Can you seek intellectual property protection if you film people talking in a barbershop? It is a hot topic in sports-talk circles right now. The answer has surprising lessons for anyone interested in IP law.
Dueling barbershop talk videos
Basketball superstar LeBron James sent a cease and desist letter to Nick Saban, the head football coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. In the letter, James accuses Saban of stealing his video concept in violation of his intellectual property rights.
James has a web series called “The Shop” in which sports and pop culture celebs talk while getting haircuts. Saban recently released a video trailer for “Shop Talk” where he and several players talked about various topics in a barbershop.
What ideas can be protected?
In his letter, James claims that his videos are protected by copyright, trademark and other IP rights. While the concepts may appear similar, proving a legal violation may not be easy.
- Copyright law protects physical forms, and a claim for copyright infringement often requires a copyright registration or a pending application.
- Trademark law protects “marks,” which can be words, logos, designs or other service marks that represent company or business brands.
- Trade secrets are processes, formulas or techniques that are not generally known and can be kept secret from the public.
- Patent law covers inventions.
While the videos appear similar because they both involve famous sports personalities getting haircuts and chatting, there is a question about the uniqueness of the idea.
What will happen?
At this point, LeBron James is only looking to discuss the situation with Saban and his team. If the Crimson Tide pushes back, claiming there is no violation, it will be interesting to see what a judge will say about it. In either event, the issue could be the topic of conversation in barbershops for a while.