9th Circuit withdraws controversial Betty Boop decision, decides to remand case on narrower grounds; trademark licensing programs are safe once again

Back in February, I reported with alarm that the 9th Circuit rejected a trademark infringement claim by the purported owners of the BETTY BOOP cartoon character, issuing an opinion resting on an interpretation of aesthetic functionality doctrine that was so broad that it posed a substantial threat to the ability of pro sports, college, and character licensing companies to stop counterfeiters on the entire West Coast. On rehearing, and after receiving amicus briefs from INTA, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the companies that license all major pro sports and collegiate trademarks, the Ninth Circuit withdrew the opinion, and substituted a ruling based on narrower grounds that eliminates the commercial and enforcement problems of the original opinion. The case is now remanded to district court to determine whether the plaintiff can prove secondary meaning in light of the "fractured ownership" of Betty Boop rights among possibly several companies.

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