Alterra Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Estate of Buckminster FullerAnnotate this Case
Buckminster Fuller, “Bucky,” a designer, author, and inventor, well known for popularizing the geodesic dome, died in 1983. Beginning around 2009, Maxfield manufactured and distributed products under the Buckyball and related trademarks. According to its press release, Buckyballs, “the world’s best-selling desktoy,” were “inspired and named after famous … inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller.” Buckyballs are round magnets packaged in a cube shape, which can be formed into various shapes. The Big Book of Bucky, which provides instructions, states: Buckyballs were named for Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s Estate sued, alleging: unfair competition, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a) (Lanham Act); invasion of privacy (appropriation of name and likeness); unauthorized use of name and likeness, Cal. Civil Code 3344.1; and violation of Cal. Business & Professions Code 17200. Alterra had issued an insurance policy to Maxfield, effective June 2010. Alterra agreed to defend under a reservation of rights, then sought a declaration that Alterra’s policy did not provide coverage. The Estate agreed to be bound by the outcome in return for being dismissed. Because of Maxfield’s stipulation to the allegations in the coverage action and acting without leave, the Estate later responded to Alterra’s complaint. The court of appeal affirmed a holding that Alterra had no duty to defend and no duty to indemnify, based on the “intellectual property” exclusion.