Intellectual Property

No, this isn’t about a lawsuit arising out of the writing of Animal Farm II: Sharks on Retainer — but who knows, my original thought for a post title might be subject to trademark infringement.

More on that later; for now, let’s turn our attention to this delicious product offered by ThinkGeek (which went on sale April 1, 2010):

As a connoisseur of unicorn delicacies, I was annoyed when the ThinkGeek people exposed this product to the general pubic. We’ve already got the Care Bears on our ass; we certainly don’t need PETA getting wind of this tasty treat.

But who knew that this entirely fictional April Fool’s joke would come to the attention of the National Pork Board and their legal representatives at Faegre & Benson

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Franklin Pierce Law Center.JPGWe’ve got another public university in New England looking to acquire a third tier law school. But don’t worry, we’re not looking at another Southern New England School of Law/UMass situation. There, UMass acquired the unaccredited Southern New England under the guise of making a place for public interest lawyers in Massachusetts — at the tune of $23,565/year.
In contrast, the University of New Hampshire wants to form a partnership with Franklin Pierce Law Center — a New Hampshire institution that has been accredited since 1974. Here’s the top news from the FPLC press release:

University of New Hampshire President Mark W. Huddleston and Franklin Pierce Law Center President John D. Hutson announced today that the two institutions have approved an affiliation agreement, the first step in a multi-year process toward full merger. The Pierce Law board unanimously approved the affiliation March 4 and the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees approved it March 15.

As you parse through the press release, you’ll note that there’s not a lot of the disingenuous public interest lawyer rhetoric that UMass/Southern New England tried to sell.

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Darby Darby logo.jpg Darby & Darby, an intellectual property boutique with a strong presence in New York and Seattle is going under. Last night, tipsters reported serious trouble for the firm that has been around since 1895. Multiple sources put the news in similar, explicit language:

Darby & Darby is shutting down, [Friday].

This morning, Darby & Darby released an official statement:

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that after more than 100 years in continuous operation, Darby & Darby will begin the process of winding down the firm in anticipation of an orderly dissolution. While we continue to have exceptional clients, from individual inventors to Fortune Global 500 Companies, and remain profitable, many of the factors frequently cited in other firm’s demise have similarly impacted us. That said, we believe strongly in the IP boutique model which continues to produce some of the best legal talent in the Intellectual Property field. We will be working with all of our amazing and loyal professionals and staff to help them find new homes and know they will be very successful wherever they land.

Tipsters report that the news has been running all over the firm’s New York and Seattle offices since last night. And they are telling stories of partners in the know “looting” the firm and aggressively looking for other work…

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Cornell Law School Andy Bernard The Office Ed Helms.jpgCornell’s use of Andy “The Nard Dog” Bernard to promote its law school was a questionable decision. Alumni are saying it makes their toolish reputation even worse, and some are calling for someone at the law school to be fired.

After news outlets like TMZ and Entertainment Weekly picked up our story, the school rethought the promotional item. (Even though over 35% of our readers thought it was a brilliant idea.)

One problem with the ad is that Bernard is a total douche. From CLS alumnus METAezra:

For those of you who don’t quite understand the problem with this (beyond the fact that the ‘Nard Dog has no ties to the Law School), Andy Bernard is like the uncle in your family that nobody quite likes. You can laugh at him in the presence of good friends, and smirk at him in the presence of polite company. But you don’t bring him up unless asked.

There may be a much bigger problem with the ad, though. It may reveal that the law school doesn’t have a very good handle on intellectual property law…

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Who Dat chips.JPGBack when I used to practice law, I had the opportunity to do some low-level IP work for the National Football League. As Biglaw work goes, it was pretty fun. And I remember the staff lawyers at the NFL as a very nice and engaging group of men and women.
But sometimes, the IP gurus at the NFL really know how to act like an immense turd in a punch (super) bowl. Remember when the NFL cracked down on the “unlicensed” use of the term Super Bowl? Then there’s the NFL’s ongoing ridiculousness with American Needle. For the overlords of a sport that claims to be “America’s passion,” the NFL has a curious way of crushing the life out of anything that could even slightly siphon a dollar away from their clever system of unlimited revenue potential and fixed labor costs.
But the latest example of the NFL blitzing small entrepreneurs is arguably more ridiculous than everything that has come before. The NFL is claiming ownership over the phrase “Who Dat.” According to WWLTV in Louisiana, the NFL wants to own a chant:

As the Saints’ appearance in their first Super Bowl gets closer, the marketplace is being flooded with Saints merchandise and memorabilia as businesses are looking to cash in on the euphoria, but the NFL is cracking down on the use of their trademarks, including the iconic phrase “Who Dat.”

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of taking in a football game at the Superdome, the full chant goes: “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” So let’s be clear — the NFL claims it owns a chant of ungrammatical pidgin English that can’t even be pronounced properly without using a Bobby Boucher accent. The NFL doesn’t have what they call “the social skills.”
More details after the jump.

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Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger.jpegJ.D. Salinger, the celebrated (and reclusive) author of The Catcher in the Rye, passed away yesterday. He was 91.
Salinger died of natural causes at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, according to a statement from Salinger’s literary representative.
Is there a legal angle here?

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected].

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL Editors,
I just got my grades, and needless to say they were less than stellar, approximately a 2.0 GPA. I got my Biochemistry PhD prior to attending a 2nd tier law school on a great scholarship, but now I stand to lose my scholarship lest I get a 4.0 (obviously unlikely due to my struggle this past semester).
What do I do? Obviously I need to buck up, work on my writing skills, and work harder at learning how to take law tests. However, I will now be forced to pay full price for two years of law school.
Assuming my grades will be mostly A’s and B’s going forward, do I still have a chance at a decent firm paying a decent enough wage to fend off the potential debt? Or should I pack it in and say it was a nice try?
– C Change

Dear C Change,
Can someone please explain to me what the hell people with advanced degrees are doing in law school? Law school is for generically smart people who lack other marketable money-earning skills. It is your duty as someone with a biochemistry Ph.D. to do important things like develop AIDS vaccines or effective cellulite treatments. Or just go to Pfizer and make a bagillion dollars ASAP. God did not intend for you to squander your math and science skills in a monkey hole somewhere attaching schedules to Chipotle securities offerings. That’s why He invented outsourcing.
The downfall of many smart people — such as yourself — is that they think they’re great at everything. If you’re getting multiple C’s your first semester at a T2 school,um, outlook NOT GOOD. Use that big brain of yours to cut your losses and quit, rather than rack up $100,000 just to slog through a degree because of pride. One advanced degree is enough! Mother always said you were greedy.
Listen, law isn’t your strong suit. It wasn’t mine, either. And that’s ok. You clearly excel in the sciences; I’m gifted at insulting people in fresh and exciting ways. We must each capitalize on these divine talents to forge our careers.
I hope this helps.
Your friend,
Marin

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2009 Associate bonus watch above the law.JPGWho says “special bonuses” are so 2007? Earlier this week, we reported that Irell & Manella paid supplemental bonuses to its associates that took total bonuses to twice the Sullivan & Cromwell scale.
Today we bring you the news that another firm, intellectual property powerhouse Fish & Richardson, is also going the extra mile on bonuses. From an FR attorney:

Fish & Richardson announced “special” bonuses [last week]. Basically $10K for non-equity principals and $2K for paralegals and administrative staff…. This is on top of the regular bonuses, which is made up of an “hours” component (certain amount of guaranteed bonus per 100 hours billed) and a “merit” bonus.

With all of this added up, some associates’ bonuses blow the Cravath scale out of the water. Happy New Year indeed!

The full memorandum, from president Peter J. Devlin, after the jump.

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GQ logo.JPGCondé Nast, which publishes Vogue, GQ, and a number of other publications that can be found at the airport, is suing to defend its pictures. Fashionista reports:

This morning brings news of a more literal form of infringement, filed by none other than Condé Nast. Who are they battling, you ask? An internet hacker–which is vaguely ironic given the company’s somewhat tepid relationship with the web for so many years.

Man, why hack when you can “fair use” your way out of so many problems? This hacker clearly should have gone to law school like everybody else these days.
Still, the weight of a major publishing company arrayed against one internet hacker is hardly a fair fight … for Condé Nast. But they have to try.
Click on the link below to read all of the details.
Adventures in Copyright: Hackers Edition [Fashionista]

balenciaga sues steve madden.jpgAt first we were of the opinion that Balenciaga’s “Lego shoe” was too hideous to merit copying. But then we learned that Beyonce has been spotted in a pair. If it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s good enough for the rest of us, right?
That was apparently the thinking of Steve Madden, which produced a very similar-looking shoe. Balenciaga’s original is on the left; the Madden version is on the right.
But Balenciaga’s not taking this sitting down. Earlier this week, the company sued Steve Madden.
What claims are being made in the lawsuit? Come up with some guesses. Then read more (and comment) over at our sister site, Fashionista.
Balenciaga Sues Steve Madden [Fashionista]

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