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Monthly Archives: January 2012

SOPA Post-Mortem: The Independent Autopsy

The much-maligned Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its senatorial sibling, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) have, at least for now, met an abrupt demise.   The huge public protests by internet trailblazonaires and activists, accompanied by “blackouts” staged by Google, Wikipedia, and other major sites, turned the tides against lawmakers almost overnight.  As some reports noted, the rare display of public participation took lawmakers by surprise, and once anti-SOPA sentiments rippled through the country, the Congressional representatives who originally introduced the bill found themselves alone, without support, and abandoned the bill.  By last Thursday, SOPA and PIPA were declared DOA, well in advance of the vote that was previously scheduled to take place today.   In the end, the death of SOPA/PIPA was by some reports attributed to the power of public participation in the democratic process.  These idealistic commentaries, however, may be ignoring the reality that the fight over SOPA/PIPA was very much a brawl between powerful corporate giants with strong conflicting interests.  Caught in the fray, Americans would be wise to mute the rhetoric advanced by both sides when the next incarnation of SOPA/PIPA arises, and take a careful look at the true motivations fueling the debate, as well as the practical effects that stronger copyright enforcement laws would actually have for ordinary netizens.   

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Forever 21, Wet Seal, Ross, Burlington, TJMaxx and Others Sued for Fabric Copyright Infringement

 
Forever 21, Wet Seal, Ross, Burlington, TJMaxx and Others Sued for Fabric Copyright Infringement
Feral Childe’s Design compared to Forever 21 Fabric in the lawsuit of Feral Childe v. Forever 21 (July, 2011)

LA Printex Industries is on the offensive. In four lawsuits filed on January 6, 2012, the fabric textile heavyweight brought claims  against Wet Seal, Forever 21, Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, TJMaxx, Filene’s Basement, and others alleging that the stores unlawfully infringed on LA Printex’ rights by copying “unique two-dimensional graphic artworks.”  Unfortunately, copies of the lawsuits are not yet publicly available from the California federal court.  It would be at least the second fabric copyright infringement lawsuit for Forever 21 in less than six months.

 Generally, under US copyright laws, a garment generally cannot be copyrighted, but an original design or fabric pattern may be considered intellectual property that can be covered by copyright or trademark.  Some reports, however, are that over the last several years, LA Printex has apparently brought over 200 lawsuits asserting fabric copyright infringement.

 

 

 

 

 

Related Stories:
http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jan/15/business/fi-fabric15 
LA Printex Industries, Inc. v. Forever 21 et al., Case No. 2:12 cv 166 JFW
LA Printex Industries, Inc. v. The Wet Seal, Inc. et al. Case No. 2:12 cv 31 JST
LA Printex Industries, Inc. v. Ross Stores, Inc. et al. Case No. 2:12 cv 165 ODW
LA Printex Industries, Inc. v. Seven Licensing Company, LLC et al. Case No. 2:12 cv 168 JAK

“Hydra Executives” Reality TV Show’s Hannah Dodkin Files Lawsuit for $1 Million Prize Against Beverly Hills Architect Richard Best

UK-domiciled Hanna Dodkin, the “winner” of former reality TV show “Hydra Executives” has filed a lawsuit in California federal court alleging that she was deprived of the $1,000,000 prize money.  According to reports, she and a fellow contender, Beverly Hills architect Richard Best, “both won” the prize, but the money was not given to Dodkin, and instead, given wholly to Best.

Hydra Executives Reality TV Shows Hannah Dodkin Files Lawsuit for $1 Million Prize Against Beverly Hills Architect Richard Best

Hanna Dodkin, Courtesy of Daily Mail UK

 

Unfortunately, there is not much information about the Hydra Executives show available, other than it was a “competitor” of “The Apprentice,” filed in UAE and featured back in the spring of 2009, pitting eight American entrepreneurs against United Kingdom counterparts.  The show was founded and hosted by UAE real estate tycoon Sulaiman Abdul Kareem Mohammad Al-Fahim, apparently a repeat contender on the list of the “World’s Most Influential Arabs.”

The public version of the complaint does not appear to be available yet for download, but it will be interesting to see how Richard Best responds.  For further proof that no good deed goes unpunished, the reports are that Best had donated $100,000 of the earnings to the United Nations to help combat malnutrition after receiving the prize money.  Interestingly enough, Best does have the finale episode available on his website (linked to a YouTube channel), which will make interesting evidentiary fodder.

Jan. 5, 2012 Update: Courthouse News Service has obtained some more details to this story.

 

 

 

Hydra Executives Reality TV Shows Hannah Dodkin Files Lawsuit for $1 Million Prize Against Beverly Hills Architect Richard Best

Richard Best, Courtesy of His Website

 


 

 

 

 

Ex-Employee Sued by Employer Over Twitter Account

Who does a twitter account actually belong to, employee or employer? In a lawsuit brought by Phone Dog against its former employee, Noah Kravitz, Phone Dog is arguing to a California federal court that Noah’s twitter following belongs to Phone Dog.  Phone Dog has valued the 17,000 on Noah’s twitter list at $42,500 ($2.50 per twitter “follower”), and has sued Noah for theft, interfering with its business relationships, and misappropriating its trade secrets.

The Phone Dog case is interesting because it does not involve a trademarked or copyrighted slogan, mark, or logo of the employer, Phone Dog. According to court documents, Noah worked for Phone Dog as a video blogger and reviewer of products.  Apparently, as part of Noah’s work for Phone Dog, Noah collected more than 17,000 twitter followers.  When Noah resigned his position in October of 2010, he changed his twitter handle from @PhoneDog_Noah to @noahkravitz.  There is a disagreement between Noah and Phone Dog about whether Phone Dog ever asked Noah to give up his twitter account entirely.  Phone Dog’s lawsuit was filed because Phone Dog believed that Noah was using his twitter account (with its 17,000 followers) to continue marketing and advertising on his own, to some of the outlets he had marketed and advertised to during his employment with Phone Dog, such as Fox News Live and CNBC’s  Street Signs. There were no contracts or agreements between Noah and Phone Dog restricting him from using his twitter account post-departure.

The Phone Dog case is a good example of why it is a good idea for employers and employees to have clear expectations (and agreements) about the ownership of social media accounts, and whether collecting “friends” or “followers” is being done for the benefit of the company pursuant to job descriptions or expectations, or whether it is an independent venture of the individual employee, separate and distinct from his or her job duties.  In this case, there seems to be fair arguments on both sides.

For Personal or Business Use?  It is unclear whether Noah was pursuing twitter followers (arguably, we may never know whether followers sought to follow Noah the individual or “Noah the Phone Dog employee”) independently or as part of the practice as one of Phone Dog’s product reviewers and bloggers.  Certainly, having a wide audience following was both favorable for Noah as well as Phone Dog.

Substantive Content.  It is also unclear whether Noah’s tweets were in large part employment-related, in terms of content, or whether they conveyed personal messages.  In taking a quick peek at the most recent ones, it appears that Noah tweets, and tweets often, about a variety of topics, not just those about his employment or Phone Dog:

Ex Employee Sued by Employer Over Twitter Account

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Proper Analogy? Another looming question that could be answered, if the Phone Dog case is assessed on its merits, is whether social media friends or followers are more akin to a company’s “customer lists,” which might be protected as a trade secret, or whether they are more similar to simply a list of contacts.  After all,  individuals who leave their employment to not “unlearn” their acquaintences, and barring non-solicitation or non-compete provisions in an employment agreement, are free to contact their list of contacts.

Public Relations Elements.  For Phone Dog, an unintended consequence of the lawsuit may end up being bad publicity.  Regardless of how meritorious their claims may be, to the public, it may simply appear to be a powerful employer flexing its muscles and intimidating a former employee, whether it is to set an example, or truly recover the Twitter “followers.”  This would not be the first time a lawsuit in the technomedia space has generated more (negative) publicity than may have been desired.

For now, Noah’s legal team is attempting to have the case dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief.  A hearing has been scheduled for the end of the month, so there may be new developments coming in the near future as this case marches forward.

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