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Bill Maher Prevails Over Donald Trump Lawsuit By Sitting and Waiting for the Donald to Figure Out to Drop It Himself

In February, I wrote about a particularly fake-haired boneheaded lawsuit that Donald Trump brought against comedian Bill Maher.  As you may recall, Trump accused Maher of breach of contract based on a joke that Maher had made on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in which he had jokingly — really, completely obviously, jokingly — offered $5 million to the charity of Trump’s choice (the Hair Club for Men was Maher’s suggestion) if the real-estate mogul-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-national-punchline could provide proof that he was not, in fact, “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”  Ignoring the scientific impossibility of humans and orangutans being capable of producing offspring, and surely torturing his poor lawyer (whom he conscripted to respond to Maher), Trump purported to “accept” this offer by sending Maher a letter enclosing a copy of his birth certificate (short form only, though!) and demanding payment of the $5 million.  When Maher did not respond to the letter, Trump went bananas and filed a lawsuit.

After recounting Bill Maher’s hilarious response to the lawsuit, I boldly joined the near-consensus of legal observers in predicting that Trump would lose the lawsuit.  And I’m here to report, I was wrong — Trump never even had a chance to lose the case, because he dismissed the lawsuit himself, perhaps as a result of his lawyers reaching the same conclusion I did.  (Or perhaps, Trump’s simian brain finally realized that the situation had evolved beyond his control.)

Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Donald Trump Sues Bill Maher for Monkeying Around on Late-Night Talk Show

Here at Law Law Land, there are a few pearls of wisdom we like to repeat — perhaps to a fault — just because they are so helpful and right.  Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, only the expressions of ideas.  Being legally right only matters if you can afford to prove it.  And, perhaps most important of all:  don’t mess with the Donald.  Just ask Bill Maher.

In January, Maher visited fellow comedian Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.  There, Maher discussed his “beef” with Donald Trump, who Maher claimed had rejected several invitations to appear on Maher’s late-night HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher — evidently to Maher’s relief, given that Trump was such “a terrible racist.”  Of course, the ever-gracious Mr. Maher was quick to wish “the best for the syphilitic monkey who does [Trump’s] Twitter feed.”

Seizing upon the “syphilitic monkey” moniker, the conversation led (as it naturally would) into a joke about Donald Trump being “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan” because, according to Maher, “the color of [Trump’s] hair…and the color of an orange orangutan is the only two things in nature of the same color.”  (Obviously.)  Ultimately, Maher concluded the joke by announcing — in an apparent parody of Trump’s (not actually) “very big,” (not remotely) game-changing pre-election announcement (more on that in a moment) — “I hope it’s not true…but unless [Trump] comes up with proof [that he is not the lovechild of an orangutan]…I’m willing to offer 5 million dollars to Donald Trump…that he can donate to a charity of his choice.”  As an example, Maher suggested the “Hair Club for Men.”

The very next day, demonstrating the sense of humor for which he has become legendary, Trump had his attorney write to Maher, formally accepting Maher’s “offer” and attaching a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that Trump is indeed “the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan.”  (Can you imagine being the poor lawyer who got that “urgent” assignment at midnight?)  Trump demanded a $5 million payout, and when Maher ignored the demand letter, Trump actually filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding $5 million in damages.  Let me be clear:  this is not actually a joke.  This is a lawsuit that has seriously been filed.

This prompted Maher to assert that Trump needs to understand two basic concepts:  “what a joke is and what a contract is.”  And although we all know how this case is going to end, we would be remiss in not taking this opportunity to dedicate an entire blog post to The Donald’s bloviating buffoonery.  Could Trump really take this lawsuit all the way to the bank?

Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Miss Universe Pageant Scores Big Against Former Contestant

The Quaker State can be proud of many things.  The Liberty Bell.  Andy Warhol.  Tastykake.  Trading Places.  The Immaculate Reception.  But one part of its history that Pennsylvania may wish to forget (besides dog killer Michael Vick) is the garrulous young woman chosen to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant — Sheena Monnin.  Last month, a New York arbitrator found that Monnin defamed the Miss Universe organization when she claimed that the show had been rigged and ordered her to pay $5 million in damages.  Everyone knows that beauty pageants are big business (and were even before Honey Boo Boo tragically became a household name).  But how did they suddenly become the setting for big damages awards too?

“Fraudulent, Lacking in Morals, Inconsistent, and in Many Ways Trashy”

Monnin participated in the Miss USA competition and was not one of the semifinalists selected by the pageant judges.  A different panel of celebrity judges then chose the five finalists, including the eventual Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island.

She of the $5 million judgmentMoments after learning she had not been chosen as a semifinalist, Monnin sent an email to the director of the Miss Pennsylvania USA Pageant, Randy Sanders, claiming that the contest had been “f-ing rigged Randy.”  (Wouldn’t be surprised if this phrase becomes part of the vernacular.)  Monnin resigned as Miss Pennsylvania the next day.  As her reason, she stated that the pageant system had “removed itself from its foundational principles” by allowing transgendered contestants.  That night, she publicly announced her resignation on Facebook, stating that she wanted no affiliation with an organization that was “fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy” — a sentiment that sounds like it could just as easily be a review of the clientele at many Hollywood nightclubs.

In a second Facebook post, she provided a new rationale for her resignation:  the show had been rigged.  As evidence, Monnin gave details of a conversation with another contestant who purportedly had found a list naming the top five finalists prior to the final judging. 

Not surprisingly, these comments received much media attention.  Monnin repeated her accusations on NBC’s Today Show, which is broadcast nationally. 

Given that allegations of corruption in judging are nothing new and are rarely substantiated (the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal notwithstanding), the Miss Universe officials might have let this go after Monnin ignored the group’s offer to review the judging process with her.  Forgiveness, however, was no longer on the agenda after the organization allegedly lost a potential $5 million sponsor who purportedly pulled out after expressing concern about the “rigging” allegations. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Miss Universe Organization Sues Contestant for Accusing Miss USA Pageant of Being Phonier Than a Spray-On Tan

As any viewer of The Apprentice knows, Donald Trump likes to be the one to say “you’re fired.”  However, Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, recently “fired” Trump and his Miss Universe Organization.

Monnin gave up her crown after alleging that the results of the May 30, 2012 Miss USA Pageant were rigged, and were even known by certain contestants before they were announced on live television.

Monnin claims that the Donald is as morally bankrupt as many of his companies are financially bankrupt.  On June 6, 2012, Monnin posted this highly restrained “letter of resignation” on her Facebook page:

I have decided to resign my position as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.  Effective immediately I have voluntarily, completely, and utterly removed myself from the Miss Universe Organization.

In good conscience I can no longer be affiliated in any way with an organization I consider to be fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy.  I do not support this system in any way.  In my heart I believe in honesty, fair play, a fair opportunity, and high moral integrity, none of which in my opinion are part of this pageant system any longer.

Thank you all for your support and understanding as I walk a road I never dreamed I’d need to walk, as I take a stand I never dreamed I’d need to take.

After 10 years of competing in a pageant system I once believed in, I now completely and irrevocably separate myself in every way and on every level from the Miss Universe Organization.  I remove my support completely and have turned in the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.

Although the post has since been removed, the accusations didn’t go over well with Trump, who has a history of reminding the public about his honesty and search for the truth.  (When he teased making a presidential run in 2000, he humbly noted:  “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”  More recently, Trump responded to President Obama’s definitive refutation of Trump’s “Birther” claims by proudly taking credit for getting to the truth of Obama’s birth certificate.)

The Donald vs. Miss Pennsylvania

Needless to say, Trump and the Miss Universe Organization did not take Monnin’s allegations of dishonestly lightly, promptly serving her with a legal arbitration action for defamation.  Essentially, they maintain Monnin is a “loser” whose whine is caused by a case of “sour grapes.”  While Sheena may be guilty of missed congeniality, has she actually Trumped up false and defamatory accusations? Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Apple’s Appetite for Trademark Warfare

This isn’t a rhetorical or philosophical question, nor is it the proper response to a clue on Jeopardy! In fact, it may soon be decided in a court of law.

On March 18, 2011, Apple Inc. filed a complaint in federal court against Amazon.com over Amazon’s “unauthorized use of Apple’s APP STORE™ trademark.” Apple claims that Amazon has been unlawfully using the term “APP STORE” in connection with Amazon’s “Appstore Developer Portal” and “Angry Birds Rio” software. Of course, what this is really about is that Apple is annoyed by Amazon’s “Appstore for Android” — whose name bears a certain resemblance to Apple’s own iTunes App Store.

Phones with Google’s Android operating system are a major competitive concern for Apple. The obvious solution to this would be for Apple to take advantage of its marketing juggernaut and already superior market share to beat out Android in the marketplace. But there are no lawyers involved in that, rendering it totally un-American. So instead, Apple has followed in the proud footsteps of luminaries like Donald Trump (tried to trademark “you’re fired!”), Paris Hilton (tried to control the phrases “that’s huge” and “that’s hot”), and Subway (claimed to own the word “footlong”), by going to court to claim trademark rights in the phrase “APP STORE.” Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Trump for President? The Equal Time Rule and Reality TV

Ever since the calendar flipped into 2011, we the people have been flooded with half-headlines about Republican candidates-in-waiting who may or may not be running for president in 2012. And now that Barack Obama has (surprise!) announced his intention to run for re-election, people are more interested than ever to learn who might be opposing him.

Because no one necessarily wants to be the first out of the gate — and therefore, perhaps, the first subject to stringent regulations governing candidates for federal office — the statements have been comically non-committal, if not borderline impossible to parse. Last month, Newt Gingrich declared that he was “excited about exploring whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for president of this exceptional country.” (Super.) A couple weeks ago Tim Pawlenty boldly declared on Piers Morgan Tonight, “I’m running for president!” — after which his spokesman announced that no decision had been made, and that Pawlenty’s people had “expressed our displeasure” with CNN for “report[ing] the full quote out of context.” (Thanks for clearing that up.) Obviously, we can assume that any presidential announcement is “not intended to be a factual statement.”

But no one has played the game of am-I-or-aren’t-I-running better than Donald Trump, whose presidential ambitions have been the subject of rampant speculation since last fall. Trump has made many comments about his potential Presidential bid, and has even been endorsed by Gary Busey (umm…good for him?). Last Friday, Trump’s spokesman made the following announcement:

On the May 22 season finale of Celebrity Apprentice, Mr. Trump may announce the time and place of a press conference at which time he will make a statement as to whether or not he will run for president of the United States.

In other words, on April 15, Trump announced that, on May 22, he may announce the future time and date at which he may announce that he’s running for president (in an election that’s taking place 19 months from now). It was an announcement of a potential announcement about another announcement. I’m not certain, but this may have ripped a hole in the space-time-logic continuum.

But this is an entertainment law blog, not a political blog. So I won’t use this blog post to poke fun at Donald Trump Republicans our political system (Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do suchgood job already). Instead I’m going to talk about how The Donald’s candidacy would affect his hit reality TV show, The [optional: Celebrity] Apprentice. (The same issue would have arisen with Sarah Palin’s Alaska had that show not been — *emo tear* —canceled after its first season in January. And people say Americans have no taste in television.) Continue reading the full story . . . »


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