Michael Jackson’s Patent Infringement

Saw or heard about Michael Jackson’s return on television in May? Here’s the backstory — one of potential technology patent infringement.

On May 16, 2014, a District Court in Nevada denied an emergency motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by plaintiffs Hologram USA Inc., Musion Das Hologram Limited and Uwe Maass. The request for the TRO was based upon an accompanying complaint for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,865,519 and 7,883,212, both the complaint and request for the TRO being filed on May 15, 2014.    

The subject patents relate to the now-famous holographic technology that allowed the plaintiffs to reproduce late rapper Tupac Shakur in 2012 via a detailed hologram for a live performance at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. 

For example, Claim 1 from the ’519 patent recites: 

 1. An image projection apparatus, comprising:  — a projector, a frame, a light source and an at least partially transparent screen; — the frame being arranged to retain the screen under tension, such that the tension of the screen can be varied at a plurality of positions along at least one edge of said screen such that the screen is substantially wrinkle free; — the light source arranged to illuminate at least part of the apparatus; — the screen inclined at an angle with respect to a plane of emission of light from the projector and the screen having a front surface arranged such that light emitted from the projector is reflected therefrom; and  — the projector being arranged to project an image such that light forming the image impinges upon the screen such that a virtual image is created from light reflected from the screen … etc. 

The plaintiffs sought to enjoin the defendants (producers of the 2014 Billboard Music Awards) from generating another realistic hologram reproduction of late pop superstar Michael Jackson a few days later on May 18. Jackson, of course, appeared.

Although no final decision will be made on the plaintiffs’ complaint for patent infringement for some time, the plaintiffs may seek preliminary injunctive relief, such as the TRO, before the final decision is made. The standard for the granting of preliminary injunction requires a plaintiff to establish: 1. likelihood of success on the merits of the case; 2. that without injunctive relief, there is a likelihood of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs; 3. the balance of equities favors granting the motion; and 4. the granting of the injunction is in the public’s interest.

The District Court denied the motion based upon plaintiffs’ failure in “establishing that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their patent infringement claims and that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm.”
The District Court also found that the plaintiffs failed to establish irreparable harm solely via self-serving statements and an affidavit of an interested party.

This is not the end of the complaint for patent infringement, but only the end of the motion for preliminary relief before the case proceeds to trial. The plaintiffs may yet still succeed once they have their proverbial day in court.

In the interim, Michael Jackson returned, and the nuances of technology patent infringement were brought to light.

Editor’s note: Jack Abid is a shareholder and registered Patent Attorney at Allen, Dyer, Doppelt, Milbrath & Gilchrist, P.A. in Orlando.

This article was printed as “Legal Thriller.”