Minding Your Business

Proskauer’s perspective on developments and trends in commercial litigation.

Trademark Disputes Continue to Brew

Salvation. The name of two intricate Belgian-style ales, created by us, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing and Adam Avery of Avery Brewing. After becoming friends a few years ago, we realized we both had a Salvation in our lineups. Was it going to be a problem? Should one of us relinquish the name rights? “Hell, no!” we said. In fact, it was quickly decided that we should blend the brews to catch the best qualities of each and create an even more complex and rich libation. In April 2004, in a top secret meeting at Russian River Brewing, we came up with the perfect blend of the two Salvations.

That, according to Avery Brewing Co., is how Collaboration Not Litigation Ale came into existence.

But the beer industry is not always so adept at avoiding the courtroom when it comes to trademark disputes.  Particularly with the explosion of the craft brewing industry in recent years, and the ever-increasingly creative names to come out of that market, legal disputes over beer trademarks are a dime a dozen.  The latest of these lawsuits to reach trial resulted in significantly more than a dime’s worth of recovery for craft brewer Stone Brewing.

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Beware of the Fine Print: Website Design Choices that Carry Legal Significance

Website owners who seek to bind visitors to the terms of an arbitration agreement must make those terms “reasonably conspicuous” under the law, and website visitors must “manifest unambiguous assent” to those terms.  That means that the smallest of details – the font and color of the text, the color of the page, the location and appearance of the hyperlinks and the “I agree” button – carry tremendous legal significance.  Those seemingly small design details could make the difference between a dispute being resolved in arbitration, or in litigation.

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It’s Not a Threat, It’s a Promise: Timeline of the DOJ’s Statements and Actions Against Wage Fixing and No Poach Agreements

Over the past year, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has increasingly been hot on the heels of suspected anti-competitive labor violations.  To date, the DOJ has brought a few actions against employers across industries relating to wage-fixing and no-poach agreements.  As these cases take hold, and potentially even head toward trial, this article examines the DOJ’s previous statements and current actions regarding its stance on anti-competitive labor violations. Continue Reading

The (Third) Party’s Over? Recent Decisions Cast Doubt on the Continued Vitality of Third Party Releases in Chapter 11 Reorganizations

Two recent decisions by U.S. District Courts have rejected attempts to include nonconsensual third party releases in chapter 11 reorganization plans.  These rulings suggest third party releases may be facing increasing push back from the courts.

Traditionally, bankruptcy only operates to eliminate claims held by creditors against the debtor.  Over the last few years, however, corporate debtors have increasingly attempted to include nonconsensual third party releases in chapter 11 plans of reorganization.  These third party releases, when approved by the bankruptcy court, operate to preclude creditors of the debtor from pursuing claims they possess against non-debtor third parties.  Despite being increasingly found in chapter 11 restructurings, however, third party releases have remained controversial and the subject of heated debates, both inside and outside the courtroom. Continue Reading

Using Demonstrative Exhibits as Admissible Evidence Under California Law

During trial, lawyers make many strategic decisions to try to appeal to a jury.  For example, they consider not only the substance of the evidence they present, but also the emotional impact of that evidence.  But the impact of a witness’ testimony can be blunted if your jury is not following the testimony, so the use of demonstrative exhibits can be a useful tool to ensure the jury remains focused on the testimony. Continue Reading

Revisiting Price Gouging Compliance

With the Biden administration ramping up scrutiny on supply chains and pricing practices, businesses should take a moment to revisit their COVID-19 price gouging compliance.  As we’ve previously highlighted, risk management with ever-shifting price gouging restrictions requires careful consideration of documentation and oversight of pricing practices and decisions. For reputable companies up and down the national supply chain, compliance with the array of state price gouging laws requires more than intuition and a moral compass. Even with the best intentions, many businesses inadvertently run afoul of price gouging laws. Because price gouging statutes can cover more than obvious bad conduct and point-of-sale pricing to consumers, manufactures and suppliers should consider implementing procedures to assess whether they are required to comply with pricing restrictions, whether they are complying, and how to manage compliance. Below we outline some key considerations for businesses. Continue Reading

Supreme Court Excuses Inadvertent Legal Errors in Copyright Applications

The United States Supreme Court, in Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., a recent 6-3 decision, found that innocent legal errors in copyright applications do not preclude copyright holders from taking advantage of the safe harbor provision of the Copyright Act, which protects registrants from having their copyrights invalidated due to inadvertent errors.  The Court’s ruling therefore made clear that such errors in copyright applications—including both mistakes of law and mistakes of fact—will rarely be the basis for invalidation.

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