the Advertising Technology & Media law practice group, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work. We will be happy to help you.

Mobile Advertising & Marketing – Myths & Miffs

Thanks to the Digital Marketing Committee of the Association of National Advertisers for having me attend and give a presentation on mobile advertising and marketing yesterday. A copy of the presentation is available for your reading enjoyment right here: “Mobile Marketing or I Know Where You Will Be Next Summer & Other Mobile Marketing Myths.” (PDF)