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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 3:48:30 pm

What a year it's been for McKool Smith, PC. The big verdicts just keep coming. Just this week, the firm won a $59 million patent infringement verdict on behalf of Tokyo-

based electronics manufacturer Pioineer Corp. against Samsung. The lawsuit charged that Samsung infringed two Pioneer patents relating to plasma display technology, U.S. Patent Numbers 5,182,489 and 5,640,068.

Earlier this year, the firm won a $21 million patent infringement verdict on behalf of Tyler, Texas, based technology company Anascape against Nintendo in a fight over patents used in video game controllers like the Wii and Gamecube. In May, McKool Smith attorneys won a $250 million patent infringement verdict for Medtronic against Boston Scientific relating to a balloon catheter patent used in the surgical treatment of heart disease. In June, the firm reached an $83 million settlement for i2 Technologies in a patent dispute against SAP AG.

by Robert Tharp at 1:50:46 pm

Citizen journalists using blogs, Twitter posts and the myriad other social networking mediums are growing like crazy, and so are the number of libel and defamation
lawsuits against those who think such laws only apply to the media big boys. Already, juries have returned multi-million dollar verdicts over disparaging Internet postings by amatuer bloggers, and the risk continues to grow as everyone from CEOs to rank-and-file employees continue to jump into the online media mix. Some insurers now offer "cyber risk" polices to protect bloggers from such claims, and insurance expert and award-winning blogger DAVID WHITE says such insurance is something that bloggers should consider. "Anyone publishing online exposes himself to legal liability," says White, an attorney in the Dallas offices of Thompson & Knight. "Bloggers are not immune to defamation or copyright violation claims and should carefully assess both the content of their postings and their liability insurance coverage. Most corporate insurance and D&O policies exclude cyberrisks from traditional coverage." White's own blog www.lawandinsurance.typepad.com recently was named among the Top 50 Blogs for Insurance by LexisNexis. To interview Mr. White, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.  

 

by Robert Tharp at 1:47:03 pm

If any doubt remains that the financial meltdown is extending to Main Street, consider this recent sobering announcement: Circuit City is planning to

shutter 150 of its big-box stores. The electronics retailer joins a long list of retailers downsizing and leaving a nationwide glut of vacant real estate in their wakes, says John Busey Wood of Thompson & Knight's New York office. "More property will hit the market in the next several months than we've seen in 20 years," he says. "Our experience has shown the necessity of a prompt and coordinated response. You've got to look at reconfiguring existing spaces and the methods to dispose of unwanted properties or locations in creative ways. But many companies are going to be overwhelmed." To interview Mr. Wood, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:04:25 pm

Intelectual property attorney Dyan House: There's a lesson for everyone in the Harry Potter IP ruling
There's a teaching opportunity from the recent ruling against a Harry Potter fan who sought to publish a detailed guide to the works of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

In the Potter case, a federal judge in New York found that "The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials" violated Rowling's copyright because the guide used too much of Rowling's original material without attribution. The takeway, says intellectual property attorney Dyan House of Munck Carter in Dallas, is to be careful when using original material without attribution. "If you're creating a reference guide, using too much of the source work without the creator's permission is an almost sure way to find yourself in court," House says. To interview Ms. House, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 2:17:07 pm

To put the credit crisis in context you can consider the prospect of an entire nation like Iceland on the brink of collapse or individual homeowners here in Texas forced

into foreclosure despite the best efforts of mortgage companies to modify home loans and make them more affordable. Mark Cronenwett of Dallas' Cowles & Thompson, who represents mortgage companies, says it's in everyone's best interest to avoid foreclosure, and many mortgage companies have been working hard to modify loans and make them more affordable and avoid foreclosure. "Mortgage lenders want to prevent foreclosure if at all possible, and many are willing to rework the terms," Cronenwett says. "I've seen both sides working hard to modify a loan in more favorable terms, only for it to be sabotaged when the borrowers can't get a new loan in this economic climate." To interview Mr. Cronenwett, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:31:54 pm

Thompson & Knight oil and gas attorney Michael Byrd warns wildcatters to beware in states without production caselaw
Natural gas fever is rising in the most unexpected places, thanks to drilling technology that allows production companies to extract natural gas from shale. One of the

promising energy plays involves the Marcellus Shale in New York and surrounding states. But attorney Michael Byrd warns that there's reason to proceed with caution in this virgin territory. For one, these states don't have the case law established to provide guidance in the complicated land deals, transactions, production and marketing that goes along with the natural gas industry. "Companies doing deals in the Marcellus should consider a legal review of all documentation to clarify the meanings of all provisions. No one wants to be the guinea pig that helps the court system develop this body of law." To interview Mr. Byrd, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:42:29 pm

Thompson & Knight attorney Chris Schaeper says worldwide credit crisis affecting even the fiscally strong.
The U.S. and other countries may be pouring funds into the worldwide financial system, but so far the credit markets remain jammed. As a result, routine transactions that

companies rely upon in the course of daily business have stalled during the meltdown. Schaeper says even companies with the soundest balance sheets are facing a double whammy trying to get financing: deals are getting extra scrutiny, and there are simply fewer financial intermediaries willing to facilitate those deals in this climate. The bright side, Schaeper says, is that it's now a buyer's market for those with the capital available for a shopping spree. To interview Mr. Schaeper, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com

by Robert Tharp at 3:33:21 pm

Dallas attorney  Angel Reyes keeps a busy schedule. On top of a successful commercial litigation practice at Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei, Reyes is deeply involved in local government, serving on the DART board, among other things. Somehow, Reyes found the time to commute to Texas Tech University's Rawls
College of Business, where he has earned his MBA. As part of that program, Reyes co-authored an intriguing study using historic employment data to compare Hispanic employment rates against the larger workforce.

What he found is an eye opener when you consider that the Hispanic workforce is one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the workforce. The analysis concludes that Hispanic workers are at particular risk during economic downturns, suffering negative effects sooner, more severely and for longer duration than their white counterparts. With such a large segment of the workforce at risk, the study concludes that it is extremely worthwhile for the sake of the broader economy to try to reverse these trends. Read more here.

by Robert Tharp at 11:30:59 am

Senior attorneys at Gardere Wynne Sewell quickly establish Financial Crisis Recovery Team 
While some would prefer to burry their heads in the sand until this epic financial turmoil is over, for an example of how some law firms are reacting nimbly, consider Gardere Wynne Sewell's creation of its multi-disciplinary Financial Crisis Recovery

 
Team. In business nearly 100 years, Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP attorneys have seen their share of economic paradigm shifts. Taking a page from its playbook from the 1980s S&L crisis and the collapse of Enron, the firm quickly established a multi-disciplinary legal team to respond on behalf of businesses impacted by the credit crunch and market turmoil.

The firm's business and litigation attorneys are already working together on tasks including problem loans, debt restructuring, securities violations, tax issues, government contracts, employment law, breached contracts, and investigations and crisis management. Senior attorneys on the team are able to response to clients affected by the global crisis from every conceivable scenario. Cliff Risman, chair of Gardere's Business Department, notes that it's hard to understand the impact that this crisis on businesses and individuals. "This is more than a financial crisis - it poses fundamental challenges to the foundations and integrity of business operations," he says.

by Robert Tharp at 12:46:29 pm

Schlepping the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan to an angry electorate would be a chore for even the most capable p.r. maestro. By most accounts, Henry Paulson was hardly up for the p.r. job of connecting with the American people. Time has an insightful analysis of the p.r. missteps that failed to inspire the public and no-doubt led to the plan's initial defeat. The Time

piece is dead-on. Shoot, this is stuff any good trial attorney knows about explaining complex arguments to regular folks, things like making sure your message is specific and easily understood, personal, accurate and targeted.

The Time piece offers some suggestions to resell the bailout, including: Find a face: Human beings are not moved by numbers or by vague predictions of certain doom. They are moved by stories. "It's simple," says Dennis Mileti, an expert on risk communications who has studied hundreds of disasters of the more conventional kind at the University of Colorado. "You get one family in America. You go to their house. And you paint a picture of what their life is like one year from now. You describe a kid who can't go to college, the house that can't be sold, the inability of anyone to use a credit card. They need to get a camera crew and go to Omaha and find a family."
Rebrand the Bill: The phrase "bailout" is a deal-killer. "People feel the breaks are being given to financial institutions and not to the consumer," says Slovic. He recommends "Consumer Protection Act." It may be too late for this change to have much impact, but any change in language that acknowledges real people would be an improvement.
Shoot the Messenger: If you want people to support the radical idea of rescuing rich investment bankers, don't send a rich, former investment banker (Henry Paulson) to convince them. And don't send a discredited, lame duck President, either. As in normal life, people are more likely to believe the advice of someone they trust. There aren't many well-known experts in this field who aren't rich, but even Warren Buffet would have brought less baggage to the process than George Bush.
Be Specific: People need to know what will happen if they do nothing - or if they do something.

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:59:49 pm

In her latest Texas Lawyer commentary, Andrews Kurth attorney Kathleen J. Wu offers this important reminder: Sometimes it takes hitting the road to appreciate what

you've got at home. In Wu's case, it was a trip to China with her young son, where she saw first-hand the rapid pace of change that the country is going through. For Wu, the China experience offers insight into the state of law firm diversity and the glass ceiling.

Writes Wu: I know: It seems like we haven't made any progress. Women lawyers haven't achieved anything near parity in the partnership ranks at major firms. We only have one woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, down from two. To the naked eye, it can seem like we're actually moving backward. But we're not. Trust me. When Sandra Day O'Connor graduated No. 3 in her class at Stanford Law School in 1952, the only legal job offer she could get was as a secretary. In the 1970s, a group of women law students in Dallas had to sue even to get interviews at firms. When I started in the late 1980s, I wasn't allowed to wear pants to work.

Now, not only can I wear pants, but women are entering the profession at the same rate as men. Some of the largest firms in the world have had female managing partners. And while parity is a long way off, the percentage of female partners has inched up steadily over the years. The most encouraging trend I've seen, though, is the number of firms that have started meaningful women's initiatives and put real money and political support behind them. These firms are making an effort to recruit, develop and retain women lawyers. While they aren't always successful, and there are lots of structural and cultural hurdles to overcome before there's real parity, I have to remember that these things move in geologic time. Progress can't be measured in months or years. It has to be measured in decades and centuries.

The sticks that punish the legal profession for its resistance to change -- the flight of talented yet discouraged and overwhelmed women from the profession -- coupled with the carrots offered by clients demanding diversity in their legal service providers make progress as inevitable here as it is in China. It's going to take a while, but if the Chinese can keep fighting the good fight, so can we.

by Robert Tharp at 2:31:57 pm

When Dallas attorney James Craig Orr walked away with a $1.5 million verdict Tuesday on behalf of two Austin men who were seriously injured when an 18-wheeler crashed into their car, trucking company Celadon Trucking sought to mitigate the court loss with the following public statement: Celadon does not hire trainee drivers,

and has a very high safety standard relating to its drivers. We have won numerous national and regional safety awards. We are reviewing the jury verdict, and are considering our options regarding an appeal of the decision.

The Indianapolis Star, Celadon's home-town paper, faithfully included the company's statement in an Associated Press story of the court verdict secured by Dallas-based law firm  Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei. That's great, but we wonder how long it took the reporter to find this this contradictory tidbit in the very next paragraph that casts a little doubt on that sincerity of Celadon's response: In 2005, Celadon Trucking agreed to pay $1.25 million to the parents of a soldier who died when his car rear-ended a tractor-trailer that stalled along a Texas highway in 2002 after its brake hose failed. The husband-wife truck driving team in that case had tried to repair a high-pressure brake hose with a toothpick wrapped with tape.

The lesson for everyone: don't assume reporters will swallow your statement without a little fact-checking.

by Robert Tharp at 4:09:55 pm

Thompson & Knight attorney Roger Aksamit says IRS is offering some relief
For those rebuilding from Hurricane Ike, end-of-the-year federal income tax strategies no doubt fall somewhere near the bottom of the priority list. Houston attorney Roger Aksamit of Thompson & Knight's Houston offices says the IRS is offering some relief. Taxpayers in the 29 Texas counties declared as Hurricane Ike disaster areas may be able

to delay the filing of certain IRS returns until Jan. 5, 2009. The relief offered by the IRS is generally available to all individuals and businesses in those counties, as well as designated workers assisting with relief efforts. "The postponement applies to most scheduled tax return and tax payment deadlines, and the filing of other time-sensitive forms," he says. "There are also processes for eligible taxpayers to claim disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax returns, and deduct losses on personal property not covered by insurance or other forms of reimbursements." To interview Mr. Aksamit about IRS issues in the wake of Hurricane Ike, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:55:52 pm

The awards ceremony is still weeks away, but the cat's out of the bag. Dallas attorney Charla G. Aldous is the American Board of Trial Advocates' Trial Lawyer of the

Year for Texas. This is just the latest in a long list of honors for Charla. During her 23 years of practice, she has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. Charla, founder of the Aldous Law Firm, is routinely named among the most successful attorneys in practice. Says TEX-ABOTA president Dicky Grigg, "Charla is the epitome of those whom we seek to honor with the ‘Trial Lawyer of the Year' award. Her courtroom record is enviable, and she has unselfishly shared her leadership skills through public service to the legal profession and her community." 

by Robert Tharp at 11:02:40 am

MS Legal's Stacy Humphries: In-house experience increasingly helpful in job searches
Once upon a time, attorneys who left law firms for jobs as in-house counsel for companies and corporations did so with the understanding that they might have a difficult
time returning to law firm life. As the financial crisis ripples through the business world, in-house attorneys considering returning to law firms are finding that their business experience is viewed as an asset. "We're seeing more lawyers interested in returning to a law firm practice after a number of years of being in-house," says Stacy Humphries of Houston's MS Legal Search. Most law firms view attorneys with corporate experience as good sources of future business because they have direct experience dealing with business executives and often bring a referral network. "Moving in-house from a law firm used to be a one-way street, but no longer." .

by Robert Tharp at 10:30:02 am

Transportation attorney Mike Richardson of Dallas law firm Rose•Walker says other industries likely to follow.
It didn't take long for California safety regulators to ban cell phone usage by on-duty engineers following a deadly train collision in which one of the engineers was

 
reportedly text messaging at the time of the wreck. Twenty-five people, including engineer Robert Sanchez, died in Los Angeles-area crash. Attorney Mike Richardson of Dallas' Rose•Walker says others in the transportation sector may follow California's lead. Cell phone use played a part in a case Richardson won on behalf of a trucking company. "One of the things we saw was that the driver of the car that hit our truck was using her cell phone around the time of the accident," Richardson says. "I think companies would be wise to make the California cell phone ban company policy." To interview Mr. Richardson about cell phone usage in the transportation industry, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.