In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

September 2012 Archives

California Now Charging a Fee for Civil Jury Trials

For the last few months California has been charging a fee for civil jury trials. That's not so unusual as states attempt to close budget gaps but their method of charging makes it harder to take.

The fee is nonrefundable even if the case settles before trial. It's also due much earlier than in most cases. Parties have to pay at or before the initial case management conference.

The purpose of the fee seems to be just another way to balance the budget but it may end up costing the state more than it brings in.

FTC's New Privacy Guidelines Target Mobile Apps

Online privacy is an ongoing issue but new Federal Trade Commission privacy guidelines show that the agency is taking these concerns seriously.

The guidelines were published on September 5, but they've been in the works for a while. They target mobile application developers but they apply to any company that plans to supplement its existing business with an app.

The new guidelines put the burden on companies to ensure that their privacy policies are sufficient and that consumer information is safe.

Record Number of Minority General Counsels at Fortune 500 Companies

Law has a reputation as an old boys' club, and by that, people generally mean white men. But minorities are increasing their presence in corporate counsel jobs, according to the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

The MCCA's annual survey came out recently, and it looked specifically at how many minorities are in general counsel positions at Fortune 500 firms. The numbers are up after a year of no growth, reflecting a general pattern of growth in the number of minority general counsel since 2008, reports MCCA.

That's not to say that the figures have reached anything close to parity yet. The numbers are encouraging but they're still low.

Amazon Appoints New Privacy Counsel, Follows Industry Trend

Amazon's newest associate general counsel is also taking on a newly created position in the company's legal team. Nuala O'Connor will oversee privacy at the online retail giant as well as working on compliance.

This new hire makes Amazon one of the last large online companies to hire attorneys focused specifically on privacy. Apple, Google, and Facebook all have some kind of privacy officer on staff.

The fact that Amazon has also fallen in line raises the question of whether privacy counsel is a necessity for any legal department.

NLRB Invalidates Costco's Social Media Policy

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officially weighed in on corporate social media policies for the first time by invalidating Costco's policy.

The NLRB has issued several reports regarding the agency's thoughts on social media policies. But the Costco decision is the first time the board actually issued a decision, reports Inside Counsel.

And the decision may be bad news for many companies, as you may get sent back to the drawing board to develop a policy that would pass NLRB's muster.

Corporate Counsel Lessons from the Apple Samsung Case

Apple and Samsung are waging a global battle over patent infringement, and Apple was recently vindicated in a U.S. court.

While Apple "won" the case and can now seek to enforce its patents in the U.S., the company shelled out millions in attorneys fees and a considerable amount of time and manpower to achieve victory.

It's always good to win, and it must feel really good to be vindicated in court. But Apple's patent infringement litigation strategy against Samsung may not be the best litigation model for most middle market companies to follow, reports Forbes.

Lawsuit Climate Survey Says: Move Your Company HQ to Delaware

A survey of in house counsel and other attorneys ranked all 50 states in terms of their "lawsuit climate." In the survey, a state's lawsuit climate basically means how the business world perceives the state's judicial and tort liability system.

It's not entirely clear what the point of the survey is nor what attorneys are supposed to get out of it.

However, there are some definite trends in the ten years that attorneys have been surveyed regarding a state's lawsuit climate. For example, Delaware has been on the top of the list since 2002. And West Virginia has been at, or near, the very bottom.

Yoga Pants War: Lululemon Sues Calvin Klein Over Pants Design

There is no 'inner peace' in the yoga pants lawsuit launched by Lululemon against Calvin Klein but the claim is an interesting one.

Lululemon is claiming patent infringement on several design patents for their well-loved yoga pants, reports The Wall Street Journal. Design patents haven't been popular for many years so any case that deals with them could potentially be a game-changer.

Fashion and other design-reliant industries don't have a lot of intellectual property protections. This case could have a significant impact on functional designs going forward and the future of design patents.

'Pink Slime' Lawsuit: ABC Sued by Beef Industry for $1.2 Billion

The makers of "pink slime" have sued ABC and the scientist who dubbed the beef product as pink slime for defamation.

Beef Products Inc. brought the lawsuit against ABC and the beef company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages. The South Dakota meat processor accuses ABC of misleading its viewers into believing that their product was unsafe, reports Reuters.

The company claims that ABC falsely told its viewers that its beef product was not safe, not healthy, and not even meat. As a result, Beef Products says that it lost much of its business and hundreds of millions of dollars in profit, reports Reuters.

Louboutin Trademark Decision Affects More Than Fashion

The fashion world has been abuzz with the case of Christian Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) over red soled shoes.

The appellate ruling came out in early September and both sides claimed victory. YSL is now allowed to sell its monochrome shoes that include a red model and Louboutin has received validation that color can sometimes be trademarked in fashion.

But if you're not a fashion enthusiast is the case still relevant?

Well, if your company deals in trademarks at all the decision gives some important clarification to a particular doctrine of trademark law.

Apple Sets the Bar for the $1,200 an Hour Patent Lawyer

In a strange twist, the billing rates and legal fees from the Apple Samsung lawsuit seem to be making as many headlines as the underlying patents involved in the litigation.

By some accounts, the lawyers involved in the lawsuit for both sides may have billed as much as half a billion dollars combined.

And reports have it that a $1,200 an hour billing rate for top-flight patent attorneys is somewhat routine, reports Bloomberg. So is it a big deal that attorneys are billing at such high rates and collecting such huge fees?

Unilever Sues Over Hardcore Ben & Jerry's Trademark Violations

Unilever is suing to protect its Ben & Jerry's trademark.

The unlikely targets of the lawsuit are Rodax Distributors and Caballero Video. If you don't know who they are, that's probably a good thing as the two companies are adult film producers responsible for such gems as "Boston Cream Thigh!" and "New York Fat & Chunky!"

As you probably guessed, Unilver is suing these companies for allegedly using Ben & Jerry's trademarks in a series of porn movies, reports ABC.

Does Your Company Need a Workplace Violence Policy?

It is a sad commentary on the workplace that just about every employer needs to consider adding a workplace violence policy.

Just a few weeks ago, Jeffrey Johnson walked into the offices of his former employer and shot an ex-supervisor that he had been having problems with. And when people found out that it was an act of workplace violence -- and not terrorism -- the murder seemed to be less shocking, reports Inside Counsel.

Perhaps it's due to this increasingly commonplace nature of office shootings, that every employer should now consider adding workplace violence policies similar to how they have policies for truly everyday events like meal breaks and leaves of absence.

The 5 Most Realistic Corporate Law Movies

A list of the top corporate law movies was recently released and not surprisingly in just about every movie the corporations and their legal departments were the bad guys.

It's easy to make the large conglomerate the antagonist in a movie against a young protagonist like Julia Roberts or a determined solo attorney like John Travolta.

But how accurate are these portrayals and are companies really as evil as the corporate law movies would like you to believe? Here's a top five list as compiled by Inside Counsel:

A recent survey showed that more women than ever are serving as general counsel at Fortune 500 companies.

So does this mean the glass ceiling is finally broken?

The study shows that the number of women serving as general counsel at Fortune 500 companies has more than doubled from 1999 to 2008, writes Business Insider. The survey was conducted by Minority Corporate Counsel Association.