Category Archives: Business Law Blogs

Hasbro Trademarks the Scent of Play-Doh

In class, we discuss trademark and trade dress.  Ever open a can of Play-Doh and smell that distinct scent?  Well, now Hasbro has trademarked that scent.

“‘The scent of Play-Doh compound has always been synonymous with childhood and fun,'” said Jonathan Berkowitz, a senior vice president of global marketing for the Play-Doh brand. “‘By officially trademarking the iconic scent, we are able to protect an invaluable point of connection between the brand and fans for years to come.'”




President Trump Blocks Broadcom-Qualcomm Merger

President Trump blocked the impending merger between Singapore-based, Broadcom, and U.S.-based, Qualcomm, over concerns that it would affect national security. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States investigated “the national security implications of the deal last week over concerns that it would hamper U.S. efforts to develop 5G wireless networks and other emerging technologies. CFIUS on Monday recommended that the president veto the deal.”

The President cited “‘credible'” evidence of risk to our national security. We would lose a company with the ingenuity and technology to build the next-generation of wireless networks.

 

 

 




How Cryptocurrencies Are Valued

The craze over cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, calls into question as to how things are valued in this space. This article and video help shed some light on the issue as to whether Bitcoin is a bubble or something with real world value.

Source:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanlewis/2017/12/07/what-is-the-fundamental-value-of-bitcoin/#6527eb19545a

 

 




NFL May Have Violated the NJ Consumer Fraud Act

case involving a fan who claims he was overcharged for tickets to the Seahawks-Broncos game is headed to the NJ Supreme Court. He paid $2000 each for two tickets worth no more than $800.

NJ law protects plaintiff and consumers like him against inflated prices by requiring at least 95% of the tickets to be sold to the general public. According to plaintiff, the NFL only sold 1% in a nationwide lottery.

Plaintiff expects the class action will result in the NFL paying millions to those fans who paid more than the face value of their tickets.




Cellphone Use While Driving May Be Linked to Increased Fatality Rates

Distractions can cause auto accidents and smartphones have been identified as one.  Many states have laws that limit the use of smartphones while driving. Lawyers generally do not pursue distraction cases if there is evidence of some other cause, such as speeding or reckless driving.

There has been an increase in motor vehicle fatalities across the country and they include those involving pedestrians and bicyclists. The studies, however, do not seem to attribute the increases to speeding or driving under the influence.

Many speculate smartphone use is a major cause of the spike in fatalities, but none of the studies show any causal connection. Part of the difficulty in collecting data lies in the reporting forms used by police.  “Only 11 states use reporting forms that contain a field for police to tick-off mobile-phone distraction, while 27 have a space to note distraction in general as a potential cause of the accident.”

 

 




Bill O’Reilly Files Defamation and IIED Charges Against Former Politician

In Torts, we discuss defamation and the strict limitations surrounding public figures when pursuing claims against people who say things that hurt their good reputation. Bill O’Reilly, a former prominent news commentator, filed a $5 million-dollar lawsuit against a former politician who posted statements on Facebook regarding his former girlfriend’s treatment by Fox News after she made harassment accusations.

The complaint states: “‘Plaintiff [O’Reilly] seeks damages for the public hatred, ridicule, disgrace, and permanent harm to his professional and personal reputations as a result of Defendant Panter’s publication of knowingly defamatory statements about Plaintiff, which were made with actual malice, as well as Defendant Panter’s intentional infliction of emotional distress upon Plaintiff.'”

Claims made by public figures are difficult, but not impossible, to prove because they require a showing of malice.  Here, the complaint alleges defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.




SCOTUS Dismissal of a Case Can Also Vacate an Underlying Opinion

The United States Supreme Court dismissed cases involving President Trump’s executive order blocking people traveling to the United States from certain countries. A September order replaced the March order expanding the restrictions. Since the March order expired, the cases pending before the High Court were moot.

The Supreme Court also vacated the underlying Ninth Circuit opinion blocking the order.  The effect is now there is no precedent, which the district court in Hawaii relied upon to block the September order. The Justice Department will be asking the district court to revisit his ruling now that the Supreme Court has acted.




So The Innocent May Not Suffer . . .

In class, we discuss the American legal system’s doctrinal foundation of presumption of innocence, based on Blackstone’s formulation, and even deeper, its Biblical roots. A Kansas man was recently released from prison for a crime he did not commit. His brother confessed to killing his niece and then committed suicide.

Kansas has no law helping those who are released from prison.  Other states, such as Texas, would have given him $1.8 million, or $80,000 for every year lost, “not including a yearly compensation afterward.” Colorado would provide $70,000 for each year, and Alabama, $50,000 per year.

As a remedy, it is possible to sue state officials under federal law. Section 1983 of the code in part states, “Every person who … subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law.”

These cases are difficult, but not impossible, to prove. Police have “conditional immunity” from prosecution, and prosecutors have absolute immunity, where a case can go forward if there is evidence of intentional misconduct.




Missouri Appeals Court Vacated $72 Million Award

In February 2016, a jury awarded a woman $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages in a suit against Johnson & Johnson for causing her cervical cancer.  She died in 2015 after prolonged use of baby powder made by the company.

In its ruling vacating the judgment, the appeals court cited a recent Supreme Court ruling disallowing lawsuits in states where the plaintiff is not a resident and where the injury did not occur.  The plaintiff in this case is from Alabama and sued in Missouri.

“Jim Onder, who is representing many plaintiffs in the lawsuits, has argued that Missouri is a proper jurisdiction because Johnson & Johnson packages and labels some products in Missouri.”  According to the article, most research indicates talc, which is a soft mineral, has a minimum correlation to ovarian cancer.  In other lawsuits, jurors awarded plaintiffs more than $300 million combined, and the company intends to have all these rulings overturned.