Vicious Infighting

Earlier this month, we presented you with a trademark law hypothetical. It was based on a dispute between Lawyerist and PeerViews Inc., parent company of TechnoLawyer, over the term “Small Law.” Lawyerist used the words “Small Law” in the title and text of this post — about Above the Law’s new offerings for small-firm readers, incidentally — and PeerViews objected.

In a letter by Kristen McCallion of Fish & Richardson, PeerViews expressed the concern that Lawyerist’s use of the words “Small Law” would diminish PeerViews’s goodwill in its “distinctive SmallLaw trademark.” PeerViews uses the mark for the TechnoLawyer newsletter on small firms.

We asked you, our readers, for your opinions on this matter. In the comments to our post, most of you sided with Lawyerist (but there were a handful of very vocal dissenters).

How will a judge or jury feel about this dispute? Because that’s who will get the next crack at this controversy. Lawyerist Media just filed a lawsuit against PeerViews in federal district court in Minnesota, seeking to invalidate the PeerViews trademarks on the terms “BigLaw” and “SmallLaw”….

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The closest English translation for the Wisconsin word "stand" is actually "run away like a little kid."

Effing Wisconsin. First I have to spend 10 minutes with my clicker searching around for something ridiculous called “TruTV” to catch the Michigan tournament game. I can’t find it so I have to stream the game on the radio while I watch Texas coach Rick Barnes continue his brave struggle to become the first developmentally disabled coach to make it to the Final Four. But then I have to kill the sound and change the channel because there’s “breaking” news from Wisconsin regarding its ongoing labor union bukkake session and, technically, I’m “working” today. Freaking cheese eating mofos just trying to hassle brothers.

But whatever, when last we checked in on Wisconsin the state was in a governmental standstill because Democrats fled the state in order to prevent Republicans from passing a bill that would eviscerate the rights of labor unions. Since then, the people of Wisconsin have demanded a recall election to oust the Republican state legislators (apparently being elected and trying to pass horrible bills is more offensive than being elected and refusing to show up for work at all).

Meanwhile, Republicans decided to pass their anti-union bill anyway, without the Democrats or a quorum. Was it legal for Republicans to pass the bill under those circumstances? Not exactly says a Wisconsin judge…

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Start messing with democracy and you'll find tyranny at your front door.

Earlier this week, I compared Wisconsin to a North African country. Now I think that comparison is unfair to North African countries.

The crisis in Wisconsin continues. Democratic state legislators are still on the lam from their jobs, denying the Wisconsin legislature the quorum necessary to conduct state business.

Some of our commenters think that fleeing the state to avoid a quorum call is just another procedural right given to the minority party, kind of like an ultimate filibuster. I think that’s a self-serving analysis. Quorum rules are there because reliable motorized transportation is a relatively modern innovation. Quorum rules are there because laws shouldn’t be passed by the first two guys to show up to work in the morning. Legislators don’t have a right to flee the state as a political maneuver to prevent democracy from occurring.

Of course, if Wisconsin Democrats don’t want to respect democracy, Wisconsin Republicans are more than happy to give them a big dose of tyranny. That’s just how Republicans roll…

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In our most recent practice area survey of the Above the Law readership, the most popular single response was “Intellectual Property.” Eighteen percent of survey respondents identified themselves as IP attorneys.

So many of you might be interested in the latest controversy to heat up the small-firm blogosphere. If you’re an IP lawyer, if you work at a small law firm, or if you’re a law student who enjoys intellectual-property hypotheticals, keep reading….

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Is Wisconsin experiencing the worst Super Bowl hangover ever?

Is there a huge difference between living in a North African country and living in the state of Wisconsin right now? Can somebody please send in Richard Engel to conduct an interview with a bearded lumberjack making a barricade out of cheese?

In case you haven’t been following along (and I understand that it’s not as exciting as the next Charlie Sheen interview), Wisconsin no longer has a functioning government. I’m not exaggerating. The Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican legislature basically want to take away the right of unions to collectively bargain.

In response, Democrats have fled the state. Again, I’m not exaggerating here. Instead of allowing democracy, however disagreeable the outcome, to play out, 14 Democratic legislators have simply decided not to play. They’ve fled, preventing the legislature from getting together a quorum to vote on Walker’s budget.

And man, are there protests. It’s getting to the point where if Wisconsin had a functioning government, it would probably declare martial law….

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billboard advertisement truth in advertising commercials.jpgThe performance of litigation as a Biglaw business line during the Great Recession has been widely viewed as disappointing. But at least one type of litigation seems to be picking up. From the New York Times:

A diamond is forever? Prove it.

Companies that were once content to fight in grocery-store aisles and on television commercials are now choosing a different route — filing lawsuits and other formal grievances challenging their competitors’ claims…. The goal is usually not money but market share. Companies file complaints to get competitors’ ads withdrawn or amended.

The cases themselves might seem a little absurd — an argument over hyped-up advertising copy that not many consumers even take at face value. Pantene has attacked Dove’s claim that its conditioner “repairs” hair better, and Iams has been challenged on one of its lines, “No other dog food stacks up like Iams.”

Dueling over dog food quality? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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Lile Moot Court UVA law competition.jpgI’ll admit, I did not participate in any kind of fake court moot court competitions during law school. It just wasn’t my thing. But for other students, moot court can be a really exciting way to pass the time while you are waiting for law school to stop charging you money. I totally respect that.
Unless people take it too seriously. When moot court turns into gunner heaven, it’s hard not to laugh at all the Lil’ Boies running around acting like the competition is more important than 1L torts.
But at UVA Law School, it looks like the people running the school’s William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition have taken things to an entirely new level of pettiness. A UVA 2L explains it this way:

[T]he Lile Moot Court competition is our intramural moot court that 240 2Ls are competing in. It is run by appx. 10 incredibly rude and power-hungry 3Ls … and they have been inconsiderate to say the least. It’s the talk of the campus, or at least of the 2Ls.

You see what happens, Larry? You see what happens when 3Ls don’t have secure firm jobs waiting for them upon graduation?
After the jump, the members of the UVA moot court board completely lose their ever lovin’ minds.

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Skip Gates.jpgElie here. On Wednesday, I took a closer look at the woman who called the Cambridge police on Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. I wondered if she could be held liable under a good Samaritan statute, and asked if we should hold good Samaritans to a higher standard.
Most readers felt that the woman was beyond reproach. She saw “two black males with backpacks” attempting to enter a house, and most people — including Professor Gates and President Obama — felt she acted appropriately when she called the police.
Legal Blog Watch has published a great analysis suggesting that Gates’s arrest was unwarranted. Even if you take the police officer’s word about what happened inside the house, it was unlikely that a prosecution against Gates for disorderly conduct could have survived (at least based on the evidence we have now; there are rumors of tapes).
I understand that I am hanging far out on a thin limb, but I remain far from convinced that the woman acted appropriately. I do think, hypothetically, that there is a cognizable legal claim Professor Gates could have against the woman who turned him in. Here is the applicable Massachusetts “good Samaritan” statute:

Chapter 258C: Section 13. “Good Samaritans”; liability

Section 13. No person who, in good faith, provides or obtains, or attempts to provide or obtain, assistance for a victim of a crime as defined in section one, shall be liable in a civil suit for damages as a result of any acts or omissions in providing or obtaining, or attempting to provide or obtain, such assistance unless such acts or omissions constitute willful, wanton or reckless conduct.

On Wednesday, I suggested that the standard for liability was reasonableness, as opposed to “willful, wanton or reckless conduct.” Obviously, a recklessness standard is much more difficult to prove.
But after the jump, I make my case. And then Mr. David Lat slaps me upside the head makes his case … that I need to be Rule 11-ed right back to Tolerance 101.

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orrick logo.gifLast week, we tangentially touched on the issue of California’s Proposition 8, which is titled: “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” The issue touched off a firestorm of comments, with many strong opinions for and against the measure.

Apparently, senior attorneys at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe also hold strong opinions about Prop. 8. Political divisions at the firm came to a head when Dean Criddle, a tax partner in the San Francisco office, made a $5,000 contribution to the Yes On 8 campaign. Upon learning of Criddle’s contribution, his colleague in the tax department and San Francisco office, of counsel Cameron Wolfe, sent out this email:

Sent: Sunday, September 28, 2008 9:57 PM


Subject: Orrick and the Proposition 8 Campaign

The publicity attendant to the $5,000 contribution to the Yes on 8 Campaign by an Orrick partner damages the reputation of Orrick as a progressive law firm supportive of equal rights for gay and lesbian people. This can adversely impact the firm in many ways, including hurting our ability to attract gay and lesbian recruits; turning off clients, existing and potential, that support equal rights for homosexuals; and making our current gay and lesbian work force feel like second class citizens.

Chief justice George’s eloquent exposition of the reasons why same sex marriage is a right that should be guaranteed to all gay and lesbian people need not be elaborated upon here. Obviously, the partner who made the $5,000 contribution had a right to believe the Chief Justice to be wrong and to make the contribution he did. It can be debated whether he should have foreseen that this action could damage Orrick. What can’t be debated is that we should try to counteract the damage that has occurred.

One thing that we as individuals working at the Orrick firm can do is to make personal contributions to the No on 8 Campaign. If enough of us do so, that may be newsworthy enough to generate positive publicity offsetting the present negative impression in the community on this important issue.

I urge each of you to make a contribution to No on 8, which can be sent as follows:

No on 8

Equality California

2370 Market St.

San Francisco, CA 94114

And be sure to indicate your affiliation with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP.

Thanks for your help.

Cameron Wolfe, Jr.

We can argue about whether gay marriage should be protected by the Constitution, but isn’t it a little bit odd to be advocating one right while trying to step on a separate Constitutional protection?

Another Orrick lawyer weighs in, after the jump.

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wolverine in the wilderness.jpgMichigan people, I feel your pain. The seven fumble loss to “The School That God Built, Then Abandoned” was terrible. You guys are trying to enjoy these last days of summer before the arctic wind sends you into underground bunkers. And clearly, you can’t lend out a cell phone/ask for your cell phone back without getting dragged into a heated exchange that is mocked by all.

I understand how in that environment petty slights can turn into glorious insults. You demand satisfaction! But you justice seekers might want to turn somewhere other than the University of Michigan’s law school list-serv. The following email was sent by a 1L who has been on campus for approximately 11 minutes and 6 seconds:

Dear Student Body,

Whoever the SLEAZE is who likes taking people’s lunches (in particular, 1/2′s of subway sandwiches bought on one day and saved for the next) from the refrigerator in the student lounge, STOP. In case you aren’t aware, it’s stealing. Perhaps you’re practicing for a career in corporate law, but law school isn’t the place to practice this particular skill. Also, in case you aren’t aware, here are a few reasons not to do this:

1) Stealing lunches erodes collegiality among the student body.

2) Stealing lunches inconveniences the person from whom you steal by forcing them to go get lunch elsewhere, thereby wasting time and resources.

3) Stealing lunches can cause an additional inconvenience with having to buy lunch elsewhere. For most of us, the couple dollar loss isn’t really the issue, but imagine not having your wallet with you on a day when someone has stolen your lunch? You must either do without or seek out somebody to borrow from, both of which are annoying.

If you’re really so poor you can’t afford lunch, the law school will provide you with an emergency loan. If you’re just a sleaze, either take an ethics class or come talk to me.

Well allow me to retort.

1) I once got robbed and to make myself feel better, I called it “sharing” instead of “stealing.”

2) Isn’t forcing someone to get their lunch somewhere other than Subway kind of a good thing?

3) Not having your wallet? The only guys I know that don’t carry around their wallet whenever they leave the house are super rich or homeless. Which one are you?

The rest of the maize and blue electronically punch this guy after the jump.

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