Whether or not your friends and family get a kick out of your misery at work, that online post of yours might tick off your employer. But what rights do employers have to restrain their employees from complaining about them online? Can employers punish employees for posting their grievances online? How do courts differentiate between “protected” and “tantrum” posts? What is the Government’s view on employees’ social media postings? In 2011, Pier Sixty LLC fired Hernan Perez for labeling his supervisor a “nasty M.F.” and using similarly profane language against his supervisor’s family in a Facebook post that ended with a plea to “Vote YES for the UNION.” In a 2016 decision, the Second Circuit enforced the National Labor Research Board’s (NLRB) decision and found that the employee was protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because the post was in relation to a union-related activity.
Today, May 22, 2017, in the TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the proper venue for a patent infringement lawsuit is (1) the state of incorporation for the defendant, or (2) a district where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. The Court held that for purposes of the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. §1400(b), a domestic corporation “resides” only in its State of incorporation, rejecting the argument that §1400(b) incorporates the broader definition of corporate “residence” contained in the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. §1391(c).
As we have written about time and time again, and as celebrities and influencers gain more and more followers on social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, they must exercise care when endorsing the use of sponsored products and services. Under the current legal landscape, posting endorsements on social media can not only affect the user’s brand, it can also expose one to legal liability. For its part, the Federal Trade Commission provides clear regulations regarding the posting of endorsements for products or services. When a product or service is featured on a social media post, and the poster is receiving some sort of compensation for the post (including receiving the product/service at a discount or for free), a poster may have to disclose that he or she is somehow being compensated, if the audience’s knowledge of the sponsorship would affect the credibility they give the poster’s endorsement. The FTC’s website contains common Q&As regarding when an endorsement must be disclosed on social media and how it must be done. Continue reading →
Every day, businesses extend more of their services to the internet in an effort to cater to millennials and upcoming generations of consumers. Those in the wine industry are no exception. Though somewhat slow to adopt online and digital marketing in the beginning, businesses in the alcohol industry are catching up. One site called the Tasting Room, touted as the fastest growing wine club in the country, offers an online questionnaire that can determine affordable wines that a customer supposedly would like and then deliver them directly to the customer’s door. Part of the assessment involves receiving a tasting kit for the consumer to taste and rate and then completing a survey on the company’s website. Tasting Room’s algorithm then determines appropriate wine selections for you. The customer also rates subsequent shipments so that the wine selections become even more finely tuned over time.
Almost everyone (even my parents) has seen the Crying Michael Jordan meme popping up around the internet and social media. Crying Jordan has appeared in the standard meme form of photoshopped images and gifs but has also inspired Halloween masks and even customized Air Jordan sneakers. TMZ reports that Jordan doesn’t have a problem with it, as long as no one uses it to “promote their commercial interests.” But what if he changed his mind or someone started using it for commercial gain? Could Jordan protect himself against “unauthorized memeing”?
Voting in local, state and national elections could be viewed as a rudimentary form of social media, by which voters share their views and preferences via selection of a candidate or party platform. The distance between this “old school” social media and its multi-headed modern form has shrunk thanks to the advent of electronic voting machines and online voting. But, as always, with the implementation of new technologies comes new risks. Even though some progress has been made to shore up and protect the voting process from cybersecurity threats, there are plenty of ways government data breaches can “rock the vote” outside of the voting booth.
The President’s January 23, 2017, executive memorandum implemented a federal hiring freeze. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one of those agencies affected by the President’s memorandum. While such a hiring freeze may not have an immediate impact on patent application pendency and/or examination quality, due to the relatively high attrition rate of the patent examining corps, the examination timeline and quality may be affected in the future. In particular, technologies having greater upfront value, including internet-based technologies and platforms, and clients relying on patent portfolios for valuation will be most acutely impacted. As illustrated below, the pendency backlog may inevitably increase and the examination quality suffer.
In a December post titled “Freedom to Yelp: Congress Curbs ToS Overreach,” we discussed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, then just awaiting President Obama’s signature to become law. That happened, and the law goes into effect March 14. In their recent client alert on the new federal law, colleagues Michael Heuga, Amy Pierce and Catherine Meyer delve into the details, examining what exactly the law prohibits, what is still permitted, and what possible penalties await businesses found to be in violation.