Buried in the recent COVID-19 relief bill recently signed by President Trump are several important updates to copyright and trademark laws.  The first is the creation of a small claims court for copyright infringement claims of up to $30,000.  The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the “CASE” Act) creates a small claims court to be adjudicated by a Copyright Claims Board established by the Copyright Office.  

The bill also includes new legislation making it a felony to stream content without the copyright owner’s permission.  Streaming services caught providing copyright protected material to the public can be punished with up to ten years in prison.

Finally, the bill authorizes the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020.  Key provisions of this act include the ability for a third party to petition the Trademark Office to remove a mark from the register that has no evidence that it is being used in commerce or that the mark is being used for its listed goods/services; provides the Director of the USPTO “the authority to reconsider, and modify or set aside, a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board”; and, provides a plaintiff seeking an injunction or temporary restraining order the rebuttable presumption of irreparable harm which the examiner must take into account when considering whether to grant the plaintiff’s petition. 

 These new provisions do not come without controversy.  There is concern that while the CASE Act was intended to help smaller copyright owners a forum to litigate their claims, it might be used by bigger corporations against the “little guy”.  We will have to wait and see how these new laws will play out and who actually benefits from them.  Stay tuned!