Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Trademarks that Disparage, Part II

A previous blog post discussed the United States Supreme Court's consideration of Lee v. Tam, a case involving whether an Asian-American rock band was permitted to register a potentially offensive trademark.  In a 7-0 decision this week, the Court sided with the band.

More from NPR News:

Members of the rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.

The Slants' leader Simon Tam filed a lawsuit after the Patent and Trademark Office kept the band from registering its name and rejected its appeal, citing the Lanham Act, which prohibits any trademark that could "disparage ... or bring ... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," as the court states.

After a federal court agreed with Tam and his bands, the Patent and Trademark Office sued the band to avoid being compelled to register its name as a trademark. On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with The Slants.

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court. Contrary to the Government's contention, trademarks are private, not government speech."

The decision is likely to have an impact on other pending disputes, including challenges to the marks held by the Washington Redskins.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Creativity in Employment Contracts

Seattle Seahawks football player Eddie Lacy recently received a $55,000 employment bonus - not for his performance on the field, but for weighing a required weight at the beginning of training camp.

ESPN.com reported on this and other clauses in the employment contracts of professional athletes, including:
  • why Michael Jordan's "love for the game" clause specifically allowing him to play basketball anytime, anywhere;
  • why Baseball Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers was paid a bonus to grow his famous mustache; and
  • why English footballer Stefan Schwarz was prohibited from traveling into space.
The takeaway from these unique clauses: when drafting your employment contracts, don't be afraid to think outside the box.  A creative contract may be just what is needed to attract or retain a talented employee. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Packing Up A Business Entity

New business owners often have an understanding that certain legal formalities must be taken when a business opens - but they may not know that similar formalities apply if and when the business closes. In fact, if a limited liability company ("LLC") or other business entity has ceased operations, it must be formally terminated through a process called dissolution. 

Under Ohio law, a limited liability company ("LLC") must be dissolved if it has fulfilled its purpose or there is a unanimous agreement amongst the members to dissolve the company. A court may also instruct the LLC to wind up its business. As a final step after its affairs are concluded, the LLC and/or member must file a Certificate of Dissolution with the Ohio Secretary of State. 

Depending on the type and purpose of the entity, other actions may need to be taken at the time of dissolution. For example, businesses which are closing may also have certain federal or state tax responsibilities to fulfill before the company is officially out of business.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All You Need is .... A Trademark?

From the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office:

Are you a solo performer?  A member of a band?  Do you want nationwide protection for your name?

As your music grows in popularity, so does your need to help consumers identify you as the source of your unique sound.  One way to do that is by registering your name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  Federal registration provides nationwide benefits that you can use to enforce your trademark rights.

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office provides the answers to many frequently asked questions regarding musical trademarks, such as:
In addition to obtaining trademarks, musical artists should consider forming a limited liability company to protect their assets or filing federal copyright applications to preserve rights in individual works.  Contact our office today if we can be of assistance with these or other legal matters related to your music.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Opening Day Read: Baseball Mascots and the Law

Just in time for Opening Day 2017, Attorney Christian H. Brill and Prof. Howard W. Brill have published a comprehensive examination of legal disputes involving mascots and America's national pastime.

"Baseball Mascots and the Law" discusses a variety of legal questions involving mascots, such as:
Originally presented at the 27th Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, the article covers such areas of law as tort law, intellectual property law, and employment law.

The entire article is available from the Kansas Law Review.