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While there are many people who dream of becoming an internationally renowned singer/songwriter, the position does have its drawbacks. For starters, many of them don’t own the rights to their own songs for their most lucrative years, and even when the songs’ copyrights have ended, many songwriters still have trouble regaining rights to the music they created.

For example, Sir Paul McCartney, writer and cowriter of some of the most successful songs of all time (including “All You Need Is Love” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”) is currently suing Sony/ATV for allegedly refusing to give up the rights to his songs.

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, authors and creators are allowed to reclaim the rights to their art from publishers after a certain amount of time has passed. Since that amount of time has expired for many of the Beatles’ timeless songs, McCartney should be able to reclaim ownership of his songs, but Sony/ATV has decided to put up a fight. Continue reading

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Few people take much of what Trump says seriously, especially when he goes on one of his Twitter rants. According to Judge Barbara Jaffe, a New York judge, that includes allegedly defamatory remarks Trump makes about people who criticizes him.

In the spring of 2015, Cheryl Jacobus, a public relations consultant, was allegedly invited by Trump’s campaign to interview for the position of communications director for the campaign. Jacobus said she declined because she did not want to work for Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time.

More than six months later, Jacobus went on television to question Trump’s motives for threatening to not attend presidential debates, as well as his claims that he was completely funding his own campaign. She criticized his debating skills and insulted his intelligence. Trump, as always, fired back on Twitter.

Trump’s tweets claimed Jacobus “begged” his campaign to hire her and they turned her down. He also implied she was merely disgruntled from having been rejected and that was why she was making the negative comments about Trump on TV. Furthermore, Trump also claimed Jacobus had no credibility. Continue reading

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When employees separate from their employer, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, their first instinct is often to get electronic files and documents out of company possession and into their possession as fast as they can. Often these files are of a personal nature, but when they relate to the person’s employment, they may be protected by any employment agreement the employee signed.

Thus, former Angie’s List employees according to Angie’s List allegedly violated confidentiality and nonsolicitation agreements when they emailed company information to themselves and texted coworkers about joining them at a competing company. An Indiana appellate court recently overturned a trial court ruling that had denied Angie’s List’s requested injunctions against the two ex-employees (Angie’s List, Inc. v. Myers, et. al, 2016 WL 7493406 (Ind. App. Ct.)).

Rick M. and Maggie L. were sales representatives for Angie’s List. They had signed employment agreements promising to return any proprietary information and not to solicit company employees for one year after their employment ended with the business review website. Maggie was allowed to use her home computer and email as part of her job. They informed the company separately in December 2015 that they were leaving to work for competitor HomeAdvisor, then proceeded to email documents from their office computers to their personal email accounts. Maggie claimed her office computer contained personal information, but later admitted that the emailed material included a list of Angie’s List salespersons. Continue reading

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California-based home furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware is accusing two former executives of helping competitor Crate & Barrel steal its successful in-store food and beverage concept. In a trade secrets lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court January 30, Restoration Hardware (RH) claims that Crate & Barrel undertook an aggressive campaign to lure away its top executives in an effort to turn around its own declining performance, eventually recruiting chief development officer, Douglas D., and Kimberly A., director of food and beverage (Restoration Hardware, Inc. v. Diemoz, Alheim, Crate & Barrel Inc.)

“Crate effectively sought to steal a page from the successful RH playbook,” the suit charges.

RH unveiled the furniture showroom/restaurant concept at its new Chicago store in October 2015, the site of the renovated century-old Three Arts Club in the Gold Coast. Dubbed “the Gallery at the 3 Arts Club,” the multilevel facility features wine and coffee bars and culinary offerings. Douglas and Kimberly had worked on the rollout. Douglas left RH to become CEO of Illinois-based Crate earlier in 2015, shortly before the store opened. Continue reading

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Some companies will do anything to get their hands on valuable trade secrets from their competitors. According to Olaplex, a startup based in California, L’Oréal allegedly tried everything from poaching employees to allegedly offering to acquire the company in order to gain access to allegedly sensitive, privileged and secret information. What was at stake was a alleged secret formula designed to protect hair from damage during the dyeing process.

Starting around the middle of 2015, L’Oréal allegedly tried to hire Olaplex employees it thought were responsible for creating the revolutionary product. When that didn’t work, L’Oréal allegedly approached Olaplex about possibly acquiring the company.

As a direct result of talks between the two companies to negotiate the terms under which the French-based company might acquire the U.S.-based company, L’Oréal was allegedly given access to confidential and proprietary information that had not yet been made available to the public, including an unpublished application for a patent on a product designed to allow customers to dye their hair without causing damage. Continue reading

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In the age of electronic communication, a recent case in the eastern district of Wisconsin serves as a cautionary tale for employees who accept employment offers with a mouse click. They should be aware that they could be agreeing to noncompete covenants with that click.

In BMO Harris Bank NA v. Elizabeth Lailer and Robert W. Baird & Co. (2016 WL 6155997), BMO won a preliminary injunction against a former employee it claims was taking its clients and harming its reputation in violation of an electronic employment agreement.

Elizabeth L. worked in the Brookfield, Wisconsin, branch of BMO Bank, serving the bank’s high-net worth clientele.  In December 2015, she was offered a new position as “private wealth advisor” and vice president at the bank. She claimed she accepted the transfer without seeing or being made aware of an offer letter or any terms therein. However, BMO produced evidence that Elizabeth had received an emailed offer and had followed steps on the company’s online portal to accept the position. The offer letter, which contained nonsolicitation, confidentiality and trade secret provisions, appeared in the “attachments” portion of the acceptance portal. It also required her to return all company property upon termination, including client information. Continue reading

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Although allegations of rape are still too often ignored, there are laws and college procedures in place to protect students (both the alleged victim and the alleged rapist), even when colleges and universities fail to take action. Victims of sexual harassment and assault can file a complaint under Title IX, a federal law that forbids schools from giving preference to certain students over others based on gender.

According to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Stanford University had more cases of sexual harassment and assault open for review than any other American University. And that was before Stanford made headlines when its student, Brock Turner, was convicted of sexual assault and given a sentence lenient enough to incite heated controversy.

Now the prestigious school is facing another lawsuit filed by Equal Rights Advocates, a California-based nonprofit, and two law firms filing on behalf of one of the alleged victims.

The lawsuit alleges the prestigious university repeatedly failed to properly respond to complaints brought by three different victims over a period of three years of an alleged sexual predator on campus. Continue reading

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Attorneys generally get a bad reputation from those who think they’re motivated too much by money and not enough by serving their clients, but according to a recent indictment against Paul Hansmeier and John Steele, these two attorneys were allegedly using the courts to extort money from their opponents, rather than their clients.

The two attorneys attended the University of Minnesota Law School together, and while Hansmeier still lives in Minnesota, Steele is licensed in Illinois. According to the indictment, the two attorneys allegedly created sham companies in 2010, which they used to acquire the rights to certain pornographic films, some of which they made themselves. Then Steele and Hansmeier allegedly uploaded their copyrighted porn to file-sharing websites, knowing people would download their porn. Steele and Hansmeier would then file a copyright lawsuit against the individual on behalf of their “clients” – which were, in fact, the companies they themselves owned.

Then Steele and Hansmeier would allegedly petition the courts to require internet service providers to provide the identities of the people who had downloaded the porn. Once they had acquired those identities, the attorneys allegedly offered to settle the lawsuit for about $4,000. The alternative was to face public exposure and fines that could potentially get as high as $150,000. Many of their victims were either too humiliated and/or financially incapable of dealing with the lawsuit, so they often accepted the settlement offer. Continue reading

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The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is pretty clear on the definition of overtime and what employers are required to provide for their workers who spend more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week working. All hourly, nonexempt employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked.

But according to a recent wage and hour class action lawsuit against Bed Bath & Beyond (BBB), the retail chain allegedly miscalculated the overtime wages earned by its managers and customer service representatives in several of its New Jersey locations. In doing so, BBB allegedly violated both the FLSA and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.

The named plaintiffs were each paid an annual salary ranging from $63,000 to $70,000. Rather than figure an hourly rate based on their annual salary, BBB allegedly took its employee’s weekly base salary, divided it by the number of hours the employee worked that week, divided the solution in half, then multiplied that number by the number of hours the employee spent working after 40 that particular week. In addition to allegations that the formula violated the FLSA, the wage and hour complaint further alleges that it resulted in the class members receiving less than minimum wage for all the hours they spent working.

Certain employees can be held exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirement, but only if they are paid a salary of at least $23,600 and meet very specific conditions. These qualifications include providing administrative assistance directly to an executive, spending more than half their time at work managing other employees (including weighing in on the hiring and firing of employees), or exercising a particular set of skills or level of education in the course of performing their jobs. Any employee who does not meet all the necessary requirements for one of the categories of overtime exemption is entitled to the premium overtime compensation for all the time they spend working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. Continue reading

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Selling franchise rights is tricky. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity for both parties to expand and grow their businesses in a mutually beneficial way. On the other hand, because they’re both operating under the same brand, they both bear some responsibility for the way the business under the franchise is run. This is why franchisors include training in their franchise agreements: to make sure the franchisee runs the business in ways that are consistent with the brand.

After a recent decision by a California federal judge, companies may want to include education on employment laws and regulations in the training they provide for their franchisees.

The lawsuit involved a class of employees who worked at five different McDonald’s locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The plaintiffs allege they were denied the proper compensation when they worked overtime, the wages they did receive did not include all the hours they spent working, and they were not compensated for the time and money they spent on maintaining the uniforms they were required to wear to work. They also alleged they were denied meal and rest breaks, both of which are required by California labor law, but the judge dismissed those charges.

The McDonald’s locations in question were owned and operated by The Edward J. Smith and Valerie S. Smith Family Limited Partnership and that company settled with the class of plaintiffs for $700,000. Continue reading