Copyright lawsuit to test transformative use defense for digitally manipulated images


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First, go scroll through Exhibit A to the Complaint for this copyright lawsuit (starts at page 13 of Complaint, below). Besides displaying beautiful artwork, it also provides a nice visual set-up for what should be a really interesting case involving digital manipulation and transformative use.

The Plaintiff is a prominent visual artist primarily known for her original abstract art and mixed media paintings. She has sold over 1,500 original paintings worldwide.

The Defendant is an artist who creates his works by digitally manipulating existing images through computer programs such as Photoshop. Defendant sells his digitally manipulated artwork via the same online retailers as Plaintiff. 

Plaintiff made contact with Defendant, who had been provided as a reference by an online distributor, for the first time in 2014. Defendant responded with a pleasant “I just took a look at your art – wow! You have a new fan.” Apparently he wasn’t kidding. 

In 2017, Plaintiff discovered that 22 works for sale by Defendant were digitally manipulated derivatives of her own artwork. Photoshop had been used by Defendant to rotate, invert, stretch, filter, all the tricks…anyway, you can view the final results in Exhibit A, where Plaintiff sets forth a side-by-side comparison for all 22 works.

In a phone call between Plaintiff and Defendant, Defendant stated that his intent was not to “copy anyone’s work in a fashion where it would be confused and cost another person a sale.”

Based on a review of Exhibit A, this blog post is going to assume that Defendant did in fact digitally manipulate Plaintiff’s images. The question then becomes whether the digital manipulation and subsequent commercial use was an infringing use or a fair use.

Defendant’s entire art style seems to heavily rely upon digital manipulation of other people’s artwork, so I would expect him to present a strong, well-reasoned argument for “transformative use.” Transformative uses take the original copyrighted work and transform its appearance or nature to such a high degree that the use no longer qualifies as infringing.

Arguing a “transformative use” defense will involve answering the following two questions in the context of Defendant’s style of digital manipulation:

  • Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning?
  • Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

It will be interesting to see how both parties answer these questions as the lawsuit proceeds. Stay tuned for updates. 

Keck v. Lawrence et al.

Court Case Number: 2:18-cv-00250-RLM-DLP
File Date: Friday, June 1, 2018
Plaintiff: Michel Keck
Plaintiff Counsel: Matthew K. Higbee, Ryan E. Carreon of Higbee & Associates
Defendant: John Mark Lawrence dba Mark Lawrence Art Gallery; Does 1-25
Cause: Copyright Infringement
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Robert L. Miller
Referred To: Doris L. Pryor


Jewelry Designer sues for copyright infringement of Hearty Love Pendant Design


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This copyright infringement action involves a copyrighted jewelry design, specifically Plaintiff’s “Hearty Love” Design and the associated “Heartlines Love Pendant.”

The parties have several years of history working together, as detailed in the Complaint (below). While Plaintiff was working with Defendant Droste, a jeweler, to create her Heartlines Love Pendant, Droste allegedly took her design and had it made by Defendant Shah, a jewelry manufacturer. The Defendants’ allegedly infringing design is now widely sold.

Corlinea, LLC v. Drostes Jewelry Shoppe et al.

Court Case Number: 3:18-cv-00099-RLY-MPB
File Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Plaintiff: Corlinea, LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: C. Richard Martin of Martin IP Law Group, PC
Defendant: Drostes Jewelry Shoppe Inc., Shah Diamonds, Inc. d/b/a Shah Luxury
Cause: Federal Copyright Infringement, Contributory Copyright Infringement, Vicarious Copyright Infringement
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Richard L. Young
Referred To: Matthew P. Brookman


National Wrestling Alliance sues wrestler claiming to be “The Real NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion”


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The Plaintiff in this action is the owner of the National Wrestling Alliance (“NWA”) brand. The NWA is a promotional and sanctioning body that licenses promoters and promotions around the world to conduct NWA professional wrestling events.

The Defendant, a professional wrestler residing in Indiana, has apparently been going around claiming to be “The Real NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion” and “The People’s NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion.”

Unable to convince the wrestler that he was not the “real” champ with cease-and-desist communications, Plaintiff now seeks the Court’s intervention. Stay tuned for updates.

Lightning One, Inc. v. Harmon

Court Case Number: 2:18-cv-00193-JVB-APR
File Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Plaintiff: Lightning One, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Michael V. Knight, Caitlin R. Byczko of Barnes & Thornburg LLP
Defendant: Nicholas P. Harmon
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Trademark Infringement
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Joseph S. Van Bokkelen
Referred To: Andrew P. Rodovich


Sunman BP sued for selling counterfeit Oakley sunglasses


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The defendants in this counterfeiting lawsuit are the owners and operators of a BP gas station located in Sunman, Indiana, who are accused of selling counterfeit Oakley sunglasses. The counterfeit products were observed for sale in the store by Plaintiff’s representatives.

The plaintiff, Oakley, Inc., seeks damages and injunctive relief.

Oakley, Inc. v. Sunman BP et al.

Court Case Number: 4:18-cv-00085-TWP-DML
File Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Plaintiff: Oakley, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Jason D. Groppe, Esq., Logan S. Bednarczuk, Esq.
Defendants: Swami Property Sunman Inc. dba Sunman BP, Chirag Patel, Does 1-10
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, False Advertising, Federal Trademark Dilution, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt
Referred To: Debra McVicker Lynch


BioSweep vs. BioClean…are you confused?


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The Defendants in this lawsuit are accused of violating the non-compete provisions of a terminated Franchise Agreement, as well as operating the competing business with a confusingly similar trademark, BioClean vs. the Plaintiff’s registered BioSweep trademark.

The Defendants allegedly also still claim to use Plaintiff’s “BioSweep System” equipment on their website, creating a false impression of a relationship with Plaintiff, and reference their competing company as “BioSweep of the Gulf Coast” in at least one instance.

Stay tuned for updates.

Phocatox Technologies, LLC v. Wiersig et al.

Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-01298-WTL-DML
File Date: Friday, April 27, 2018
Plaintiff: Phocatox Technologies, LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: Bryan S. Redding, Britton A. Jared of Redding Law, LLC
Defendants: Jerry D. Wiersig, Todd M. Hoffman, BioClean Remediation, LLC (AL), and BioClean Remediation, LLC (OK)
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Contributory Trademark Infringement, Breach of Franchise Agreement, Conspiracy, Federal Unfair Competition, State Unfair Competition
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: William T. Lawrence
Referred To: Debra McVicker Lynch




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The Plaintiff in this trademark lawsuit, California-based Muscle Flex, Inc., operates a hosiery website,, which boasts “5.5 million visitors, 27 million views, and millions of dollars in sales across the United States.”

The Defendants operate several hosiery stores called “Leggings World” inside Simon Property Group (“Simon”) properties across the Midwest and Northeast. Simon is included as a defendant in the lawsuit.

When Muscle Flex complained of the infringement to Simon, Simon responded by removing instances of “Leggings World” from its website and digital directories inside its malls, and sending cease-and-desist letters to tenants operating under the “Leggings World” name in its properties.

However, this didn’t satisfy Muscle Flex, which also wants to receive some money for damages, leading to some slight lawyer shade:

Simon has seemingly thrown in the towel on Leggings World, removing it from all Simon online directories (really, go try to find a store online), but we’ll see whether Leggings World decides to challenge Muscle Flex and continue operating the physical stores. Stay tuned for updates.

Muscle Flex, Inc. v. Simon Property Group, L.P. et al.

Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-1140
File Date: Friday, April 13, 2018
Plaintiff: Muscle Flex, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Christopher A. Brown of Woodard, Emhardt, Moriarty, McNett & Henry LLP, Connor Lynch of Lynch LLP (pro hac vice)
Defendants: Simon Property Group, L.P., Simon Property Group, Inc., Matt Murat Dagli, New Purple LLC
Cause: Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Unjust Enrichment
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt
Referred To: Tim A. Baker


Indiana power sport vehicle company sues Canadian competitor over infringing parts


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The Plaintiff in this lawsuit, ASW, LLC, is a Columbia City, Indiana-based company that designs and sells power sport vehicles and related parts. ASW owns the registered trademarks AMERICAN SPORTWORKS and LANDMASTER.

The Defendant, a Canadian corporation, is alleged to be selling competing products using identical marks from an infringing website, It’s not clear from the Complaint (below) whether the infringing products are repackaged/refurbished items (which can void a warranty) or just plain ol’ counterfeit goods, although it seems closer to the latter. 

ASW, LLC v. Bisson et al.

Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-00086-TLS-PRC
File Date: Monday, April 9, 2018
Plaintiff: ASW, LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: Linda A. Polley, Charles J. Heiny of Haller & Colvin, P.C.
Defendants: Bisson, 1837967 Alberta Ltd.
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Common Law Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Passing Off
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Theresa L. Springmann
Referred To: Paul R. Cherry


Vera Bradley sues numerous eBay sellers over counterfeit goods


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The defendants in this lawsuit are alleged to have sold counterfeit Vera Bradley products on eBay since as early as January 2016.

Vera Bradley Designs, Inc. v. Denny et al.

Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-00070
File Date: Monday, March 26, 2018
Plaintiff: Vera Bradley Designs, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Mark D. Scudder of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Michael R. Gray of Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A.
Defendants: Jennifer Denny, Austin Devin 2 Denny Boys, LLC, Darlene Nicholas, Amanda Whitfield, and Ilene Simpson
Cause: Trademark Infringement, Copyright Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Unfair Competition, Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: TBD
Referred To: TBD


Oakley sues So. Indiana Gas Stations over Counterfeit Eyewear


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The Defendants in this lawsuit, the owners of gas stations located in Batesville, Osgood, and New Point, Indiana, are accused of selling counterfeit Oakley and Ray-Ban sunglasses. The counterfeit products were observed for sale in the stores by Plaintiff’s representatives and are believed to originate from a common source, to be determined.

Stay tuned for updates.

Luxottica Group et al. v. Avni Petroleum, Inc. et al.

Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-0537-WTL-MJD
File Date: Friday, February 23, 2018
Plaintiff: Luxottica Group S.p.A., Oakley Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Brent H. Blakely, Jessica C. Covington of Blakely Law Group
Defendant: Avni Petroleum, Inc., Delaware BP, Pari, Inc. dba Batesville Food Mart, Rani Petroleum, Inc. dba Batesville Shell, SAI Petroleum Inc. dba New Point Food Mart, Does 1-10
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin and False Advertising, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: William T. Lawrence
Referred To: Mark J. Dinsmore


Indiana Trademark Registration


Clients often inquire whether they should register their trademarks at the State or Federal level.  Starting with the assumption that even small local businesses may encounter a challenge to their trademark in the future, I generally try to impress upon them the advantages of federal registration.  After all, many of my clients end up being very successful and seek to expand outside of Indiana’s borders. With the exponential growth of “e-commerce,” the Internet is providing opportunities for national and global expansion, even for the smallest Indiana businesses.  It is therefore important for businesses of all types and sizes to choose and protect their trademarks with care…often this can mean protection at BOTH the State and Federal level.

Here’s a quick primer on registration of a trademark in Indiana:


Trademarks are registered with the Indiana Secretary of State.

Registration of a trademark with the Indiana Secretary of State creates a legal presumption of the registrant’s ownership of the mark and the registrant’s exclusive right to use the mark in Indiana commerce in connection with the goods or services described in the application.  (A federal registration would protect your trademark in all 50 states.)

The Indiana Trademark Act (IC 24-2) protects words, phrases, symbols or designs, or any combinations thereof when they are used to distinguish the source of the goods or services rendered by one party from the goods or services of another party. Marks are checked against other marks registered in Indiana, but not against corporate, fictitious, or assumed names.

Indiana trademark rights arise from actual use of the mark in commerce, i.e. no “intent-to-use” applications.

A mark cannot be registered until it has been used in Indiana. Indiana defines a mark being “used” when it is placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or on the tags or labels affixed thereto, or when it is used to identify the services of one person and distinguish them from the services of others, and such goods or services are sold, otherwise distributed, or rendered in this state.

So what are some of the main benefits of state registration over federal registration?  It’s cheaper (State: $10/class vs. Federal $325/class) and quicker.  I’ve seen turnaround of weeks, not years as with the USPTO.  It can be a good remedy for a purely local entity.  State registration provides an increased level of trademark protection…at least you can claim protection on your “home turf.”  However, in the long run, I’d recommend that any entity which anticipates expanding outside of Indiana, particularly via Internet “e-commerce,” should seek federal trademark registration to best protect their valuable trademark rights.

I look forward to hearing from proponents of State registration…how has an Indiana State registration uniquely benefitted either you or your clients?