In House

In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Just in time for the new year, the National Labor Relations Board has announced changes to its representation case procedures. That's just a fancy, lawyer-talkin' way of referring to union elections conducted by the NLRB at the union's or employer's request.

The thrust of the new rules is to streamline the election process by making it easier, faster, and by reserving collateral issues for after the election. The point is just to get the election to happen without delay.

Zillow might be better off burning down this office.

First opened in 2012 as an office for selling ads to real estate agents, Zillow's Irvine, California, office has become a hotbed for employee lawsuits. There was the sexual harassment lawsuit that we blogged about earlier this month. And this week, Geragos and Geragos, the law firm of famed attorney Mark Geragos, dropped another five lawsuits off at the clerk's office.

Sexual harassment. Unpaid overtime. Race, religion, and age discrimination. They say that where there is smoke, there is fire. Fire doesn't sound too bad right now, especially if these lawsuits end up costing more than the office brings in.

After 10 years of litigation, it's finally over. (Except for the appeals. Oy.) Apple prevailed in a jury trial alleging anticompetitive practices in the operation of its original iPod, which didn't even last through this litigation (Apple quietly discontinued the "classic" iPod at its iPhone 6 event in September.)

So what's going on here? Did Apple win a Pyrrhic victory, a regular victory, or a nominal victory?

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to re-examine an oft-criticized, decades-old intellectual property precedent, Brulotte v. Thys Co. In Brulotte, the Court held that patent royalty agreements could not extend past the life of the patent -- no contractual extension of a patent right beyond its expiration, in other words.

Who is challenging this ruling? It's not quite Spider-Man, but it is an inventor who seems to be a big fan of his. Steven Kimble invented a toy that mimics the comic book character's ability to shoot webs from his wrists. Marvel promised to provide royalties if they made the web shooter toy, and eventually they did -- after years of litigation. In 2001, Marvel purchased the patent -- No. 5,072,856 -- for a lump sum plus annual royalties in perpetuity.

The patent expired in 2010. The agreement, however, was supposed to last forever.

Can employees be disciplined for using a work email account to discuss or conduct union activities? A 2007 decision of the National Labor Relations Board called Register Guard said that a facially neutral email policy prohibiting all "nonjob-related solicitations" didn't violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Last week, the NLRB reversed course, declaring in Purple Communications that "the Register Guard analysis was clearly incorrect."

First, employers tried to spy on employees by making them hand over their social media account credentials. Then a bunch of states made that illegal, so that didn't work anymore.

Then, employers monitored Internet traffic. But that only meant employees chatted offline. So that didn't work anymore. What's the next big thing? Impersonating a union member!

This is something you don't see every day. Last week, we told you about the impending Apple antitrust trial over claims that the company used anticompetitive tactics, including DRM-protected songs sold via iTunes, to keep iPod prices high in the mid-2000s.

The trial began as scheduled, but the parties and the court ran into a little problem: The class representative plaintiffs turned out to not be plaintiffs at all -- they were all ineligible. Instead of halting the $1 billion lawsuit (the $351 million figure previously quoted could be tripled under antitrust law), the judge allowed the plaintiffs' lawyers to substitute in a new plaintiff, one that read about the lawsuit on a tech blog.

This is a stupid decision. The Unites States Patent and Trade Office has rejected a Norwegian underwear manufacturer's requested trademark on "Comfyballs," their brand of underwear with "PackageFront technology." Apparently, cutesy references to male genitalia are "vulgar."

Balls? Balls, balls, balls. Is anyone offended yet? Balls.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court determined that employees at Amazon warehouses don't have to be paid for the 20 minutes or so they spend at the end of the day being screened to make sure they haven't stolen anything. The unanimous opinion, authored by Justice Thomas, with a concurring opinion by Justice Sotomayor, rested on an interpretation of the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947.

Put this on the long list of ridiculously stupid promotions that some lawyer somewhere should have reviewed before it actually happened.

A TGI Fridays in Sheepshead Bay, New York, devised a brilliant plan to get into the holiday spirit: mistletoe drones! Little hovering aircraft stalk patrons and pressure them into kissing in public. Unsurprisingly, the brilliant stunt went horribly wrong when one of the drones got caught in a news photographer's hair, causing the rotor to swing around and clip her nose and chin.

Unsurprisingly, the bloody picture is making the rounds on the Internet.