The King of Pop is immortal—in the hearts and minds of fans worldwide, but also in the courts, too. Another lawsuit involving Michael Jackson’s name has just been settled in Nevada involving the use of his holographic image at the Billboard Music Awards, and according to this article in the Guardian Liberty Voice online, the case was not uncontroversial in and of itself in the legal community. Nevada trademark lawyers and technology attorneys have been calling the suit everything from “ridiculous” to extolling its valid legal claim. So what’s the word?
Two technology companies, Hologram USA Inc. and Musion Das Hologram Ltd., had filed a petition earlier this month against the Michael Jackson estate and the producers of the Billboard Music Awards. The plaintiffs’ Nevada trademark lawyers claimed that the holographic projection of Jackson planned for a live performance at the show is an infringement of their patented technology. And while “Hologram USA is most remembered for creating the lifelike image of Tupac Shakur at the Cochella Music Festival back in 2012,” technology attorneys were uncertain from the beginning that they would get away with the lawsuit since the “use” of their technology hardly seems to qualify as a patent infringement.
The federal judge in Las Vegas hearing the case was inclined to agree and ruled in favor of the collaboration between the Michael Jackson estate and the music awards, deciding “that there was not enough evidence proving that usage of a Jackson hologram was a violation of any patents and furthermore no proof that Billboard Music Awards actually used Hologram USA’s patent to create the Hologram special effect.” In response to the lawsuit, the attorney for the Jackson estate called the lawsuit “baseless and without merit,” which is a sentiment echoed among several Nevada trademark lawyers responding to the case. Some technology attorneys even went so far as to speculate that it was nothing more than the need for publicity that would prompt the companies to file suit, riding off the popularity of Michael Jackson’s name and hoping to spur more usage of their technology.
This is an argument that may have some merit. Ever since “Tupac” made an appearance at Cochella, holographic images of deceased musicians like Elvis Presley, for example, have been sweeping music stages everywhere. The Nevada trademark lawyers for Hologram USA have reported that “they are disappointed with the judgment, [and] this is not their first attempt to protect the patent.” Previous suits have also been about the usage holographic images of Michael Jackson by the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, who, Hologram USA’s technology attorneys say, incorporated the images into its Michael Jackson ONE show. They are arguing in a Los Angeles Federal Court that Mandalay Bay’s usage was unauthorized, and Hologram USA’s technology was virtually co-opted.
So it seems that, for, now, Michael Jackson will “show up” at the Billboard Music Awards, if not in the flesh, at least in a vision. The King of Pop, it seems, will continue to be immortal as long as long as his fans ask for his appearance, even if it is in virtual form.
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