Friday, May 31, 2013

Trademark Law - What's "the law" and what's "right?"

If you're signed up for Trademark Law in the fall, and you're looking for some interesting advanced reading, check out this news story from the New York Times. In a nutshell, New York's Department of Economic Development owns the mark I ♥ NY, and it polices its mark very actively. As the result, a New York coffee shop has been forced to jettison its shirts, onesies, mugs, and other logoed items which have the mark I [coffee mug symbol] NY. (See the article for both marks.) Reading the article, it seems a bit like a David and Goliath story with David coming out on the losing end of things this go 'round.

But is policing one's mark (i.e., sending cease-and-desist letters to perceived infringers) a statutory obligation? And regardless, how much "policing" is necessary or required? Check out the following resources to determine the answer:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bar Exam Recap

Back in February, we posted about the Ohio Supreme Court's denial of admission to a test-taker who continued writing for 30-60 seconds after time was called on several questions. The good news for those of you sitting for the exam in a few months is that this is an easily avoidable mistake. Trust that you prepared appropriately, and you should do just fine.

For those of you working towards the July exam, we have a research guide on the subject. The guide includes helpful books and strategies, practice tools for the multi-state portion, and links to past essay exams from the Ohio State Bar.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Urban Dictionary Cited in Judicial Opinions

Perhaps you know and love Urban Dictionary, or perhaps you consider it gauche. Either way, it's an important online tool to be aware of if only for the fact courts are now looking to the online, crowd-sourced dictionary for assistance with judicial decision-making. The New York Times reports
In the last year alone, the Web site was used by courts to define iron (“handgun”); catfishing (“the phenomenon of Internet predators that fabricate online identities”); dap (“the knocking of fists together as a greeting, or form of respect”); and grenade (“the solitary ugly girl always found with a group of hotties”).
But be wary of turning to this source for all (or in fact even the occasional) legal need; search cases in your jurisdiction for evidence of prior use of this and other crowd-sourced websites (e.g., Wikipedia) to get a sense of how the judges you'll be in front of view these tools.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spock Cited

Law Librarian Blog suggested a great paper topic: how many times has Spock been cited in judicial opinions? The question is based on a Wall Street Journal article which cites the most recent example. If this type of paper is up your alley, but you're not entirely sure how to aggregate all the cases  (including unpublished opinions if you're so inclined), stop by the library for some suggestions. Because American Jurisprudence is good for telling you all the key cases regarding federal search and seizure law but not so good for Star Trek quotes.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Legality vs. Morality - Trademark Edition

Pixar is working on a film with the theme or subject Dia de los Muertos, the Mexian holiday honoring the deceased. As film companies typically do, Disney, Pixar's parent company, applied for trademarks using the anticipated name of the film in relation to a variety of merchandise.

Needless to say, people of Mexican heritage were upset. To quote one commenter, "This is not Ok. You cant trademark my culture! [ ]"

But is that necessarily true? For example, the NFL football team, the Washington Redskins, has in fact registered WASHINGTON REDSKINS for "Entertainment Services-Namely, Presentations of Professional Football Contests." So it does seem to be perfectly legal to register cultural marks. Even the cheerleaders have their own trademark.  (Note, the Supreme Court declined to decide a case which argued that use of the Washington mark was offensive.)

Section 2(b) of the Lanham Act prohibits the registration of a mark that “consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” 

In Trademarks Laid Bare: Marks that May be Scandalous or Immoral, the authors delve into this issue and more. The take away for future lawyers is this, however: how will you conceive of your job? Do you give legal advice, providing guidance on legal risks and the likelihood of violations of the law? Or do you give business advice: something perfectly legal may nonetheless be inadvisable. But perhaps you must know your client to assess what role they'd like you to fill. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Naked TSA Protester Fights Fine

We have talked in the past about TSA lawsuits, but suing is not the only way travellers have expressed their displeasure at the TSA.

Last April, John Brennan took off all his clothes at the TSA checkpoint in Portland, as a protest against additional screening procedures.

Lowering the Bar has been covering this story from the beginning (here, here, and here), including Brennan's not guilty verdict for indecent exposure.

But now, Brennan is back in court, appealing the TSA's fine of $1,000.

KATU Portland (with video of TSA workers surrounding Brennan with containers, to shield him from view)

ABA Journal

Huffington Post

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Police Manhunts and Ensuing Litigation

For better or worse, we live in a wildly litigious society. On one hand, the U.S. tendency seems to be to seek redress in court rather than through personal vendetta. On the other hand, folks seem to sue for everything under the sun. How Stuff Works has an article about the ten biggest manhunts of all time. Number four on the list is a recent one: former police officer Chris Dorner is alleged to have murdered a police officer and attempted to do the same for various other individuals. A manhunt ensued.

The manhunt is believed to have been predicated by Dorner's lawsuit for wrongful termination after he was fired from the police force for lying about an on-the-job incident.

In the wake of the manhunt, more lawsuits have been proposed and pursued:

Attorney for man carjacked by Christopher Dorner threatens lawsuit claiming full $1 million reward
Rick Heltebrake, Camp Ranger, Files Lawsuit For $1 Million Christopher Dorner Reward

Slain ‘Cop Killer’ Christopher Dorner’s Mom Being Urged To Sue LAPD Over Son’s Death

Dorner manhunt: Will lawsuits result from Torrance mistaken-ID shootings?

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 (colloquially known as Rule 11), states "By presenting to the court a pleading...an attorney...certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances...(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law." Ohio's rule is similar.

So, think before you file a claim on a client's behalf. For more on Rule 11, check out our selection of books, tapes, and movies on the subject.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Developing Research Skills this Summer

The law library is offering training sessions for faculty research assistants, and you may be scheduled to come in for one of those. But perhaps you are not or you're not a research assistant this summer. You can still learn a thing or two if you have any questions.

We'll keep our reference desk hours as you've come to expect them during the week: 10am-5pm, Monday-Friday. (During the school year, we will pick up our 1pm-5pm on Sunday schedule.)

You're also welcome to pop your head in one of the librarian's offices (back and on the right on the main floor of the library) and ask if we're available to chat.

Perhaps you haven't quite figured out legislative history, case precedent, where to find foreign or international law, or how the library's online databases work. We're happy to answer all those questions and more, and summer's the time to brush up on those legal research skills.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird - Lawsuit

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing her literary agent in a copyright dispute. For many lawyers and law students, Atticus Finch, the adult protagonist in the book, is the inspiration for their legal careers.

If you'd like to revisit the work as inspiration during exams, we have a number of options:
  1. E-Book
  2. Print
  3. Movie

Monday, May 06, 2013

What You Can't Find on the Internet

Some of the reason old fogies like myself cringe when people say "I Googled it and couldn't find anything" is because some stuff just isn't available online. Or, you have to know where to look if you want to find it. In other words, the Internet is good for some stuff, but not everything.

Take Ohio criminal law from 1973. If you need to know what a particular Ohio statute looked like in 1973, where would you turn? Westlaw has historical Ohio statutes but only back as far as 1993. Lexis isn't much better: it's Ohio Historical Archive (OHARCH) database gives you statutory text back to 1992.

HeinOnline recently began offering older state statutes as well. The benefit to these is that you get the pdf of the item you are looking for. That is, the image you see is a scanned copy of the actual print version. Alas, while Hein does go way back, it only brings you up to 1940 for Ohio---other states have different dates of coverage. (LLMC also has some historical statutes available, but it too doesn't provide much 20th century content.)

To get coverage for Ohio statutes from 1941-1991, you're in luck: we have the Ohio Revised code in print going way back on the main floor of the library. Feel free to come in, e-mail, or give a call if you can't find what you're looking for, like that 1973 Ohio criminal statute.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Twelve Angry Men...er, Six or Nine?

A Slate.com article reminded me of something I never knew before law school: juries come in all sizes. What’s the Best Jury Size? takes a mathmatical look at the number of jurors assigned to a matter and assesses whether there is a "right" number of jury members to achieve un unbiased verdict.

Looking to revisit the classic notion of 12 jurors? Check out the library's copy of 12 Angry Men.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Celebrate Law Day!

You may know May Day is International Workers Day, attended by marches and demonstrations around the world.  But it is also Law Day, a day to celebrate the rule of law.  The ABA designated the theme of gender equality, and encourages us to consider "the movement for civil and human rights in America and the work that remains to be accomplished."     

We know many of you are studying for your Con Law final, and Law Day comes complete with its own expression of constitutional powers.  President Obama issued a Law Day proclamation, tracing his action to a public law. 

In the words of the President, "Law Day is a chance to reaffirm the critical role our courts have always played in addressing those wrongs and aligning our Nation with its first principles. Let us mark this occasion by celebrating that history, upholding the right to due process, and honoring all who have sustained our proud legal tradition."  And perhaps also by cramming for con law.

Online Privacy - New Tech Developments - Part II

Following up on Monday's blog post, here's the second news story raising new legal issues regarding online privacy. Companies are utilizing algorithms to track down potential employees who do not fit the typical mold. If you have your Facebook privacy settings on lockdown, you just may miss the opportunity of a lifetime as this data-gathering method measures how well you interact on social media sites as one factor in assessing whether you'd be a good fit for a company:
Of late, growing numbers of academics and entrepreneurs are applying Big Data to human resources and the search for talent, creating a field called work-force science. Gild is trying to see whether these technologies can also be used to predict how well a programmer will perform in a job. The company scours the Internet for clues: Is his or her code well-regarded by other programmers? Does it get reused? How does the programmer communicate ideas? How does he or she relate on social media sites?
 
In other words, the company trolls the Internet for information about potential employees, applies an algorithm to what is found, and creates a profile to suggest whether the person would be a good match for a particular company.

In addition to general online privacy issues, how do you advise your company from an employment perspective if they're the company doing the hiring? Try these resources for starters: