In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

February 2012 Archives

Networking isn't just for job-seekers. In-house counsel can also benefit by making connections that can work for your daily practice in more ways than one.

For example, you can network with in-house counsel at other companies to share ideas and talk shop. You can also use networking to reinforce ties with your company's non-legal employees, so they'll feel comfortable coming to you when legal issues arise.

There are so many tips out there about how to make networking work. Here are some tips that in-house counsel may find particularly helpful:

A Hooters lawsuit can't be forced into arbitration because lawyers for a franchise owner waited too long -- more than a year -- to try to compel arbitration, a California appellate court has ruled.

The class-action suit against Hott Wings Inc., the owner of Hooters franchises in the San Francisco Bay area, will proceed in court, California's First District Court of Appeal held Feb. 14.

The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2009, but Hott Wings' counsel didn't move to compel arbitration until September 2010, SF Weekly reports. By that time, it was too late because the case was too far down the road to trial, the three-judge panel ruled.

Gucci v. Guess Trademark Suit Can Go Forward, Judge Rules

A federal judge in New York has agreed to allow Italian fashion house Gucci to pursue a $26 million trademark lawsuit against Guess. The suit, first filed 3 years ago, accuses the American clothing company of trying to "Gucci-ize" its products.

The Gucci-Guess lawsuit covers Gucci's green and red stripe design; its script logo; its stylized "Square G" logo; and the "Quattro G" -- a group of four interlocking "G"s.  The company will only be able to pursue a traditional infringement theory -- the judge dismissed all claims alleging trademark dilution.

Regulators worldwide issued more than 14,000 regulatory announcements in 2011, up 16% over 2010 -- and the number will likely rise again in 2012, a new report finds.

The 14,215 regulations announced worldwide in 2011 amounted to about 60 regulatory changes per workday, according to the "State of Regulatory Reform 2012" report by Thomson Reuters Governance, Risk & Compliance.

Global businesses are struggling to keep up with the regulations which affect companies' bottom lines and the global economic recovery, the report states.

Veterans Can Now Sue for Hostile Work Environment

When Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 in November, most of the focus was on tax credits extended to those who hire veterans. But the bill also included a lesser-known provision that expands a veteran's ability to sue for discrimination.

That provision amended the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to include a claim for hostile work environment based on veteran status. Until now, the availability of such a claim was unclear.

The EEOC received a record number of workplace-discrimination complaints last year, with a notable increase in claims of religious discrimination. The nation's sluggish economy may be partly to blame.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 99,947 job-discrimination complaints in the 2011 fiscal year that ended in September, the agency reported Tuesday. That's 25 more complaints than in 2010 and the most-ever since the agency began in 1965, MSNBC reports.

Here's a breakdown of last year's complaints by type of discrimination, as reported by the EEOC:

Apple's Factories to Get Inspected by Outside Agency

Apple factories may soon be getting an outside audit.

The move comes in response to outcry over the conditions in some Apple factories abroad, particularly in China. Just last month, The New York Times published a lengthy article about the working conditions inside the factories.

Foxconn is one of Apple's largest -- and most important -- manufacturing partners. The company operates a major plant in Chengdu. Last year, an explosion ripped through the factory. The cause: aluminum dust. Several workers died, others were injured. But the explosion was not the only cause for concern.

A former Toyota in-house lawyer's appeal of an arbitration decision has hit the skids. Dimitrios P. Biller must pay his former employer $2.6 million, the Ninth Circuit ruled Feb. 3.

An arbitrator awarded Toyota Motor Corp. $2.6 million after finding that Biller disclosed confidential company information in violation of the parties' severance agreement, the Associated Press reports. A state court, and later a federal district court, confirmed the award.

Biller appealed to the Ninth Circuit, asking the court to vacate the award. But the Ninth Circuit ruled against Biller's appeal. Here's why:

New Law Would Limit OT Pay for High-Tech Workers

A new bill seeks to limit OT pay for certain high-tech workers. It's a move that has generated buzz amongst corporations -- and employees. It's also legislation that in house counsel should take note of, especially if they work in the tech field.

It could mean your employment contracts and labor costs will soon be significantly different.

The bill was introduced last fall by Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. It aims to expand the language of current labor law statutes. If passed, certain tech workers will no longer be entitled to overtime. Titled the "Computer Professionals Update Act," the bill would include those who secure, configure, integrate, or debug computer systems.

The ex-general counsel of a New York turnpike workers' union forged bills for legal work and CLE classes to steal more than $200,000 from his client, prosecutors allege.

Kevin Clor, 40, of Buffalo, faces charges of grand larceny, possessing forged documents, and falsifying business records, Reuters reports. He recently pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom.

Clor submitted 150 forged receipts as general counsel for New York State Thruway Employees Local 72, prosecutors claim. Clor's receipts allegedly included more than $100,000 in continuing legal education classes that Clor never attended. And that's not all.

What All GCs Should Know About the America Invents Act

It's been a little over four months since Congress enacted the America Invents Act, yet the patent reform law is already making its mark.

Courts have rejected a number of false marking lawsuits, and others have severed multiple-defendant litigation. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has also issued notices of proposed rulemaking, asking for commentary on the reexamination process and genetic testing.

The Act is ultimately expected to change U.S. patent litigation, particularly in the following ways.

Macy's is suing Martha Stewart's company for an alleged contract breach involving J.C. Penney that could affect billions of dollars in sales.

But the contract at issue contains a legal loophole, attorneys for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia contend, according to Reuters. As Martha Stewart herself might say, "It's a good thing" for her company.

The Macy's/Martha Stewart dispute centers on a 2006 contract that allegedly granted Macy's exclusive rights to make and sell products in the "Martha Stewart collection" line until 2018, Reuters reports.

But then J.C. Penney jumped in.

Whistleblowers Private Emails Monitored by FDA, Lawsuit Claims

Can a whistleblower's emails be monitored by an employer? Most general counsels will agree that the answer depends on several factors.

One factor may be whether or not the emails were sent on a work or a private home computer. Many companies explicitly disclaim that activity on work consoles do not warrant an employee's expectation of privacy.

But you can still get sued. It's a hard-earned lesson for even large government agencies like the FDA. The FDA is currently facing a lawsuit filed by current and former employees over their monitoring of employee emails.

Hearst Corp. Sued by Unpaid Intern at Harpers Bazaar

Outten & Golden -- it brought you November's Black Swan intern suit, and now it's bringing you a little something more. The firm is representing a former unpaid intern at Hearst Corporation's Harper's Bazaar.

That intern, Xuedan Wang, accuses the company of violating wage and labor laws by not paying her to work full time. She is also seeking class action status with hopes of adding unpaid interns at other Hearst publications, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Seventeen.

There’s no better time to “Like” Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot. With Facebook’s IPO on the horizon, the financial status of the company’s top lawyer could be set for quite a lucrative update.

Ullyot, 44, joined Facebook as general counsel in 2008, according to Forbes. In addition to his base salary and annual retention bonuses totaling about $675,000 a year, Ullyot also owns a boatload of Facebook stock, the legal newspaper The Recorder reports.

Ullyot holds 35,600 shares of Facebook common stock. He also holds more than 1.8 million stock options and nearly 3.8 million restricted stock units subject to vesting conditions, according to The Recorder.

How much could that possibly be worth?

Are Hackers Silently Listening in on Your Videoconferences?

Hacker HD Moore is a chief security officer at Rapid7, a company that looks into security holes. As part of his work, Moore "explored" the realm of videoconferencing systems. What he found was surprising.

Moore discovered that there are thousands of boardrooms across the nation that are vulnerable to hacks.

Moore easily found he could access meetings for top companies, business, banks, and even law firms. The frightening part? Videoconferencing systems make it difficult to detect errant listeners if the right security settings aren't initiated.