The pandemic relief and economic stimulus legislation that hurriedly passed Congress at the tail end of 2020, named the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (“the Act”), resulted in major changes to American trademark and copyright law.  Specifically, the Act included three intellectual property bills:  the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (the “CASE Act”), and the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act (the “PLSA”).  As summarized in a recent client alert written by two of our colleagues, the new laws will make it easier for brand owners to obtain injunctive relief, create new procedures to challenge trademark registrations, establish a copyright small claims procedure, and make illegal streaming of copyrighted material a felony.

On the trademark front, our colleague and frequent blog contributor, Melissa Scott, has already posted a detailed summary of the Trademark Modernization Act, which can be found here.

On the copyright front, the Act includes two relevant changes.  First, the CASE Act establishes a new voluntary alternative dispute resolution process for copyright infringement disputes before the U.S. Copyright Office.  Parties will be able to bring certain claims before a new Copyright Claims Board, which will operate somewhat like a federal court and will have the power to facilitate settlement or resolution on the merits.  Second, the PLSA amends the main federal criminal code to cover “Illicit digital transmission services.”  It is intended to close a loophole and impose a felony on digital transmission services that make copyrighted works available via “streaming” (rather than “downloading” a copy), which is now the primary method audiences consume entertainment.

Overall, businesses should be prepared to understand these changes and how they may affect their trademarks and copyrighted works.