The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
The Business Litigators
Patrick Austermuehle and Andrew Murphy were selected by Super Lawyers as Rising Stars
Published on:

The line between inspiration and theft continues to be blurry in the world of music, and as it turns out, Lana Del Rey is not exempt from copyright claims arising from those fuzzy definitions.

The latest controversy revolves around Del Rey’s new song, “Get Free,” which is featured on her “Lust for Life” album. According to Warner/Chappell, the music publisher for the band Radiohead, “Get Free” sounds enough like Radiohead’s song, “Creep,” which was a hit in 1993, that the songwriters of “Creep” allegedly deserve at least partial credit for “Get Free,” as well as a percentage of the song’s royalties.

What makes this dispute different is the lack of consensus as to whether a copyright lawsuit actually exists.

On January 7th, Del Rey posted a tweet saying that Radiohead’s song was not an inspiration for her own hit, but that the band continued to demand 100% of the song’s royalties. Del Rey said she had offered as much as 40% of the song’s royalties in negotiations that had lasted a few months, but that Radiohead’s attorneys refused to accept anything less than 100%. Del Rey concluded the tweet by saying they would settle the dispute in court. Continue reading

Published on:

An important ingredient in an allegation of stealing trade secrets is that you must be able to prove you suffered financially as a result of the alleged theft. With technology changing as quickly as it is these days, it’s important for anyone thinking about suing over misappropriated software to consider how much the technology is really worth.

According to a jury, attorney Peter Francis Geraci failed to account for these two factors before filing his lawsuit against another attorney, Thomas G. Macey, and a computer coder, R. William Amidon.

Amidon had created GapC for Geraci’s law firm, Geraci Law, LLC. According to the federal trade secrets lawsuit, Amidon allegedly stole Geraci’s proprietary software and gave it to Macey, a competitor of Geraci Law, LLC. Macey then allegedly used the stolen software to create a similar program for his own law firm, Legal Helpers P.C., which has since gone out of business.

Geraci used GapC from 1996 to 2006, at which point he switched to a different software to perform the same function. He sued Amidon and Macey for $30 million, although U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah capped the possible damages awards at just over $2 million before sending the jury off to make their decision.

Amidon and his attorneys argued that, not only was the software not proprietary, but that it was already out of date when he wrote it. Continue reading

Published on:

Family disputes can turn nasty, as can business disputes, but there are few things worse than business disputes between family members.

Recently, Robert F. Tigani Jr. and his brother, Chris Tigani, filed a lawsuit against their father, Robert F. Tigani Sr., for allegedly abusing his position as trustee to divert funds and assets away from his children for his own benefit.

Tigani Sr. is a chairman of N.K.S. Distributors, a franchise of Anheuser-Busch for Delaware that was founded in 1960. The lawsuit alleges he took advantage of his position as chairman, and as trustee of an irrevocable trust that was created by his parents (who founded the company) to ensure the company remained in the family.

According to the complaint, when the trust was created in 1986, Tigani Sr. owned 42% of N.K.S. shares and 58% were set aside to benefit Robert Jr., Chris, and their children, with Tigani Sr. appointed trustee. But the lawsuit alleges Tigani Sr. abused his position to issue himself extra shares of the company, giving him a controlling interest in the distribution company. He allegedly concealed the improper issuance of these funds from his sons, and when they suspected him of misconduct, he allegedly refused to show them company records of the transactions. Continue reading

Published on:

While many have been cheering the fact that more and more women are coming out of the shadows to talk about the ways in which they were sexually harassed and abused, the current administration is still trying to silence those same women who have had to suffer through the shame and humiliation of having been attacked by members of the opposite gender.

Many of the advancements made under President Barack Obama’s administration are being pulled back under the current administration and many students fear Title IX protections will soon follow. With the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary, advocates for those who have been targets of sexual harassment and assault are afraid that much of the steps forward that have been made regarding Title IX in recent years is about to be undone.

New Title IX rules created by DeVos are expected to be announced any day now, and considering DeVos’s recent comments defending those who believe they have been wrongly accused of sexual assault, many people are worried the new rule will work to protect them, rather than those on whom they prey. Continue reading

Published on:

Bitcoin has been all the talk by way of investors and the question arose this week when prices dropped as to the legality of a Bitcoin exchange shutting down when prices were falling. It is alleged that trade halts were made for a period of two hours.  The price drop was rather substantial from $20,000 to $11,000.  It is said that the outage was for reason of technical difficulties and not intended to rescue the currency from free-falling, as the legality of doing that would be questionable. In fact,  it is illegal for trading to be put to halt without following the Securities and Exchange Commission’s guidelines. Foreign currency exchanges are less regulated, and the for such reasons there are increased risks for loss, malfunctioning trading systems, and fraud.

Some even speculate that Bitcoin exchanges may stop completely if much fraud, technical difficulty, glitches or hackers and/or malware become common.  Legal precedent set in this area of law is rare, though civil litigation in this area has started.  The stoppage has certainly started lawsuits claiming damages. Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange in Tokyo, collapsed after it halted withdrawals and eventually conceded that its holdings, worth approximately $65 million at the time, had been stolen by hackers.

The site also came under great scrutiny for possible “insider trading” among its employees before the site started to support Bitcoin Cash, a fork of the Bitcoin project. CEO Brian Armstrong pledged that the company will investigate those allegations internally.

In a previous decision in around late August, a federal judge ordered the return of 11,000 bitcoins worth about $30 million in a decision considered the first of its kind. The ruling stemmed from a class action in which plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had stolen their money and fled to China.  The judgment highlights the decentralized nature of bitcoin, with no person or authority in charge.  It makes it difficult for winning plaintiffs to get their bitcoins that they are entitled to back. Continue reading

Published on:

Some companies’ products have become so associated with a particular symbol or color in the public mind that it is effectively impossible to separate them. Think of McDonald’s “golden arches” or the Apple logo.

Almost everyone is familiar with the green-and-yellow logo with the leaping deer found on John Deere tractors, lawnmowers, and caps. Deere & Co. wants to make sure that those colors remain associated with Deere products and only Deere products, and it is celebrating a recent trademark victory in a Kentucky federal court.

The Illinois-based farm equipment giant brought a trademark infringement suit against FIMCO, Inc., a South Dakota-based maker of pesticide sprayers, for its use of green and yellow on its equipment. The complaint alleged federal trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution, as well as trademark infringement under Kentucky state law.

Deere’s iconic color scheme was registered as a trademark in 1988, and the company has been aggressive about enforcing it in court. Deere claimed that by using the recognizable color combination, FIMCO knowingly attempted to associate its products with the Deere brand in the public mind, with the effect of diluting the value of the trademark. Continue reading

Published on:

Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on The Apprentice back in 2007 is attempting to sue President Trump for defamation claims which he denies yet claims her suit cannot proceed until his Presidency ends. Zervos alleges that, while she was in meetings with Trump that were supposed to be about business, Trump allegedly kissed her on the mouth multiple times and touched her breasts without her consent.

Trump denied the accusations, publicly calling them “lies” and “nonsense,” but Zervos is not letting this go. She and 18 other women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct and Zervos is currently suing Trump for defamation. The lawsuit asks Trump to take back the statements he made about her, apologize to her, and provide financial compensation.

Trump’s attorneys have filed a motion to have the case dismissed, but if Justice Jennifer Schecter refuses, Trump’s presidential campaign might be required to release any and all documents they have relating to all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct – not just Zervos.

Trump’s attorneys argued that a state court does not have jurisdiction over a sitting president. They have also asked to delay the case with a stay if the judge does decide to allow the case to proceed. That would put off the trial until after Trump is no longer president.

Zervos’s attorney cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Clinton v. Jones to allow a sexual harassment case against President Clinton to continue in the federal courts while Clinton was still president. Trump’s attorneys argued that decision does not apply to the current case because that lawsuit was filed in federal court, rather than state court. Continue reading

Published on:

Hours after excerpts from a book that were published and prior to the book being released, lawyers on behalf of the President had threatened the author by using cease and desist letters.  These letters threatened legal action for defamation due to alleged falsehoods.  In a letter sent to former Presidential advisor Steven Bannon, the letter stated that “legal action is imminent.,”  Another letter to the publisher demanded the book’s author and publisher halt the book’s release and “issue a full and complete retraction and apology” or else face legal action.  Organizations such as the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild, and the National Coalition Against Censorships have come forward to condemn the attempt to halt the book from getting into the hands of the public.  The cease and desist letter also meant that the author moves the date up to an earlier release date in order to garner greater media attention.  Nor did the letter clearly point to any specific facts as untrue.  As such, a media frenzy ensued.

It is common knowledge that the First Amendment protects such forms of writing in the right to exercise Freedom of Speech provisions.  Despite such warnings and the violation of an employment contract that was in place, experts agree that it is likely that such a contract would be considered unenforceable due to the nature of public interest in the matter.  This is even though the agreement included terms which specified that included nonusage of disparaging remarks and non-disclosure terms against the Trump Family or Organization.  First Amendment lawyers have chimed in and claim that agreements cannot be enforceable or remain “confidential.” This is the first time that a President has ever sought or obtained such a kind of agreement.  The reason for that being, that these forms of agreements are against public policy.  Unless there were certain governmental secrets which could threaten national security, there must be a policy justification.  Preventing criticism is not justifiable under the circumstances. It must be noted, however, had this been a corporate situation, a finding may have been different. Continue reading

Published on:

Marie Antionette’s, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” has been woven into the fabric of an American case in today’s age concerning gay rights and freedom of speech.  The cost of regulating free speech is quantified by the emotional, political and economic costs overall.  These aspects are weighed against the cost of allowing the speech to flourish.   Freedom of speech is a value, not a principle and it is getting harder and harder for the courts to assess it in a political climate in which America remains divided.

In Colorado, a gay couple was denied the right to have a wedding cake made by a baker who seemed to have questioned their religious beliefs by having signed up in the store saying: “We do not bake cakes for gay weddings.”

Many would agree that the idea of freedom of speech is not permitted to say anything anybody thinks outright. It means balancing values of a given view to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse on an equal footing. It includes someone’s humanity and their right to participate in political speech as long as it is not attacked, demeaned or questioned. People should not be shut down due to individual expression.  In this instance, many would believe that a right to have equal access to a baker includes freedom of speech or practice.

Colorado civil rights commission found the refusal to bake a cake for the gay couple in violation of its state anti-discrimination law.   In the high court, the bakery argued that the lower courts’ findings violate its rights to both religious freedom and free speech. That ruling had the ability to divide people further as some view it as not being an act of free speech but rather one of service and giving rise to an ability to boycott.  For such a reason the matter is now going before the Supreme Court and a decision to be made next year in June. Continue reading

Published on:

Educational amendments of 1972 protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities which are recipients of federal financial assistance.  In the event of discrimination, taking legal action can be made under Title IX in order to empower oneself or other students.  We have compiled the following resource to assist in as to how one is able to take legal action with the guidance of legal experts and you may wish to contact this firm if you feel that you are a recipient, or know of someone that may have endured discrimination.

Who is eligible to file?

Anyone who believes that they have been subject to acts of discrimination on the basis of sex against any person or group in a program that receives financial assistance may file a complaint with the OCR under Title IX.  The bar to overcome is that of a general “hostile sexual environment.” All complaints should be sent to the OCR enforcement office that serves the state in which the alleged conduct occurred.

When to file?

Complaints must be filed within 180 days of alleged discrimination unless there is an extension granted “for good cause” by the Enforcement Office Director.  Prior to filing, other options that may be available include using the school’s institutional grievance processes to have the issue addressed and resolved.  By law, a complaint does not have to use the institutional process prior to filing with the OCR.  A timeline does change should a person use the institutional process for grievance, with an allowance of an additional 60 days of the last act of the institutional grievance process. Continue reading