Last week’s sizeable attorney’s fee award in the lengthy Beastie Boys v. Monster Energy Company legal battle is an important reminder of how critical it is to clear third party IP rights in your advertising materials and the financial risks of not doing so. Last week, a New York federal court ordered Monster Energy to pay the Beastie Boys’ parties $667,849.14 in attorney’s fees, in addition to the $1.7 million in damages that a jury previously awarded—all because Monster Energy ran a promotional video on its website that used portions of five Beastie Boys songs as the soundtrack and included other references to the group without proper permission.
The Beastie Boys originally sought $2,385,175.50 in fees. The court awarded fees under the Copyright Act but not under the Lanham Act. In arriving at the final fee award, the court relied on a number of factors, including, (a) some of the work on the case was on the Lanham Act claims, for which attorney’s fees were not recoverable in this case because this case was not “exceptional”; (b) some of Monster Energy’s positions were reasonable whereas other positions taken were unreasonable; (c) certain legal work on certain specific issues should not be borne by Monster; and (d) the Beastie Boys’ bills were higher than typical because the case was staffed heavily with senior lawyers. The court opined that the still very substantial fee award furthers the goals of the Copyright Act. Specifically, the court determined that the fee award, coupled with the $1.7 million damages award, serves to compensate the Beastie Boys for their reasonable attorney’s fees in litigating their claims. The court also noted that such a fee award serves the purpose to deter future would-be infringers and should lead future parties contemplating infringement or “designing corporate protocols with respect to the handling of intellectual property to think twice before disrespecting others’ copyright interests.” The Beastie Boys’ parties are also seeking roughly $100,000 in costs from Monster Energy from this litigation, and the court directed the Beastie Boys to submit their Bill of Costs to the Clerk of Court for initial review.
The original post regarding the facts of this case and jury award is here.