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Orange County Business & Commercial Law Blog

Small firm representation with large firm results

When your California business is considering hiring a law firm to handle a commercial dispute, you may may be uncertain about whether you should go with a large one or a small one. The answer to that question largely depends on the goals you are trying to achieve, and often, a small firm may be a better fit for your business over the long term.

Smaller firms often have a better ability to provide personalized care for their business clients, establishing relationships that are profitable and long-lasting for the companies they represent. Due to the large number of staff in a larger firm, the overhead associated with legal representation is often more substantial. The ability of small firms to utilize cutting-edge technology in helping to represent their clients also allows them to provide the same level of representation as that provided by a large firm, but at a fraction of the cost and with an ongoing emphasis on excellence.

Google faces a class action lawsuit in privacy policy dispute

A California tech giant is involved in a legal battle with their customers involving the use of personal information. Though the company attempted to stop the lawsuit, it has been given the go-ahead to proceed.

In September 2013, a customer who purchased an email app from the Google Play Store filed a class action contract dispute lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit claimed that the Mountain View-based search company was collecting personal information through another app, Google Wallet. Google was then making that personal information available to other app developers, such as the maker of the email app purchased by the plaintiff. The personal information collected included physical addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

The interplay of social media and intellectual property

An important part of the business strategy for many California businesses is having an online social media presence. Many businesses have accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in order to reach a broader customer base. Sometimes, a business may stumble across a violation of their trademark or copyrighted work on the Internet, and they may wonder what to do about it.

Some violations may actually benefit a business if the person is a blogger promoting the business's product, for example. Businesses may want to choose to ignore violations of this type. Other violations, such as a company's registering the business's name on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, may be more problematic. Businesses may also find content for which they own the rights has been copied and posted elsewhere.

SCOTUS ruling on trademark usage

California businesses and owners who are obligated to submit to the discretion of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board may not have the right to undertake further litigation once a decision has been handed down, according to a ruling from the United States Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that a precedent exists for the TTAB to hold ultimate discretionary authority concerning certain trademark law decisions.

The decision, which involved a case concerning intellectual property and unfair competition practices, bolsters the authority of the TTAB to render administrative and binding judgement in certain cases. This is known as issue preclusion, in which a decision rendered administratively on a particular point of law by a duly authorized body such as the TTAB may not be challenged in further litigation. Writing for the majority, one justice argued that the notion of issue preclusion eliminated the plaintiff's right to pursue court-based civil action on the matter once the TTAB's decision was made.

Deceptive trade practices in California

When a business or individual engages in behavior that is designed to mislead others about the qualities of a product in order to get them to purchase it, the activity is called a deceptive trade practice. Federal law provides a uniform law that applies to such activities in all states, and the practices are also prohibited under state law.

The Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, or UDTPA, is the federal law that addresses deceptive actions. The act prohibits businesses and individuals from making deceptive representations about a product. An example of a covered activity would be odometer tampering, but the act covers all misrepresentations made to induce a sale.

Heirs of Marvin Gaye win millions in copyright infringement suit

A jury in California sided with the family of the late R&B legend Marvin Gaye who sued singers Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for infringing Gaye's copyrights with their song "Blurred Lines." An award of almost $7.4 million was granted to the artist's three children.

"Blurred Lines" was one of the biggest hit songs of 2013. Court testimony revealed that Williams and Thicke each earned over $7 million from the song. Williams and Thicke have been very successful, and Williams is a Grammy winner. The lead attorney for Williams and Thicke maintained that the performers had composed the song independently and only meant to emulate the classic R&B sound. Other legal critics of the verdict claimed that it would have a negative effect on other music professionals.

Settlment reached on large employee antitrust case

Despite earlier criticism from a U.S. District Court Judge in California, Apple Inc. and Google Inc. have reached a preliminary settlement in a suit about actions that violated antitrust laws. This $415 million settlement is reportedly the second largest settlement awarded to a group of workers.

One source reports that the judge presiding over this case cited that there was "ample evidence" that the companies conspired in order to avoid hiring the same employees, which might be construed as an antitrust violation, and the judge called an earlier settlement offer of $324.5 million insufficient. The $415 million settlement faces final approval in July, and around 64,000 technical employees would receive about $5,077 each from the settlement. If the case went to trial, it was suggested that the total damages could have been worth more than $9 billion.

Protecting intellectual property

Investors and entrepreneurs living in California may be interested in learning more about how to avoid trademark infringement and protect their own ideas. Trademark and patent exposure may present substantial problems as the business matures and becomes more successful. Many claim that small businesses are at a disadvantage when it comes to managing intellectual property, patent and trademark protection.

Government agencies suggest that as little as 15 percent of the small businesses conducting transactions overseas are aware that they need to file for additional protections. These types of establishments are often lacking the resources, expertise or knowledge required to prevent theft of any products, ideas or brands associated with the business. It is not uncommon to find businesses that have inadequate protections established for physical products or trademarks. Insufficient patent protection may lead to domestic disputes and extensive legal proceedings.

Ina Garten files suit over look-alike frozen dinners

According to court documents, Ina Garten, who is better known as the Barefoot Contessa, filed a lawsuit against a California company in a Manhattan federal court on Feb. 17. In her complaint, Ms. Garten alleges the company, OFI Imports, Inc., sold frozen dinners that looked like those marketed by her without permission.

Ms. Garten has a cooking show on the Food Network called "The Barefoot Contessa", and at one time operated a store on Long Island under that name. The frozen dinners were previously sold under a license from Ms. Garten by Contessa Premium Foods from February 2013 until the company went out of business in 2014. Reportedly, Ms. Garten had requested that OFI stop selling the meals, but the company reportedly refused to do so.

Contract breaches and remedies in California

Most businesses will enter into written contracts in order to procure or provide needed goods or services. In the event a party breaches a contract, the other business may suffer losses because of its reliance on the contract's performance.

In some cases, a contract breach may be relatively minor. In those instances, it is likely to be able to be resolved by the businesses without necessitating court litigation. For example, in the event that a business is late in providing goods, the two businesses may negotiate that the delinquent party pay the other the amount it lost due to the delay.

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Klein & Wilson

Klein & Wilson
326 Old Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

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Phone: 949-631-3300
Toll Free: 877-857-0073
Fax: 949-631-3703

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