Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inventing Things While Employed - a Sticky Situation

I have been blogging a bit lately about my favorite case of the year, the Mattel v. MGA battle royal pitting Barbie dolls against Bratz dolls. Bottom line, Bratz were created by a Mattel employee, Carter Bryant, while he was employed by Mattel. A jury determined that MGA had stolen the Bratz idea from Mattel and interfered with its contractual relations with Bryant.

Evidently a man who created the most popular and profitable widget on Facebook was not following the Mattel case. Dave Maestri created Mob Wars which makes millions per month on Facebook. Problem is, his employer, the Social Gaming Network alleges that he created it while working for SGM. If true, SGM will likely end up owning Mob Wars under contractual rights or the work for hire doctrine which states, in general terms, that intellectual property created by employees belongs to the employer.

The lessen to take from this - if you have a snappy new idea make sure to consult an experienced intellectual property lawyer to ensure that your million dollar idea does not end up being owned by your employer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mattel Seeks $2 Billion From Bratz

In the trial of the year, the mighty John Quinn scored a huge victory for Mattel in its lawsuit against MGA and its Bratz line of dolls. Quinn was able to convince jurors that MGA stole the idea for Bratz from Mattel. Basically, MGA has been promoting and selling Mattel's intellectual property all these years while racking up huge sales numbers.

And now the real interesting part of the trial starts - damages! Mattel wasn't shy and recently asked jurors to award Mattel $2 Billion Dollars. Got to hand it to Quinn Emanuel on this one. I wonder if they took this one on a contingency?

In any event, this case serves as an important lesson to companies and employees alike. If you have a great idea for something that you want to own or market, make damn sure you are not under an employment agreement that grants your employer ownership of your inventions and designs.

Gmail to get a whole lot safer

Gmail has apparently become a whole lot safer and secure for its users. Users can now choose to encrypt all of their email messages using SSL technology. Without the SSL feature, Gmail was pretty darn easy to hack into according to techies.

This is terrific news for e-commerce and consumers alike. Hopefully, this will help combat the rash of identity fraud occurring around the world. At the very least, consumers' credit card info may be more secure when purchasing goods and services online.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the confidentiality and security of your Internet communications, contact and Internet Law Attorney for more information.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The RIAA Strikes Again

The start-up music website Muxtape has been shut down voluntarily due to concerns over the RIAA - the music industry's trade group and chief illegal download cop. Muxtape allowed users to make mash-ups and mix tapes - just like you did when you were a kid. I reported on Muxtape a few weeks ago and have been following its progress. Apparently, the site's administrators tried to police infringing user activities to no avail.

I find it telling that while the music industry continues to rack up victories in and out of court on copyright infringement grounds, these victories have proven pyrrhic as music sales continue to dwindle and record labels continue to downsize until they disappear. The digital revolution and more specifically, web 3.0 collaboration and sharing, is here to stay. Until content providers figure out how to work with web 3.o ventures instead of against them, the music industry will continue to deteriorate until it is no more.

To find out more about web 3.0 and copyright laws, contact and Internet attorney.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

American Apparel - What an Innovative Company

I was lucky enough to be given a tour of one of America's great, young and innovative companies yesterday. Shawn Shahani of American Apparel gave me a tour of the headquarters and factory right here in downtown Los Angeles. Shawn is a real dynamic, up and coming marketing guru and I have faith that he will help lead the web 3.0 revolution with regard to marketing and branding of consumer products.



The place is massive and everything is done on site, from internet marketing to cutting fabric to shipping and freight. The company is the definition of vertical integration.



On a human note, I was impressed with American Apparel's community involvement, worker programs and philanthropy. Seemingly at every turn, AA is trying its best to make the world a better place and lessen the impact of manufacturing. Some examples include an on site medical office, green energy company vehicles and the Legalize L.A. campaign calling for immigration reform.



As an Internet lawyer, I was consumed with AA's innovative marketing techniques, particularly their views regarding globalization and social network advertising. Few companies, if any at the moment, understand how to get the most out of internet advertising, more specifically monetizing Facebook and Myspace advertising. I came away and impressed by this dynamic company and its online advertising efforts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics Newest Focus of Copyright Infringement

So the Olympics recently got underway and NBC's attempts to curtail copyright infringement have been utterly pathetic - and also predictable. When will content providers wake up and plug into web 2.0 and what will become web 3.0? Content providers legal whack-a-mole strategy against infringers has never worked and never will.

NBC has seemingly taken an overprotective approach to their Olympic footage, the other network news shows can't even show highlights. Instead, NBC's competitors are relegated to still photos.

NBC's own internet coverage apparently sucks so bad that the viewing public has turned to illegal bit torrents and pirates. Pirates have outclassed NBC's Olympic internet coverage by offering HD versions of many events before NBC even gets them to air. Come on NBC, outclassed by a bunch of kids in their parents basement. Anyone else not surprised at this result since these games are taking place in China - you know, the country that doesn't give a damn about United States Intellectual Property laws.

If you have any questions regarding copyright issues and the internet, contact an experienced internet law attorney.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Anonymous Online Defamers Revealed

As an Internet Lawyer, one of the most common type of cases I handle is anonymous, online defamation. The Internet and its wealth of message boards and social networks has led to a boom in defamatory statements. The reason is simple. Most anonymous posters fear no repercussion because websites don't require any personally identifiable information. Posters are not even required to register a valid email address. A screen name can be made up instantly and the defamatory post is there for all to see. If posted on a message board or website with a high Google page rank, defamatory statements will rise to the top of Google searches for you or your business.

Now, one very easy solution to the epidemic of Internet defamation would be to require personally identifiable and verifiable information from posters. This could be done very easily by requiring credit card information. Hell, this is how they verify your identity at the airport when checking in. And some websites such as Avvo.com are already employing this strategy.

Recently, I was encouraged to see that the Plaintiffs in the AutoAdmit case - a case charging defamation against anonymous posters - were seemingly able to come up with the identity of some of the John Doe defendants. Take note that if you are the victim of Internet defamation, finding the identity of your poster may be an expensive proposition and frequently can only be found pursuant to subpoena power obtained only after filing a lawsuit.

If you are the victim of Internet defamation, you should contact an Internet defamation attorney for more information about your rights.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cablevision Wins Big Victory for DVR's Hosted on Central Servers

Content providers such as movie and tv studios sued Cablevision for copyright infringement for their innovative DVR technology which stores recorded content on remote servers rather than the physical DVR box sitting in your home. Today, the 2nd Circuit ruled in Cablevision's favor by holding that such technology does not infringe upon content producer's rights. This is an ancient fight in copyright circles by now. First, it was the Sony Betamax case in the 1980's. Then it was the RIAA and music industry crusades against online file sharing, most notably in the the Napster case in the 9th Circuit and then the Grokster case in the Supreme Court.

When will content providers realize they simply cannot control distribution and user experience the way they did in the analog years? It seems content producers are simply wasting their time and money in Court because whether they win or lose, collaboration and sharing of content is not going to stop. The consuming public has made that clear. From my perspective, the big time corporate content producers are panicking and may soon find themselves suffering the same fate as that of dinosaurs. If the studios had a smart exec or two, they might be able to figure out how to embrace digital collaboration and sharing and, gasp, actually profit from it.

If you are facing copyright infringement claims relating to digital content sharing and collaboration, contact an experienced copyright attorney for advice.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cell Phone Early Termination Fees May Be Illegal

A California court has recently tentatively ruled that Sprint's early termination fees charged to consumers cancelling their cell phone contracts prior to maturity are illegal. The ruling would require Sprint to return some 18 million to consumers affected and cease collection efforts on about 54 million in outstanding fees. This is the first such ruling among dozens of early termination fee cases around the country. Rather than face an adverse ruling, Verizon recently settled a similar case.

One large issue is whether or not California law is applicable to such charges. Some argue that these charges are actually telephone rates that fall under the purview of federal law and the FCC. It is hard to buy that argument though, as early termination fees are not connected to cell phone service but rather a penalty provision that is a creature of contract.

In any event, if you question early termination fees or illicit cell phone charges, you should contact a class action attorney for information about your rights.