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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 2:39:57 pm

The folks at Walt Disney thought enough or Steamboat Willie to obtain a copyright on the character, but who would have thought back in 1928 that the image would build the foundation
that is now a worldwide media and marketing empire? Much has been made of the news that an early copyright of Steamboat Willie is at risk because of a technical flaw in the filing. William Munck, head of the intellectual property section at Dallas' Munck Cartersays the business world could take a lesson from Disney, which has taken several steps to protect the iconic rodent's image. "Disney has many procedures in place to protect Mickey and his friends, including federal, common law and foreign trademark registrations," says Munck. "None of these derive their validity from a single first copyright filing, so there is no domino effect that would place Mickey in the public domain. Likewise, companies must realize that the lifeblood of their organization is their intellectual capital, and should develop intellectual property protection strategies tailored to their particular business." To interview Mr. Munck about intellectual property matters, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 2:20:32 pm

Some describe it as a mysterious "crop circle" on their Hitachi LCD television screen, according to the class-action lawsuit filed by attorneys at Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei. For other owners of the high-dollar TV, the problem is "blobs" or "blooms" of color, haze, dots and other anomalies. While
they can't agree on a single descriptor, many owners of the nearly $4,000 Hitachi's 50V500A model LCD rear projection television are less than satisfied. In fact, owners of the set are fighting mad over their treatment from Hitachi. Dallas resident Anthony Partida and the law firm of Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei are taking the matter in their own hands, mounting a class-action lawsuit against the American subsidiary of Japanese consumer electronics giant. The lawsuit charges that Hitachi has known about the defect since early 2005, but the company has continued to sell the model.

"Hitachi has been more than willing to take people's money for these TV sets and they should be more than willing to fix them," says Heygood Orr attorney Eric D. Pearson. "In some cases, people paid $4,500 or more for these TVs. You can't take that kind of money and deliver a defective product.

by Robert Tharp at 4:07:25 pm

Ah, the college football season is finally here _ the pomp, the pageantry... the unscrupulous sports agents. Although NCAA rules prohibit agents from contact with
college players until after a player declares intentions to take part in the NFL draft, shady agents are always looking for a competitive edge and typically try to establish relationships years earliersays sports attorney DARYL K. WASHINGTON of Dallas' Shackelford, Melton & McKinley. "Some agents are approaching kids who are still in high school or even younger, making promises and handing out gifts that would be hard for anyone to turn down," he says. "This type of contact is immoral and criminal, not just a violation of NCAA rules that can result in sanctions." To interview Mr. Washington about sports law issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:46:28 pm

While New Orleans residents ponder the prospect of another hurricane direct hit three years after Katrina, oil traders have so far been indifferent as Gustav churns toward

the Gulf of Mexico. Prices dropped $2.56 to $115.59 per barrel by the close of the market Thursday. Oil companies are busy pulling workers and suspending drilling activity on the thousands of offshore rigs in the Gulf, but energy industry expert  RENATO BERTANI says a market overreaction causings a spike in prices is unnecessary. "A short-term increase is certainly expected, but oil companies are better equipped than ever to efficiently move their personnel to safety and quickly return to operations when the storm has passed," says Bertani of Houston's Thompson & Knight Global Energy Services. "Although it's impossible to definitively predict the effect of a hurricane, companies have made increased investments in technology and transportation to protect both their facilities and workers, so it's hoped the impact will be minimal." To interview Mr. Bertani about the energy industry, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 10:51:02 am

Who would have thought pre-2001 that the small east Texas town of Marshall would become the epicenter of some of the most complex and high stakes patent law

litigation and trials in the country? That's exactly what happened when Judge T. John Ward created the "rocket docket" in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to speed up the disposition of patent infringement lawsuits. An interesting Texas Lawyer article this week questions whether the venue has become a victim of its own popularity. In an area where long legal delays are costly for plaintiffs, some patent cases filed in the Eastern District are not getting court dates until 2011, the paper reports. Patent litigator  Doug Cawley, a shareholder in McKool Smith in Dallas, tells Texas Lawyer that efforts to prevent plaintiffs from "forum shopping" have so far failed to gain traction in Congress. Such legislation might have trimmed the Eastern District's docket by limiting plaintiffs' ability to choose the venue to file a case. Cawley says the Marshall Division still has value because the courts still move cases quickly, and recent success among defendants has assuaging concerns that the courts there are generally pro-plaintiff.

by Robert Tharp at 10:16:24 am

With approximately 1 million attorneys out there trying to make a living in the United States, law firms trying to stand out in the crowd face big challenges. Dallas-based  Taber Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC is making
some real progress. The new firm is one of just 73 law firms nationwide to earn certification as a women-owned and controlled business by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council. Besides being a highly qualified and experienced firm, the certificaiton gives Taber Estes a competitive boost since most publicly held corporations, as well as larger private corporations, governmental agencies and non-profit organizations, have policies that encourage doing business with women and minority business owners. "As a new firm, this certification is an important step in raising awareness among potential clients that we offer distinct advantages as both excellent attorneys as well as helping them to meet their diversity initiatives," says Jane Taber, a founder of the firm.
Taber Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC is one of the few women-owned law firms in Dallas. It features a collaborative team of highly experienced attorneys, representing clients in business litigation, labor and employment, family law, health care and insurance matters.

by Robert Tharp at 3:31:10 pm

We love to talk PR and solve world problems over here at Androvett Legal Media. The little matter involving Russia's conflict with Georgia gave us the opportunity to do a little both. This interesting New York Times analysis describes how Russia may have won the battle related to the conflict with Georgia but failed in terms of the worldwide PR image war.

While Georgia's U.S.-educated leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, was making the press rounds early on, Russian leaders were busy putting the clampdown internally and feeling like they didn't need to make their case to the world press. We couldn't help but see similarities in the legal PR world. Think about it, you have to have a good battle plan in high-stakes litigation, but bad things can happen when you forget about or disregard the message you're intentionally or unintentionally sending outside the courthouse.

Consider this passage from the New York Times article: High-ranking Russian officials, who generally have a free hand in the Russian media, seem to find it demeaning to have to fight to get their message out. And they hold Mr. Saakashvili in such contempt, considering him a Western pawn who wants to bring NATO into their backyard, that they recoil at the idea of being perceived as his equal on the world stage, especially after pummeling his military forces.

It was not until four days after the conflict began - an eon in the 24-hour news universe - that a top Kremlin official was sent to CNN to counter Mr. Saakashvili. The official, Sergei B. Ivanov, a confidant of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who speaks polished English and has long experience in the West, quickly acknowledged that an unfortunate perception had taken hold."A big Russian bear attacked a small, peaceful Georgia," said Mr. Ivanov, a deputy prime minister, before seeking to undo the damage. "In fact, the situation is and was vice versa. It was a big Georgia which attacked a small and tiny breakaway republic of South Ossetia."

 

by Robert Tharp at 2:36:50 pm

A soon-to-be-released academic study in the Journal of Empirical Studies concludes that plaintiffs are better off cutting their losses and settling rather than taking a
case before a jury. The study found that most plaintiffs who passed up a settlement and proceeded to trial ended up getting less money than originally offered. That decision typically cost the plaintiff about $43,000, the study concludes.

Defendants, on the other time, made a mistake by proceeding trial only about a quarter of the time. The survey found that an attorney's experience level played no role in the success or failure in the courtroom. Dallas attorney Mike Richardson, a partner at the trial law firm Rose•Walker, says the study should have taken actual courtroom experience into consideration _ not the number of years on the job. "If you've tried plenty of cases, you can usually do a pretty good job of handicapping the outcome," Richardson says. "The study is absolutely right in saying an attorney's years of experience don't matter, but real trial experience does." To interview Mr. Richardson about his opinion of the study, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 5:09:23 pm

Fortune 500 companies are apparently making faster progress than law firms in terms of diversity in the upper ranks, according to a recent survey that found that one in

five general counsels at Fortune 500 companes are women. The 92 general counsels currently employed by Fortune 500 companies is more than double the 44 females GCs reported when the Minority Corporate Counsel association began keeping such stats in 1999.  "This trend is a natural result of the emphasis on diversity within corporate legal departments," says Stacy Humphries of Houston's MS Legal Search "In general, corporations have been working harder and smarter than law firms to foster diversity, both in terms of women and minorities." This year's survey found 20 new women GCs at Fortune 500 companies, with all but three replacing male counterparts. "The numbers indicate that companies are not just hiring talented women lawyers, but are also retaining and promoting them." To interview Ms. Humphries on hiring trends in the legal industry, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:54:31 pm


Pop quiz: Which population group represents the largest segment of undocumented citizens in the U.S.? The correct answer would be U.S. citizens, more than three

out of four of whom don't possess valid passports. That little known fact stands to become a big problem next summer when the rules change and U.S. citizens are no longer allowed to re-enter the country from Canada or Mexico by simply showing a birth certificate and driver's license. Fewer than 25 percent of Americans hold a U.S. passport, including a third of adult women whose proof of citizenship does not even reflect their current legal name, says Kathleen Campbell Walker of El Paso 's Brown McCarroll, the immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Many U.S. citizens already face significant hurdles in providing valid proof of citizenship, and the need for that documentation is only going to increase," Walker says. To interview Kathleen Campbell Walker about immigration and documentation issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:53:34 am

With more than 14.5 million active online auctions listings at this very moment, just how responsible should eBay be for the fraud that occurs when unscrupulous sellers

misrepresent their wares? Quite responsible if you're the high-end jeweler Tiffany & Co., whose commanding price depends largely on the exclusivity of its brand name. Three out of every four Tiffany's products for sale on eBay are fake, the jeweler claims. Buoyed by Louis Vuitton's similar complaint that resulted in a $61 million judgment in France against eBay, Tiffany has asked a federal appeals court to overturn a July decision in which a lower court found that eBay is not legally obligated to preemptively remove listings of suspected counterfeit items. The conflicting rulings show that this matter is far from settled, says  attorney Dyan House, who handles trademark, copyright and licensing matters at Munck Carter in Dallas. "These cases exist at the intersection of new technology and IP law," House says. "Doing business online is becoming more prevalent and, unfortunately, so is infringement." To interview Ms. House about the eBay cases, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:14:33 am

Shoddy maintenance, inadequate insurance and paperwork, questionable driving records. These are just some of the details emerging from the investigation of the August 8 crash of a charter bus that killed 17 passengers near the Texas-Oklahoma border. But for Dallas attorneys Mark Werbner of Sayles Werbner PC and Frank Branson of The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson, preliminary findings from the wreck show that state regulators and fly-by-night bus companies have not learned from

previous and strikingly similar catastrophic bus crashes.

Among other things, the bus operated by Iguala BusMex Inc. of Houston was traveling with a retread tire on one of its front wheels. It is illegal to use retread tires on wheels that steer a bus. Records indicate that the owner of the bus had failed safety inspections and the driver had a history of traffic infractions.Werbner says he's disappointed that despite a number of deadly bus crashes in recent years in Texas and across the country, shady bus companies like the one carrying members of the Houston-area church are still allowed on the road. "This appears to be yet another case where a company and driver failed to get the required safety inspections and did little to protect the passengers," he says.

Most of the passengers were from the Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Houston and were on their way to the Marian Days pilgrimage in Carthage, Mo., for an annual festival honoring the Virgin Mary.

Branson and Werbner know what they're talking about when it comes to investigating bus companies and bus crash litigation. Werbner represented one of the surviving victims of a 2002 bus crash near Terrell, Texas, that killed five and caused severe injuries to several others. That case, which also involved a church group that had hired a charter bus service, resulted in a $71 million verdict on behalf of Werbner' client. Branson is currently representing victims of another horrific bus crash that occurred near Dallas and involved elderly Houston nursing home residents evacuating from Hurricane Rita in 2005. In that case, 23 people were killed when the bus caught fire in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

by Robert Tharp at 4:42:00 pm

The surprising thing about the collapse of IndyMac Bancorp last month was that apparently so few saw it coming. The California-based bank was not among the banks thought to
be in imminent danger of bankruptcy. IndyMac's failure now has everyone from industry insiders to individual account holders concerned that other banks may soon follow. Banking attorney Steven Camp of Dallas' Gardere Wynne Sewell says those concerns are not without merit. "There are other significant bank failures that may well occur in the near future," he says. "There's a watch list of banks people are concerned about. IndyMac was likely just the canary in the coal mine." Those with accounts should worry about the security of their deposits, though, because protections are in place to protect accounts up to set limits. To interview Mr. Camp about bank failures, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:25:01 pm

Controversy is already swirling around plans under review by the federal Department of Labor to reassess the risks associated with exposure to toxins in the workplace. According to published reports, proposed changes to workplace safety guidelines would reassess the way toxic exposure is calculated for workers. Although details
have not been released, the proposal would reportedly address concerns that risks of on-the-job exposure to toxins are overestimated. RICKY RAVEN of Houston's Thompson & Knight says the review is long overdue. "I think under the current rules there is generally an overestimation, even exaggeration, about the levels of worker exposure," says Raven, who defends companies in toxic tort litigation. "The days of industry not being mindful of worker and workplace exposure levels are long over. Businesses fully appreciate the obligations and economic incentives of maintaining a safe workplace without unrealistic, government-mandated standards." To interview Mr. Raven about workplace toxin issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 3:19:09 pm

It's probably just a matter of time before Texas courts play hose to litigation from the $330 billion auction-rate securities collapse of 2008, says Kenneth Johnston of

Dallas' Kane Russell Coleman & Logan. Just last week, the Texas State Securities Board sent a warning shot over the bow of Swiss banking giant UBS. The board threatened to bar UBS from doing business in Texas and claimed that the company engaged in fraud in the way they peddled auction-rate securities. "Civil charges may demand that these firms pay back profits as well as damages to corporations and consumers,' Johnston says. To interview Mr. Johnston about auction-rate securities, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:59:55 pm

Some employers are trying to help struggling workers cope with high gas prices by offering gas cards redeemable at the pump. What many don't realize is that the value
of the cards is technically taxable income that can result in a painful surprise when it's time to file income tax returns, says Audrey Mross, who leads the Labor and Employment secton of Munck Carter in Dallas. "The IRS has rules regarding employers subsidizing mass transit and there are specific exemptions, but gas cards are not on the list," Mross says. To interview Ms. Mross about gas prices and the implications for employers, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:19:52 pm

Sales of the wildly popular Wii and Game Cube controllers threatened to come to a grinding halt in the ongoing patent battle between a tiny Tyler, Texas, technology
 
company and Nintendo. Tyler-based Anascape, which holds patents to technology used in the controllers, has prevailed in the latest rounds in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Most recently, the court ordered Nintendo to either stop selling three types of video controls for the Wii and the Game Cube or put a portion of the sales in escrow. For an idea of the stakes infolved, Nintendo ponied up more than $38 million in escrow in order to keep peddling the gadgets. Attorney DOUG CAWLEYand others from Dallas-based McKool Smith represented Anascape in the patent litigation and helped win a $21 infringement verdict against Nintendo in May that recently was approved by the federal court.

by Robert Tharp at 4:51:40 pm

A few recent items out there on the interwebs point to the marketing power of blogs and configuring Web sites and their content for search engine optimization.

A study by eMarketer has some surprising findings regarding the way news reporters use blogs in the news-gathering process. According to this survey, nearly 40

percent of news reporters use blogs as a way to find subjects to write about. Nearly 30 percent use blogs as a way to find quotable experts. Even though there are more than 2,000 law-related blogs out there, this study confirms what many of us have already known, that blogs are an excellent way to improve your professional profile.

On a related note, this law.com story offers a pretty basic primer on the importance of search engine optimization for law firm Web sites. The basic message: spending some time on your website and updating content(including blogs) can pay huge dividends. The piece raises an interesting rhetorical question: if search engine optimization works then why don't more people use it?

by Robert Tharp at 2:38:57 pm

The current state of the economy is causing all kinds of expansion and contraction in the legal world. At Munck Carter, P.C., the firm sees an opportunity to boost its

technology and intellectual property practice with three new hires. The Dallas-based firm recently announced the additions of attorneys Dyan M. House, N. Elizabeth Pham and David Roe, all joining the firm's intellectual property section. The move also highlights how intellectual property remains a red hot practice area for many Texas firms.

All three have impeccable credentials. House concentrates her practice in the areas of trademark, copyright, franchising and licensing and counsels clients ranging from restaurants, retail establishments, engineering firms, software companies, wireless service providers and non-profit organizations. Pham focuses on intellectual property portfolio development and patent enforcement, representing clients before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Roe's practice centers around intellectual property portfolio development and intellectual property litigation. He represents clients in various high-tech industries, including polymer chemistry, medical imaging devices, computer hardware and software, and semiconductor devices.

Munck Carter, P.C. has carved out a practice devoted to trials, transactions and technology. With offices in Dallas and Marshall, Texas, the firm offers full-service counsel in the areas of complex commercial litigation, intellectual property management and protection, corporate transactions and securities, and employment matters. Munck Carter represents clients from start-ups to Fortune 500TM companies.

by Robert Tharp at 2:02:11 pm

More than 25,000 top CEOs, GCs and other in-house counsel have begun receiving this year's roundup of top business attorneys as selected by Super Lawyers
Corporate Counsel Edition. Honorees are slected among lawyers nationwide who have already been singled out as Super Lawyers through peer nominations and review by a blue-ribbon panel of lawyers. Texas attorneys feature prominently on the list, including six from the Dallas, Austin and New York offices of McKool Smith, P.C., along with four attorneys from teh Dallas and Houston offices of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP.

At McKool Smith, firm principals Doug Cawley, Ted Stevenson and Robert Manley of Dallas; Gordon White and Steve Pollinger of Austin; and Robert Cote of New York are included for their work in intellectual property litigation.

At Gardere, Dallas partners Kenneth R. Glaser, Andre M. Szuwalski and Peter S. Vogel were recognized for their intellectual property work, while Houston partner Jeffrey S. Davis was featured for his civil litigation defense work.