Posts In "First Amendment"

First Amendment

Warner Bros. Dropkicks Louis Vuitton’s Lawsuit Over The Hangover: Part II

Louis Vuitton has been busy practicing all kinds of legal kung fu in court lately.

First, it unleashed a Chuck Norris-like flurry of legal roundhouse kicks to the dome upon hundreds of counterfeiters in the form of hundreds of injunctions and even a $3 million dollar judgment.

Then, in March, a federal district court in New York found Hyundai liable to Louis Vuitton for trademark dilution, based on a thirty-second television commercial called “Luxury.” The Luxury commercial showed “policemen eating caviar in a patrol car; large yachts parked beside modest homes; blue-collar workers eating lobster during their lunch break; a four-second scene of an inner-city basketball game played on a lavish marble court with a gold hoop; and a ten-second scene of [a Hyundai] Sonata driving down a street lined with chandeliers and red-carpet crosswalks.” The Luxury ad sought to “redefine the concept of luxury by communicating to consumers that the Sonata offered ‘luxury for all.’” But within the “four-second scene” of an inner-city basketball game, it showed — for one second — a basketball with Louis Vuitton’s famous “toile monogram” (pictured left). Based on that one second of footage, Louis Vuitton established liability for trademark dilution.

Finally, after beating up on Hyundai, Louis Vuitton attempted to leverage its victory in its ongoing dispute with Warner Bros., over the use of knock-off Louis Vuitton luggage that appeared in a twenty-five second clip in The Hangover: Part II.

But Warner Bros., like Bruce Lee, does not succumb to roundhouse kicks to the dome so easily.

Continue reading the full story . . . »

The NFL’s Biggest Bounty?

After being barred from going after opposing quarterbacks in 2012, Jonathan Vilma is now going after the biggest bounty of them all — NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Last week, Vilma sued Goodell for defamation based on Goodell’s accusations that Vilma participated in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.

As any self-respecting sports fan (or anyone else who doesn’t live here) knows by now, the NFL recently discovered that Saints coaches and players created a system by which the players would receive monetary bonuses for knocking opposing players out of a game with injury.  (And you know a scandal is serious when it gets its own Wikipedia page.)  Goodell claims Vilma was at the center of that program, going so far as to promise $10,000 of his own money to anyone who knocked Brett Favre (and later Kurt Warner) out of a playoff game.  Vilma insists that he did not take part in the bounty program, that he never offered money to his teammates to take out Brett Favre or Kurt Warner and that Goodell had no reasonable basis on which to make those allegations.  Vilma seeks unspecified damages for the harm to his reputation caused by Goodell’s statements.

As my regular readers (somebody must read this stuff, right?) should know by now, I’m a football fan, so the idea of an NFL player suing the almighty Roger Goodell is fascinating stuff.  Since becoming commissioner in 2006, Goodell has become the judge, jury and executioner regarding player (and coach) misconduct.  Players who get in trouble must go meet with Goodell (presumably to kiss the brass ring, or maybe just something that rhymes with the “brass” part) and then await his punishment without any rules or guidelines on how that punishment will be administered.  But don’t worry:  if the player (or coach) believes the punishment is unjust, he can always appeal to — guess who? — Goodell.  Although Goodell has, on occasion, reduced a player’s punishment, it happens rarely and there is little explanation of why.  (Doesn’t really seem fair to me, but I’m just a Bills fan…and Bills players never do anything wrong…  Or, in recent years, right.)  It’s safe to assume that more than one NFL player out there (like Goodell’s BFF James Harrison) would offer a chunk out of his salary to have someone take Goodell down a peg or twelve.

So, the real question for us here at Law Law Land is:  does Vilma stand any chance of winning and forcing Goodell to change his ways?  Probably not.  Here’s why. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Don Draper: Modern-Day Criminal?

This blogger will be the first to admit that I may have a slight television addiction.  I’m routinely behind in my DVR watching (at least we’ve moved beyond the dark ages of the late 1990s when I had to record my then-favorite shows, Dawson’s Creek and Felicity, on VHS) and I sometimes find myself talking about the relationships between Chuck and Blair, Crosby and Jasmine, or Alicia and Will as though they’re my real-life friends.  (Bonus points for those dear readers who can name all three TV shows I just referenced, without clicking the hyperlinks.)

With that history, it should come as no surprise that I, like so many others, am waiting with bated breath for the return of Mad Men on March 25.  (There’s nothing like a year-and-a-half hiatus to make these trailers — which are really just cleverly edited clips from past shows — super exciting.)  On my drive to work every morning, I see the ads that have generated so much controversy.  So when on a recent drive, I heard this NPR story about the Stolen Valor Act and its intersection with the First Amendment, I confess my thoughts turned to our favorite fictitious, purported war hero, Don Draper.

[Warning:  This blog post reveals plot points from Seasons 1–4 of Mad Men.  Usually the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts would have expired long ago — you’ve had since October 2010 to catch up, people! — but just in case, for those of you who hate great television (and probably puppies and rainbows too) and have therefore managed to ignore the show up until this point, consider yourselves warned.] Continue reading the full story . . . »

Creepy Tweeters Have Speech Rights Too

If our dear readers look at my past blog posts, you might think I’m vying for a Bloggie Award* for “Most Posts Related to Social Media.”  As someone who personally spends a fair amount of time keeping up with my friends/news outlets/favorite restaurants through social media, many of the legal disputes that catch my eye examine the intersection of free speech and social media — after all, it’s good to know where the line between lawful and actionable is drawn, even though I don’t think I’m likely to step over it.  (Plus, I think I’m now allowed to bill my workplace Facebook/Twitter time as “researching blog post.”)

Usually, when something goes legally haywire with social media, it’s because Courtney Love defamed someone on Twitter again.  Last month, though, a Maryland federal court has shined a (27-page) light on the criminal law of cyberstalking.  Under a semi-obscure provision of the Violence Against Women Act — codified at 18 U.S.C. § 2261A for you legal eagles out there — federal law makes it a crime when an individual “uses the mail, any interactive computer service, or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that causes substantial emotional distress” to someone “with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person in another State.”

This law may have come as some surprise to defendant William Lawrence Cassidy, who was charged with cyberstalking based on his more than 8,000 posts on blogs and Twitter about Alyce Zeoli, a Buddhist leader (and quite the avid Tweeter herself).  The court’s recitation of facts describes Alyce Zeoli, or “A.Z.” as a “reincarnate llama,” but I’m pretty sure the court really meant lama (as in Tibetan teacher of the Dharma) rather than llama (as in South American camelid).  In any event (actually, probably especially if she is, indeed, an alpaca), Ms. Zeoli — the so-called “Buddha from Brooklyn” — is already quite the controversial figure.

Cassidy’s posts and Tweets ranged from threatening comments (“ya like haiku?  Here’s one for ya: ‘Long, Limb, Sharp Saw, Hard Drop’ ROFLMAO”**) to criticism of Zeoli as a religious figure (“[A.Z.] is a demonic force who tries to destroy Buddhism”) to just vague creepiness (“owl and raven feathers separate….tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock”).  Cassidy moved to dismiss the charges against him, and on December 15, the court granted his motion, holding that Cassidy’s speech was protected by the First Amendment and that the restriction didn’t pass scrutiny and dismissed the charges against him.

So what lessons can you take from Cassidy’s case the next time you’re ready to dive into the Twitterverse? Continue reading the full story . . . »

5 Important Cases You Should Watch in 2012…and 5 Totally Unimportant Cases You Might Not Be Able to Stop Watching Even if You Tried (Part 1 of 2)

‘Tis the season.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  ‘Tis the season to go shopping.  ‘Tis the season for political gaffes.  ‘Tis for hilarious gifting of intentionally awful presents.  Yes, ‘tis the season for lots of things, but most of all, ‘tis the season for top-ten lists.

Ten best movies.  Ten best dressed.  Ten best pet gifts.  Ten best of everything.  Ten best top-ten lists.

It seems only fitting, then, to embrace the spirit of the season, and look ahead to 2012 in obligatory list form.  But let’s mix it up a little by breaking up our list into two parts.  Today, we bring you five important cases you should watch in 2012.  On Friday, we’ll follow up with five totally unimportant trainwrecks of cases you might not be able to pry your eyes away from. Continue reading the full story . . . »

Oh Dakota! Why Can’t We Keep Our Dirty Eyes Off You?

The first time I saw Dakota Fanning’s now-infamous ad for Marc Jacobs’ new Oh Lola! fragrance was on the back of a Cosmopolitan resting in the hands of my 19-year old baby sister. My immediate reaction was “OMG…is that Dakota Fanning?! No way she’s grown up that fast!” Then my gaze shifted to the circus-caliber trait that Dakota and I happen to have in common (no, it’s not our shocking good looks) — double-jointed elbows. (God, I love it when celebrities are weird like me.)


At no point in my perusal of the ad did it even cross my mind that it was too provocative, or, as the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (or ASA) deemed it — right before they decided to ban it altogether — “likely to cause serious offense.” Clearly, like most Americans, my virgin eyes were long ago deflowered by the ubiquitous sextravagent media, and my tolerance for the “sexually provocative” has been fully developed since adolescence. Even taking a closer gander, I’m still unsure what all the fuss is about: pretty in pink lies the acclaimed child star who grew up right before my very eyes, seductively poised with a perfume bottle sculpted in the shape of a flower perched precariously (and euphemistically) between her upper thighs. (No rhyme intended. It’s not my fault Dakota’s soothing quasi-innocence makes me wax poetic. Blame Marc Jacobs.)

Whether the Brits’ better-developed campaign for a cleaner consciousness is a product of American overexposure to a steady stream of underage girls prancing around in mini-skirts and flaunting what their mommas (very recently) gave them, or a function of their more tightly-regulated media environment, I couldn’t help but think: what would the law say if Americans decided to summon the same outrage over Dakota’s Oh Lola! pose as the British censors apparently had? Continue reading the full story . . . »

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