In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

January 2015 Archives

For GCs, Is LinkedIn the New Golf Course?

Whether or not LinkedIn seems like a good idea -- and even if you don't know what you're supposed to be using it for -- in-house lawyers seem to love it. According to a survey by research firm Acritas, 43 percent of female GCs and 33 percent of male GCs are on LinkedIn.

That's a large proportion of GCs -- especially for women. So what's the deal with in-house counsel using LinkedIn so much? Has LinkedIn, as Acritas suggests, become the new "golf course" when it comes to making deals?

SEC OKs Share Registration for Calif. Marijuana Company

Every startup needs a lawyer, but startups are already shaky value propositions if you think you're going to burst onto the GC stage, or advance your extant career by working for a company that develops an app to check the temperature of your bath water. (It's even worse when you consider that a lot of startups pay their "employees" in equity that's basically kindling until they're bought by Facebook for a billion dollars.)

What's even riskier? Being GC for a pot dispensary. They're legal under state laws in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, but the Feds still list marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, along with heroin and LSD.

So you'd think your new pot company can't be publicly traded, right?

EEOC Wins 'Mark of the Beast' Religious Discrimination Suit

Here's what's not interesting about this case brought by the EEOC: An employee was forced to retire because of his religious beliefs. A West Virginia jury found in favor of the employee, Beverly R. Butcher Jr., and awarded him $150,000.

Here's what is interesting about this case: Butcher's employer, Consol Energy, wanted to implement biometric hand scanning for time and attendance tracking. Butcher, an evangelical Christian, said such hand scanning would assign "the Mark of the Beast" referenced in the Bible.

Why Lawyers Should Have More Emotional Intelligence

Canadian Lawyer magazine suggested last month that lawyers should have emotional intelligence -- and especially corporate counsel. There's quite a debate going on about whether lawyers should even use their emotions (unrelated to a separate debate about whether lawyers have emotions).

Well, it's either a bunch of granola-and-Birkenstocks nonsense or it's something that we should have been paying attention to all along.

Could Teva Pharmaceuticals Ruling Benefit Patent 'Trolls'?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has frequently been criticized as a "rogue" court, and the Supreme Court has been reining it in of late. (Of course, the Federal Circuit was also helped with the resignation of former Chief Judge Randall Rader, who never met a patent he wouldn't enforce.)

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court took the Federal Circuit down a notch again, in the long-watched case Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz.

Hana Financial v. Hana Bank: Trademark 'Tacking' Is a Jury Issue

Trademark tacking is a jury question, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court said in Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank, resolving a circuit split about whether it's the judge or the jury who makes that determination.

The High Court upheld a decision of the Ninth Circuit (take a picture; it'll last longer) finding that it was the jury that should decide whether facts exist to support trademark tacking. The Ninth Circuit, like the trial court, found in favor of Hana Bank.

Unlike Aereo, DISH Network's Streaming Service Doesn't Infringe

Last year, the Supreme Court all but destroyed Aereo, a company that made its money by streaming over-the-air broadcasting to people's computers and mobile devices.

Because Aereo, unlike cable TV companies, didn't pay broadcasters and content providers for Aereo's "performance" of their work, the Court found copyright infringement. At worst, the decision could have doomed all streaming services.

New Silicon Valley Anti-Poaching Settlement: Is $415M Enough?

Back in 2011, we learned that several Silicon Valley companies agreed not to poach each other's employees, resulting in suppressed wages. The class ended up in federal court and looked close to a settlement by April of last year.

Judge Lucy Koh, however, rejected the proposed $324 million settlement, which would have resulted in $5,000 per employee in the class. Koh said the settlement wasn't reasonable, given that each employee would walk away with $3,750 after attorneys' fees and that an expert for the plaintiffs calculated damages in the billions.

Almost a year later, we have another proposed settlement.

In Calif., Employers Now Liable for Contractors' Labor Violations

With the National Labor Relations Board trying to push the envelope in making corporations jointly liable for labor violations of their franchisees, California has quietly pushed the envelope across the desk and into a mailbox. (Is that how that metaphor works?)

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1897 into law. It took effect January 1, along with about 900 other new laws, but it promises to have a huge impact on how business is done.

Lagunitas to Drop Suit Over Sierra Nevada's 'IPA' Label Design

From pomegranate juice to something I understand: beer. Lagunitas, maker of hoppier-than-thou India Pale Ales (IPAs), filed a lawsuit against the other national brewer of IPAs, Sierra Nevada, claiming trademark infringement.

But after negative reaction on social media, Lagunitas owner Tony Magee announced late Tuesday the company planned to drop the lawsuit, SFGate reports.

What was the issue? No, Lagunitas wasn't brazen enough to claim that it owned the letters "IPA." Rather, like POM Wonderful, it claimed that the packaging design on Sierra Nevada's IPA was too similar to Lagunitas'.

For GCs, Legal Issues Abound as Workforce Ages

It's no secret that America's workforce is getting older. The Baby Boomer generation is currently approaching the age where they qualify for the senior discount at Denny's.

While that's great for workers 65 and older who love cheap breakfast, it's not so good for companies that are losing employees to retirement. About a quarter of HR professionals who responded to a Society for Human Resource Management survey about older workers said the loss of talent due to retirement will be a problem within the next 10 years.

And with aging workers comes new legal challenges for your company that go beyond just losing people to retirement.

Monster Sues Beats, Claiming 'Corporate Betrayal'

Thanks to Apple, Beats Electronics -- makers of those oh-so-hip headphones with the lowercase "B" on them -- has deeper pockets than when it was just Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Apple scooped up Beats, Iovine, and Dr. Dre back in August for $3 billion.

Monster, which formerly designed and made "Beats by Dr. Dre" headphones, wants a piece of that. It's suing Dre, Iovine, and electronics maker HTC for what Monster calls "corporate betrayal" relating to HTC's 2011 acquisition of an ownership stake in Beats.

NHTSA: Honda to Pay $70M for Failing to Report Deaths, Injuries

Another year, another bunch of huge fines for car makers. It's an inauspicious beginning for Honda, which just agreed to a $70 million settlement with the Department of Transportation over its failure to report deaths, injuries, and warranty claims to the federal government.

What did Honda do to draw the government's ire?

9th Cir. Sacks EA's Free Speech Argument in Ex-NFL Players' Suit

Back in May, the NCAA, game-maker EA Sports, and plaintiffs reached an agreement over the NCAA's use of college football players' likenesses without paying them.

Earlier this week, video game football was dealt another blow as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed an ex-NFL players suit to proceed against EA for using former players' likenesses without their permission.

Business Groups Sue NLRB to Block New Union Election Rule

In December, the National Labor Relations Board issued a controversial new set of regulations governing union elections. Well, they're controversial if you're a business that doesn't want unions and takes advantage of a longer election timeline in order to disseminate anti-union propaganda.

Tired of being pushed around by the clearly immensely powerful labor unions, business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have filed a lawsuit to stop the new regulations from going into effect.

Uber Must Hand Over 21K Emails; 'Too Much' Isn't Good Enough Anymore

From the "if you wrote it down, it's probably discoverable" department comes a ruling from Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In September, Chen allowed part of a lawsuit to move forward claiming that Uber's "gratuity" charges are misleading because all of the gratuity doesn't go the driver.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick fought against disclosing some damning emails, but an order by Chen affirmed the ruling of a magistrate judge ordering their disclosure.

POM Wonderful Continues Label Litigation Win Streak

It's much ado about pomegranate juice labels. Last year, a little pomegranate juice maker, POM Wonderful, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue? Labeling, and whether they could sue a competitor over that company's deceptive labels.

Last week, they did it again: POM won another labeling case, this time taking down a trademark infringer at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

United Airlines Sues Man, 22, Over 'Hidden City Pricing' Website

Here's a hypothetical double standard: Airline companies have complex fare systems, designed to be complex, so that you can't really compare what you're paying for. Different classes of tickets have different restrictions, some of which are obvious, and others of which aren't. That's perfectly fine.

Then, a regular person comes along, finds a loophole in this Byzantine fee structure, and now the airlines are suing.