Leech Tishman

Monster Energy Company, the maker of energy drinks, was ordered to pay the Beastie Boys $667,849 in attorney’s fees, on top of the $1.7 million in damages that a jury awarded the band for Monster’s infringement of the band’s intellectual property rights.

However, the award was much less than the $2.3 million in fees sought by the band.

Monster used parts of five Beastie Boys tracks, without authorization, in a four-minute marketing video related to a snowboarding event sponsored by Monster.

Monster never obtained, nor even tried to obtain, the rights to use the music in the video.

Monster eventually admitted to the infringement but claimed that it was due to an honest miscommunication within its marketing team. The company apparently lacked a reliable process for clearing the rights to music used in its videos.

Attorney’s Fees

Under the Copyright Act, “the court in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs by or against any party…” However, fee awards are not automatic. Factors to be considered include

frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and in the legal components of the case) and the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of  compensation and deterrence.

The court found that

one significant aspect of Monster’s approach to litigating the copyright claims was objectively unreasonable: It refused, until the brink of trial, to concede that it had infringed the Beastie Boys’ copyrights, and it attempted to shift legal responsibility for any infringement…

The court also noted that Monster’s infringement was willful

Despite being a large, sophisticated corporation with a $120 million annual marketing budget and with safeguards in place to protect its own intellectual property rights, … “Monster had no comprehensive music licensing policy; it tasked unqualified and untrained employees with the job of creating and disseminating promotional recap videos that presented a goodly risk of trenching on others’ rights; and it protected its own intellectual property interests with far more vigor and solicitude than it did others”…

The case is Beastie Boys v. Monster Energy Company.

Takeaway

This case is a reminder that being sloppy about obtaining the rights to third party material used for marketing purposes can be very expensive.

About Us

The firm’s Intellectual Property Group is based in Pasadena, California with a team of highly-regarded legal professionals with prosecution and litigation expertise in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.

Please also visit us online for more information about our services.

Photo Attribution: “Monster Energy original flavors plus Absolute Zero” by NHRHS2010 – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

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