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Weekly Issues in the News

By Geisa Balla

NFL and Concussions

The family of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL on Thursday, February 23, 2011. The lawsuit alleges that the NFL negligently caused the brain damage that led Duerson to commit suicide at age 50 by not warning him of the negative effects of concussions. Duerson took his own life on February 17, 2011. The lawsuit claims that the NFL knew of the effects of concussions, but concealed such information from Duerson. 657 retired NFL players have filed lawsuits against the NFL for concussion-related issues. A Philadelphia federal judge has consolidated the 657 complaints into 18 lawsuits. Duerson's case is different from the other lawsuits because his brain was the only one that was studied and found to have advanced brain damage. "We hope that through our case we can raise awareness and further effect change with the other retired players so they can get the benefits and medical attention they need," said Duerson's son, Tregg Duerson. "We also hope the change trickles down to youth sports and concussion policies, as well as how trainers treat these injuries."



The producers of "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" and the trade association representing the show's former director Julie Taymor have settled the legal dispute between them. Taymor worked on the production of "Spider-Man" until she was fired in March 2011. Almost immediately after her termination, Taymor filed a copyright infringement against the "Spider-Man" producers, claiming that the producers made unauthorized and unlawful use of the material she developed for the show. In turn, the producers filed a countersuit against Taymor in January 2012, claiming that she endangered the show's chances of commercial success by "developing a dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical." Although this Broadway production cost more than $70 million to bring to stage and was received poorly by the critics, it has been a massive success with audiences. Under the settlement agreement, Taymor will receive full royalty fees for work as a director through the production's duration, as well as undisclosed fees for her work in developing the show.


Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan has filed a lawsuit against Chinese sportswear company Qiaodan Sports Co. in a China court for illegally using his name on marketing materials. "Qiaodan" is the Chinese translation for "Jordan." Qiaodan Sports sells athlete-branded basketball clothes and shoes in more than 5,700 retail locations across China. Qiaodan Sports claims to own the exclusive trademark to its name, and first registered to use this mark with the Trademark Office of China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce in 1997. However, under Chinese law, businesses cannot freely use the names of famous people, even if the famous people do not have trademarks on their names. In a video, Mr. Jordan claims that the lawsuit is not about money, but about the principle of protecting his identity and name. He also claims that any awards received from this lawsuit would be "invested in growing the sport of basketball in China.


Facebook as Service of Process

On February 21, 2012, a High Court judge in England approved the use of Facebook to serve legal claims. In a commercial dispute between two investment managers and a brokerage firm, counsel for one of the plaintiffs had been trying to track down one of the defendants to serve him with legal documents. A copy of the lawsuit was left at his last known address, but the attorneys did not have his new mailing address. The attorneys applied for permission to send him the claim via Facebook. Justice Nigel Teare permitted this method of service during a pretrial hearing, and gave the defendant extra time to respond "to allow for the possibility that he wasn't accessing his account regularly."



The EU's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ("ACTA") will be referred to the European Court of Justice to determine if it is compatible with freedom of expression and freedom of the Internet. "ACTA is an international trade agreement that targets counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. The European Commission and the European Council of member states have already approved ACTA, and the European Parliament is set to formally debate it in June. However, ACTA has generated protests and demonstrations in several European cities, including Paris and Berlin. Its critics say that ACTA violates the freedoms of speech and privacy. The main concerns are over ACTA's copyright enforcement and monitoring of Internet activity. The United States is one of the outside parties that has signed this treaty.


Online Shaming

Online shaming is the new tool in trademark disputes. User Phil Michaelson created an online cookbook, KeepRecipes.com, which allows users to save the instructions for a certain recipe by clicking "K" for "Keep." AdKeeper, a New York based service that allows users to "keep" online adds, sent Mr. Michaelson a cease-and-desist letter, claiming that his use of "K" and "Keep" constituted trademark infringement. Mr. Michaelson, who could not afford a legal battle, posted the cease-and-desist letter on Chillingeffects.org, a website created to help protect lawful online activity from legal threats. Mr. Michaelson was able to obtain free legal representation in this dispute after the letter was posted online.

TM Stats

The Wall Street Journal reports that trademark claims in U.S. district courts rose by 5% in the year ending March 2011. Fighting these battles in court is difficult for small start-up companies. Now a growing number of business owners are exposing trademark infringement threats on the Web, Facebook or Twitter.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 24, 2012 9:28 AM.

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