Intellectual Property

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Ed. note: This is the first installment of “On Remand,” a legal-history column by new writer Samantha Beckett. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

The statute of limitations never expires on an interesting legal story, so each week “On Remand” will report on legal aspects of a story from the past using a “this day in history” theme. First up, Beatlemania!

Five years before John, Paul, George, and Ringo crossed Abbey Road, they crossed the pond and invaded U.S. living rooms. Fifty years ago last night, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. The floppy-haired Fab Four were warmly welcomed by shrieking fans and America’s version of royalty – the King himself, Elvis Presley. As Ed Sullivan explained before the Beatles took the stage: “You know something very nice happened and the Beatles got a great kick out of it. We just received a wire – they did – from Elvis Presley . . . wishing them a tremendous success in our country.”

It’s safe to say that Elvis’ wish came true. The Beatles won an Oscar, racked up enough Grammys to collapse a shelf, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

By 1978, both the Beatles and the British Invasion were ancient history. Beatles fans consoled themselves with the music of Wings and the solo careers of John, Ringo, and George. And one Beatles fan in particular, Steve Jobs, was busy with his two-year-old computer company, Apple Computer. But that year, Apple Computer would experience a British invasion of its own when the Beatles’ company, Apple Corps (thank Paul McCartney for that pun), sued Apple Computer in Britain’s High Court. The dispute concerned the companies’ similar apple logos: a Granny Smith for Apple Corps, and an icon of an apple with a byte bite removed for Apple Computer….

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O Canada!

* Secrets secrets are no fun, secrets secrets hurt someone: Chief Justice Roberts named two judges to two secret courts. Congrats to Judges Boasberg and Tallman. [Legal Times]

* Bankruptcy just got a lot more fabulous. AG Eric Holder announced that the government would extend recognition of same-sex couples in federal legal matters. [New York Times]

* With reports of firms’ financials beginning to trickle out, partners are getting anxious. No one wants to be the next Dewey — or the next Gregory Owens. [Am Law Daily]

* This is the second year in a row that Greenberg Traurig has posted financial declines. Perhaps the firm started its lower pay, non-partner track residency program for a reason. Something to think about. [Daily Business Review]

* “It’s our duty as partners to help.” Law students articling at the recently dissolved Heenan Blaikie are learning a lesson in Canadian collegiality. The firm is trying to help them get new jobs. [Montreal Gazette]

* Speaking of Heenan Blaikie, we’re hearing chatter that the firm’s talks with DLA Piper may be in trouble. HB says the talks they’re off, but DLA says they’re ongoing. Hmm, that sounds dramatic. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “It’s a very L.A. thing. We’ll see how long it lasts.” If you had to choose, you’d probably go to Dumb Starbucks over Starbucks. Order a Dumb Frappuccino before they get a C&D letter. [Los Angeles Times]

Ascension to Biglaw partnership demands, obviously and above all, an enormous amount of first-rate legal work, in addition to political savvy, endurance, timing, and luck. A would-be partner’s chosen practice area also undoubtedly plays no small role. If firm leadership believes that there will be a spate of major Chapter 11 filings or trademark litigations on the horizon, obviously that will redound to the benefit of the potential bankruptcy or IP partners (although, as recent news reflects, partnership isn’t necessarily the lucrative, secure lifetime position it once was).

Late last year, ATL took a close look at the newly minted partner classes for the Vault 10 firms. Despite the great profitability and prestige of this select group, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the general direction of the legal market from the composition of these partnership classes. First of all, this is a small sample size. Second, we are witnessing an important shift in the allocation of the business within the market. A recent AdvanceLaw survey of general counsel at major global corporations found that three-quarters of general counsel were inclined to engage “less-pedigreed” firms (e.g., outside the Vault 10 or Magic Circle) for “high stakes” legal work. This survey of GCs (including those from Google, Nike, 3M, Unilever and Deutsche Bank) indicated their willingness to engage firms lower down the Biglaw totem pole.

Because of the apparent diminishment of the brand value of the most historically prestigious firms, as well as the broader trends toward disaggregation and unbundling of legal services, one must account for a larger set of law firms in order to see the fullest picture of the market for high-end legal services. With that in mind, today we look at the practice areas of the entire Biglaw partnership class of 2013….

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See, this is an awesome logo.

* The Phoenix Coyotes plan to change their name to the Arizona Coyotes. They probably should have looked into whether or not someone had trademarked “Arizona Coyotes.” I don’t care about their name as long as they go back to their awesome original sweaters. [The Legal Blitz]

* As expected, Mayor Bill De Blasio has dropped New York City’s appeal of the stop-and-frisk case. [New York Times]

* As we discussed this morning, Eric Holder had to make a decision on whether or not to pursue the death penalty in the Boston Bomber case. Well, he made it. [CNN]

* No, getting mocked on late night TV is not the same as torture or the mass extermination of human beings. [Popehat]

* What happens when 16 children’s book characters are sent to court? [Visual.ly]

* Here are 5 quick tips to employ when preparing for the bar exam. [BigLaw Rebel]

* Prosecutors aren’t all out to get your client. You need to read the signals to figure out when they’re willing to help. [Katz Justice]

* Unlocking your phone is still a crime. It’s almost as though Congress was deliberately obstructionist on every issue for a whole year. Weird. [Politix]

* Ever wonder how to make the transition from law school to journalist? Here’s one answer from across the pond. [Legal Cheek]

‘Try and make it look painful, we’ve got a bloodthirsty audience here!’

* Allegations that a prison told a death row inmate to “put on a show” while getting a lethal injection. Just when you thought the death penalty couldn’t manifest itself as more cruel and unusual… [NBC News]

* A discussion of how early voting is bad. Apparently, after an electoral dialogue that usually lasts a year or more, we’re all lemmings swayed by the events of the last day of campaigning so there’s no justification for allowing voters to show up three days before the finish line. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Kentucky legend Richie Farmer’s basketball jersey may be retired, but the Bureau of Prisons decided to give Farmer, now a political figure heading to prison for abusing his office, his old number back as an inmate number. Thanks? [Legal Juice]

* In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama came out strong for patent law reform. Exactly the issue he needed to rally voters for the midterms! [Patently-O]

* And while it didn’t make the address itself, Attorney General Eric Holder is signaling a new administrative interest in reforming the out of whack sentencing laws. [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* On February 12, our own David Lat will be speaking at Georgetown at an ABA Journal sponsored talk on “#21stCenturyLaw.” Let’s see that hash tag start trending. [ABA Journal]

* Joshua Gilliland of The Legal Geeks reacts to the revelation that the new costuming for next season’s Doctor Who will ditch Gilliland’s beloved bow tie. Our hearts go out to you in your pain. Video embedded below… [The Legal Geeks]

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Until last month, my entire legal career had been spent at large law firms. With a pretty specialized practice focusing on intellectual property, mainly patent litigation. And until last month, I never really needed to hire a lawyer, with one exception. Thankfully, it was for a good reason, to help me close on my house.

Which my lawyer handled with aplomb, so I am happy to recommend him if someone needs a good generalist solo based out of New York City. Even though my general tendency is to try and learn everything I can about something, when it came to buying a house, I really wanted nothing more than to have someone else deal with all the legal stuff. The fact that I was up for partner, and working pretty hard at my Biglaw firm that year, contributed to making me a “just get it done” type of client. Because I trusted my lawyer, and he demonstrated competence and responsiveness, I never needed to get out of that mode. We closed, I paid, and life went on.

I paid happily, and very quickly, because I had engaged someone to provide a service, and saw the results in a timely manner. Even though it was not a complicated transaction by any means, and I probably could have handled it myself, I valued my lawyer’s contribution and thus was happy to pay. I appreciated the small touches — like being handed a binder with copies of all the signed closing documents right after the closing. At the same time, I never really got engaged in the process enough to care to learn about it.

Comparing the experience I had then to my typical patent matter, the difference is stark….

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The past year or so has been an epic period for snarky responses to cease and desist letters. We’ve seen hilariously irreverent responses to C&D letters telling off the likes of Starbucks, the American Bankers Association, and the Township of West Orange.

And now Hollywood celebrities are throwing themselves into the mix. Which “seriously out of control” young actor just got saucy over Twitter in response to a lawyer’s letter?

Here’s a hint: Is this kid Lawless?

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Amy Chua: She’s baaaaaaack!

* “Either access to abortion will be dramatically restricted in the coming year or perhaps the pushback will begin.” We’re moving back in history. Here’s hoping pro-choice advocacy will be born anew in 2014. [New York Times]

* George S. Canellos, the SEC’s co-chief of enforcement, announced his departure on Friday, and people are already wondering whether he’ll return to his old stomping grounds at Milbank Tweed. [DealBook / New York Times]

* We hope legal educators had fun at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting, but we hope most of all that they learned what needs to change to really make legal education pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system.” Saudi Arabia now has its first female law firm dedicated to bringing women’s issues to the country’s patriarchal courts. Congratulations! [RT]

* A Starbucks spokeswoman issued a defense to the cease-and-desist response letter that went viral worldwide, and it reads just like how her company’s coffee tastes: bland. [International Business Times]

* Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua is back with a vengeance, co-authoring a controversial new book (affiliate link) with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld. Which ethnic cultural groups are superior? [New York Post]

Here’s a message to all lawyers drafting demand letters. Before you fire off that deliciously evil, in-your-face, incendiary letter replete with all those unreasonable demands you dreamed up over the last 30 minutes of editing, take a good hard look at what you’ve written, and then stop. Just… stop.

What did you think you were going to gain? Did you hope it would help your letter stand out? Prove to your adversary that you’re really serious? Set a bold opening bid for negotiations? Are there visions of a terrified person reading your letter and running to the phone to give your client everything under the sun?

Because none of that is going to happen. All you’ve managed to do is torpedo your credibility… and now you’ll probably end up getting trolled by a popular legal industry website.

Take, for example, these guys, whose string of ridiculous demands not only failed to reduce their adversary to jelly, it elicited a declaratory judgment suit.

So the question is, “Would You Rather: Be self-satisfied over your own cleverness or save your client from litigation?”

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‘F**kin’ intellectual property, bro!’

This year certainly had its share of ups and downs in terms of lawyerly antics, but in our minds, 2013 shall forever be known as the year of the snarky cease and desist response letter. Back in June, we broke the news of the now famous response to a cease and desist letter received from the Town of West Orange, New Jersey, which went viral worldwide thanks to the power of sarcasm. A few months later, we wrote about an equally entertaining response to a cease and desist letter received from the American Bankers Association, rife with Spice Girls lyrics and Valley girl lingo.

It’s been a while since we wrote about one of these treasures, so we figured we’d close the year out with a bang. We discovered yet another amazing response to a cease and desist letter, and this one may be the greatest of them all — if only because we think its author might have been drunk while writing it….

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