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Under Armour Files Trademark Suit Against Ass Armor (Trademark)

by Timothy Geigner

from the turn-the-other-cheek dept on Friday, February 27th, 2015 @ 3:44PM

Show of hands: who remembers the North Face vs. South Butt saga? Ah, yes, the trademark battle built perfectly for those of us with a sophomoric sense of humor, fully entertained us three years ago, when an upstart clothier attempted to be funny and the humorless lawyers at North Face cried consumer confusion. While the claim of confusion was as laughable as the rest of the story, the court proceedings saw South Butt agree to change its brand name. Which it did...to Butt Face, because why the hell not? South Butt/Butt Face, after all, was pimping its own publicity by streisanding its way through court proceedings, all thanks to North Face refusing to put down the litigation stick.

Perhaps snowboarder Casey Sherr was taking notes at the time for his eventual release in 2013 of his Ass Armor clothing company, which of course has Under Armour's shorts in a twist.

The Ft. Lauderdale company faces a trademark infringement lawsuit from Under Armour — and plans to fight. The $3 billion Baltimore athletic apparel maker also accused the snowboard shorts maker of unfair competition and cybersquatting for using the name Ass Armor and a tagline that could be confused with Under Armour's. The defendant copies Under Armour by using similar lettering and putting the Ass Armor name along the shorts' waistband, the lawsuit says.

"Making matters worse, similar to Under Armour's well-known and widely promoted Protect This House tagline mark, defendants use, advertise and promote their Ass Armor mark, name and products… in connection with the Protect Your Assets tagline," says the lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Maryland.
Could the well-known Under Armour brand and imagery be somehow confused with Ass Armor and its logo?


Frankly, it stretches credulity to believe that such confusion is likely. More likely this is simply the latest in a long line of battles Under Armour's legal team has staged for itself, having previously gone after Skechers, Salt Armour Inc., and others. Much like the South Butt case, it's woefully likely that all the courts will see is the obvious play on some of the more generic aspects of Under Armour's marks rather than actually weighing any real concerns over customer confusion.

What's clear is that trademark wasn't designed to keep this kind of stuff tied up in court battles like this. Unlike South Butt, Ass Armor appears to be willing to fight the battle.

"We strongly believe the lawsuit filed by Under Armour has no merit," said Scherr, president of the company that makes only the padded shorts, in an email Thursday. "Ass Armor has spent months fighting with Under Armour in front of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and then, without notice, Under Armour filed this matter in federal court. We believe this is a classic David and Goliath battle. As David, we intend to fight."
Protecting its assets is part of the Ass Armor way, after all.

4 Comments

We Now Know The NSA And GCHQ Have Subverted Most (All?) Of The Digital World: So Why Can't We See Any Benefits? (Privacy)

by Glyn Moody

from the less-is-more dept on Friday, February 27th, 2015 @ 2:44PM
As Mike pointed out recently, thanks to Snowden (and possibly other sources), we now know the NSA, with some help from GCHQ, has subverted just about every kind of digital electronic device where it is useful to do so -- the latest being hard drives and mobile phones. That's profoundly shocking when you consider what most non-paranoid observers thought the situation was as recently as a couple of years ago. However, given that's how things stand, there are a couple of interesting ramifications.

First, that the recent attempts by politicians to demonize strong encryption look like an attempt to cover up the fact that most digital systems are already vulnerable using one or more of the techniques that have been revealed over the last year or two. That is, the NSA and GCHQ can probably access most digital content stored or transmitted in any way -- either because the encryption itself or the end-points have been compromised. Even standalone strong encryption systems like PGP -- thought still to be immune to direct attacks -- can be circumvented by breaking into the systems on which they are used.

Perhaps the dark hints that encryption could be banned or backdoored are simply part of a cynical ploy to present such an appalling vision of what could happen, that we gladly accept anything less extreme without complaint. In fact, the authorities have no intention of attempting anything so stupid -- it would put all online business at risk -- because they don't need to: they already have methods to access everything anyway.

That being the case, there is another important question. If the NSA and other parties do have ways of turning practically every digital electronic device into a system for spying on its users, that essentially means there is no criminal organization in the world -- ranging from the so-called "terrorist" ones that are used to justify so much bad policy currently, to the "traditional" ones that represent the bulk of the real threat to society -- that is not vulnerable to being infiltrated and subverted by government agencies.

And yet we don't see this happen. Drug cartels thrive; people trafficking is surging; the smuggling of ivory and endangered animals is profitable as never before. Similarly, despite the constant and sophisticated monitoring of events across the Middle East, the rise of Islamic State evidently took the US and its allies completely by surprise. How is it that global criminality has not been brought to its knees, or that such massive geopolitical developments were not picked up well in advance -- and nipped in the bud?

One obvious explanation for this pattern is that just as the attackers of London, Boston, Paris and Copenhagen were all known to the authorities, so early tell-tale signs of the rise of Islamic State were detected, but remained drowned out by the sheer volume of similar and confounding information that was being gathered. Similarly, it is presumably easy to create huge stores of information on drug bosses or people smugglers -- but hard to find enough personnel to analyze and act on that data mountain.

Now that we have a better idea of the extraordinary reach of the global surveillance being carried out at all times, the failure of that activity to make us safer by countering criminal activity, at whatever scale, becomes all the more striking. It's time the intelligence agencies accepted that the "collect it all" approach is not just failing, but actually exactly wrong: what we need is not more surveillance, but much less of it and much better targeted.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

14 Comments

Paypal Cuts Off Mega Because It Actually Keeps Your Files Secret ((Mis)Uses of Technology)

by Mike Masnick

from the doesn't-paypal-like-encryption? dept on Friday, February 27th, 2015 @ 1:37PM
There are way too many stories of Paypal unfairly and ridiculously cutting off services that rely on it as a payment mechanism, but here's yet another one. Mega, the cloud storage provider that is perhaps well-known for being Kim Dotcom's "comeback" act after the US government shut down Megaupload, has had its Paypal account cut off. The company claims that Paypal was pressured by Visa and Mastercard to cut it off:
Visa and MasterCard then pressured PayPal to cease providing payment services to MEGA.

MEGA provided extensive statistics and other evidence showing that MEGA's business is legitimate and legally compliant. After discussions that appeared to satisfy PayPal’s queries, MEGA authorised PayPal to share that material with Visa and MasterCard. Eventually PayPal made a non-negotiable decision to immediately terminate services to MEGA. PayPal has apologised for this situation and confirmed that MEGA management are upstanding and acting in good faith. PayPal acknowledged that the business is legitimate, but advised that a key concern was that MEGA has a unique model with its end-to-end encryption which leads to “unknowability of what is on the platform”.

MEGA has demonstrated that it is as compliant with its legal obligations as USA cloud storage services operated by Google, Microsoft, Apple, Dropbox, Box, Spideroak etc, but PayPal has advised that MEGA's "unique encryption model" presents an insurmountable difficulty.
That last line is particularly bizarre, given that if anyone recognizes the value of encryption it should be a freaking payments company. And, of course, Paypal can't know what's stored on any of those other platforms, so why is it being pressured to cut off Mega?

Mega's theory -- which is mostly reasonable -- is that because Mega was mistakenly listed in a report released by the "Digital Citizens Alliance" that insisted Mega was a rogue cyberlocker storing infringing content, that payment companies were told to cut it off. If true, this is problematic on multiple levels. The methodology of the report was absolutely ridiculous. Because most Mega files are stored privately (like any Dropbox or Box or Google Drive account), the researchers at NetNames have no idea what's actually being stored there or if it's being done perfectly legitimately. Instead, they found a few links to infringing works, and then extrapolated. That's just bad research practices.

Furthermore, the Digital Citizens Alliance is hardly an unbiased third party. It's an MPAA front group that was the key force in the MPAA's (now revealed) secret plan to have states attorneys general attack Google. Think the MPAA has reasons to try to go after any potential revenue source for Kim Dotcom? Remember, taking down Megaupload and winning in court against Dotcom was a key focus of the company since 2010 or so, and Dotcom recently noted that he's out of money and pleading with the court to release some of the funds seized by the government to continue to fight his case. The lawyers who represented him all along quit late last year when he ran out of money. It seems like the MPAA might have ulterior motives in naming Mega to that list, don't you think?

And, this all goes back to this dangerous effort by the White House a few years ago to set up these "voluntary agreements" in which payment companies would agree to cut off service to sites that the entertainment industry declared "bad." There's no due process. There's no adjudication. There's just one industry getting to declare websites it doesn't like as "bad" and all payment companies refusing to serve it. This seems like a pretty big problem.
35 Comments

Have You Been Debating What Color Some Random Dress Is All Day? Thank Fair Use (Copyright)

by Mike Masnick

from the and-we-look-forward-to-the-eventual-copyright-fight dept on Friday, February 27th, 2015 @ 12:39PM
Yesterday evening I saw a tweet zip by in which some very smart people I know and respect appeared to be arguing about the color of a dress. It seemed like a weird thing, so I went and looked and saw what appeared to be a white and gold dress. No big deal. But, other people insisted that it was blue and black. Vehemently. At first I thought it was a joke. Or an optical illusion. Or maybe it depended on your monitor. But I called over a colleague here in the office, and she swore that it was blue and black. And I was 100% sure that it was white and gold. If you somehow live under a rock, here's the image:
We now know the "truth" (sort of) -- which is that the dress itself really is blue and black, but thanks to the lighting and some odd visual tricks it appears white and gold to a large part of the population. For what it's worth, many people report that after a period of time it switches, and that's true for me too. Late last night I took one last look (after everyone else in my family swore that it was blue and black) and I saw it blue and black. Amusingly, at almost exactly the same time, my wife suddenly saw it as white and gold. My mother-in-law suggested we both need to seek mental help. There are fights like this going on all over the internet, with lots of people trying to decipher why this image seems to work this way. So why are we writing about it here? Because it's Fair Use Week, and what a great fair use story.

This image isn't just being showed everywhere, it's being modified, flipped, adjusted, poked and prodded as people discuss it in all sorts of ways (comment and criticism). And it's all fair use. Take, for example, our own Leigh Beadon, who put forth on Twitter a theory about why different people see it in different ways:
In our internal chat, he was also submitting additional images as he played with the image. Take, for example, this one, where he played with the brightness levels:
And tons of others have weighed in as well. Even software maker Adobe got into the discussion:
"
And someone else posted a helpful video modifying it:
Vice has an amazing story in which they present the image to a color vision expert who is so stumped he admits he may give up trying to cure blindness to devote the rest of his life to understanding the dress. The folks over at Vox both insist that the color changing can't be explained and that it can be (journalism!). The folks at Deadspin say you're all wrong and the dress is actually blue and brown. Almost all of these are using not just versions of the image, but modified ones as well, to try to demonstrate what they're talking about.

And there's been no talk about copyright. Because we don't need to be discussing copyright, because this is all fair use. Last night, some were pointing out that this was such an "internet" story that it's great that it came out on the same day the FCC voted for net neutrality, but I say it's an even better way to close out fair use week, with a great demonstration of why fair use matters.
29 Comments

Google Suddenly Realizes That Maybe It Doesn't Need To Ban Adult Content On Blogger (Free Speech)

by Mike Masnick

from the oh-look,-we-have-policies dept on Friday, February 27th, 2015 @ 11:41AM
Earlier this week, we wrote about a really dumb move by Google to effectively kick out all of the bloggers who use its blogger platform to post "adult" content -- either text or images. Google gave such bloggers just 30 days to find a new home before it would make all their blogs private. It insisted that, going forward, the content police at Google would determine what photographs were "artistic" and allowed, and which were "dirty" and not allowed. As we noted, this move seemed particularly tone deaf and problematic, and could lead to other problems for Google. And a lot of other people agreed.

And... just like that, Google appears to have reversed course. Over in its product forums, someone from the Blogger Team announced that they had realized they already had policies they could enforce and didn't need to implement these new rules:
This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.

Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an “adult content” warning page.

Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

Thank you for your continued feedback.
So, kudos to Google for at least hearing the feedback and rolling back the change -- though it's still unfortunate that it even had to come to that in the first place. It seems likely that many of those bloggers may go looking for alternate hosting anyway.
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