April 29, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 2:13:33 pm Lucky Brand Not So Lucky in Trademark Infringement Battle
When Lucky Brand Dungarees (a subsidiary of Liz Claiborne Inc.) filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Marcel Fashion Group back in 2005, the company claimed its "Get Lucky" slogan had been infringed. Jurors in a New York courtroom saw things a little differently after hearing testimony that it was Marcel Fashion that had first registered the "Get Lucky" trademark way back in 1985.
For Lucky Brand, the tables finally turned on April 22 when jurors in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of Marcel Fashion, finding that Lucky Brand actually was the infringer in this trademark dispute. Noted trademark attorney Ann Schofield Baker of McKool Smith led the trial team in a legal battle that spanned 12 years. When the dust settled, jurors agreed Lucky Brand should pay $300,000 to Marcel Fashion after determining that the company infringed the "Get Lucky" trademark in its advertising and in clothing and perfume products.
This is just the latest in a string of court victories that Schofield Baker has secured in this case. When asked by The American Lawyer this time last year about the David vs. Goliath aspects of this case, she offered this gem: "Yeah, but you know what?" she said. "David is kicking ass."
April 22, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 11:34:24 am Will new evidence help free Minnesota man jailed over Toyota crash?
Automotive experts have begun inspecting Koua Fong Lee' 1996 Toyota Camry involved in a fatal crash in Minnesota four years ago, and new evidence may be coming to light helping support Lee's claims of innocence. Lee, 32, was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in October 2007 and sentenced to eight years in prison after a jury found him responsible for causing a crash that killed three people.
His conviction and prison sentence are now in doubt following widespread accounts of unexplained sudden acceleration by Toyota vehicles and new evidence about the circumsances surrounding the crash. Lee has said all along that he lost control of the car and couldn't get it to stop. The Associated Press reported yesterday that an investigator believes that Lee in fact did have his brakes engaged at the time of the collision. Additionally, a recently-released letter from Mr. Lee's former attorney has surfaced, showing evidence that Lee was indeed hitting the brakes on his car at the time of the accident. It's unclear why jurors in Lee's trial were not provided this information.
Attorneys Robert Hilliard from the Corpus Christi, Texas-based law firm of Hilliard Muńoz Guerra LLP and Brent Schafer of Minneapolis's Schafer Law Firm say an inspector they hired to examine Lee's car has found possible problems with the cruise control.
In an op-ed piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Hilliard urges Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner to free Lee. "Mr. Lee remains in jail -- for an event that in no way should have been considered a crime," Hilliard writes in the article. He goes on to say that "At the time, no explanation made sense. Now, there is a sensible explanation. A truthful explanation."
April 14, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 10:52:50 am Dallas Judge: County did not seek competitive bids for $17 mil records preservation contract
Attorney Michael Hurst: Bid process unfair and should be voidedWork on a Dallas county hard copy records preservation contract came to a screeching halt Monday after a Dallas district judge determined that county officials did not follow proper competitive bidding requirements last year when it awarded a $17.3 million records preservation contract and issued an injunction.The Dallas Morning News reports that District Judge Bruce Priddy ordered the county and its contractor, GTSI Corp. and its subcontractors, AmCad and Louisiana Binding Services, to immediately stop work on the contract to preserve various historical records such as property deeds. The lawsuit filed by Business Resources Corp. alleges the county tried to justify bypassing state law by "piggy-backing" the contract on an unrelated national purchasing agreement. The judge found no evidence that any governmental agency or purchasing organization sought competitive bids as required for the specific services covered in Dallas County's contract with GTSI."It's apparent that Dallas County officials either willfully disregarded the law or were misled about how the contract was awarded," says attorney Michael Hurst of Dallas' Gruber Hurst Johansen & Hail LLP and counsel for Business Resources. "Based on the ruling we hope the county will cancel the existing contract and follow Texas law."
Judge Priddy had some harsh words for the way the contract was initially awarded. "The (competitive bid) process was not followed," the judge said in issuing his order, adding that the pricing agreed to in the contract was not a consideration, but that the relevant issue was the failure of the county and GTSI to follow Texas Local Government Code statutes. "GTSI was aggressively trying to use an exception in violation of Texas law."
April 14, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 10:16:50 am McKool Smith Rolling with New Promotions, Hires
Just recognized in The National Law Journal for winning more of the country's Top 100 verdicts than any other law firm for two years running, McKool Smith is continuing the firm's push as a national litigation powerhouse with the promotion of four attorneys to principals and the addition of six experienced lawyers in the firm's rapidly growing New York office.
New principals Laurie Gallun Fitzgerald and Joel Thollander practice in McKool Smith's Austin office, and Darryl Burke and Garret Chambers practice in Dallas. In New York, the firm has added Sachin Bansal, John C. Briody, Yusuf A. Rangwala, Elizabeth Raskin, Kevin Schubert and James H. Smith as associates.
With the latest additions, the firm now has 25 attorneys practicing in New York after opening the office in late 2007. New York principal Hugh Ray, who also practices in McKool Smith's Houston location, recently was featured in a story published by The Wall Street Journal that examines how firms like McKool Smith are increasing their bankruptcy litigation workload because of the many client conflicts faced by larger law firms.
April 13, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 12:06:48 pm 2010 McCleary Gardere Leadership Scholarship Winner Lives Up to Ideals Held by Visionary Attorney
It's easy to lump law school students into one big me-generation cliché. Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP established the McCleary Gardere Leadership Scholarship to identify second-year law students who are committed to the kind of leadership, community values and diversity championed by the firm's popular former co-managing partner.
The 2010 recipient of the Donald C. McCleary Gardere Leadership Scholarship is Rebekah Bailey. Rebekah, like past scholarship winners, was selected following a rigorous review that considered the applicants' character, academics, leadership, and involvement with the law school and community. Not only is she in the top 25 percent of her law school class, she has served as an intern at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, and spent six months as an intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She also co-founded the Cornerstone Kids Weekend Ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Fair Park, providing a safe and stable environment for children.
"Rebekah's involvement in law school and the community is impressive," says Gardere managing partner Steve Good. "She embodies the spirit of leadership and community involvement that Don McCleary hoped to inspire. We feel that she is a fitting recipient of this honor."
In an interview with the SMU Daily Campus, Bailey described her strong desire to better the community. “My mom has been involved in non-profit work as long as I can remember and she inspired me to do the same,” she said. “Given the unique way the law intersects every aspect of life, there are great opportunities to serve the community with and through a career in law.”
Mr. McCleary, who passed away in 1996, served as the firm's co-managing partner from 1991 to 1995. During his brief tenure leading the firm, he championed diversity and promoted a concept of leadership rooted in the belief that a shared vision was the basis for a successful law firm.
Mr. McCleary's vision for Gardere included participation in local, state and national public affairs, humanitarian activities and pro bono work, and he encouraged everyone to get involved. Among other things, he established many of the community outreach programs that have become a hallmark of the firm, including the Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition, which was launched in Dallas in 1993, and GardereProud, which honors the military service of firm members and their families.
April 13, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 10:36:50 am Judges Order Toyota Defect Litigation Renamed Following Request from Lanier
Lanier: Toyota's problems go beyond sudden accelerationRenaming allows plaintiffs to address automaker's concealment of vehicle defectsThe national litigation over recalled Toyota vehicles has been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and the litigation has been renamed based on a request from noted Houston attorney Mark Lanier.
The federal judicial panel overseeing the litigation granted Lanier's request to rename the litigation "Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation," after the award-winning lawyer argued that the litigation moniker should address Toyota's alleged concealment of vehicle defects, rather than the mechanical/electronic problems themselves.
"We're thrilled," says Lanier, who earlier this month was named one of the decade's most influential lawyers by The National Law Journal. "This is far from merely a mechanical problem. We intend to show that the unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles is almost certainly the result of electronic problems that Toyota failed to disclose for years."
The cases have been consolidated before Judge James V. Selna, who is already presiding in at least one Toyota case filed by Mr. Lanier and Dana Taschner, Managing Attorney of The Lanier Law Firm's Los Angeles office.
Toyota has recalled more than 10 million vehicles covering 17 different models, including recalls based on unexpected acceleration, faulty floor mats, brake problems, drive shaft malfunctions, and other problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recorded more than 30 deaths attributed to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.
The Lanier Law Firm's Los Angeles office already is representing multiple plaintiffs in claims against Toyota nationwide. The firm, whose Los Angeles office sits only a few miles from Toyota's U.S. headquarters, expects to file many additional Toyota claims in the coming weeks and months.
April 12, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 1:48:36 pm Thompson & Knight Picks Meyerson to Lead Houston Offices
Thompson & Knight's Houston offices are a bustling place, serving as focal points of the international firm's energy practice, as well as litigation, real estate, corporate, securities, finance and banking, among many other things. In selecting a leader for the office, the firm turned to longtime Thompson & Knight lawyer Alfred M. Meyerson, a highly respected commercial real estate attorney who already serves as the firm-wide leader of the Real Estate and Banking Practice Group. He is a widely published authority on commercial real estate and a longtime supporter of Houston civics issues.
"This represents a tremendous professional opportunity for me to reinforce Thompson & Knight's role in the diverse and dynamic Houston economy," says Mr. Meyerson. "This office serves as the centerpiece for the Firm's comprehensive energy practice, as well as our expanding responsibilities for clients with interests in Latin America, and I look forward to a number of exciting challenges in supporting all of our clients, attorneys, and staff."
With 70 attorneys, Houston is the second largest office of the 350-attorney firm. In addition to other Texas offices in Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, Thompson & Knight also maintains a New York office and international offices and associations in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
April 7, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 1:45:38 pm Demand for the H-1b visa has dropped, but hopeful foreign-born workers shouldn't delay application process
For highly educated foreign-born workers, the economic downturn coupled with the country's strict immigration laws has had a big impact on demand for the once-coveted H-1b work visas, according to Harvard Law School research associate Vivek Wadhwa. "We're in the midst of a massive brain drain," Wadhwa told the USA Today last month.
Case in point: demand for the H-1b has dropped sharply. Until last year, for example, immigration attorney Irina Plumlee of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP says the limited number of visas were typically exhausted within a few days of the April 1 start of the petition acceptance period. But demand dropped significantly last year, and it took most of the year to exhaust the 65,000-application quota. But that doesn't mean those hoping to score an H-1b this year should take their time applying for a visa. Afterall, Ms. Plumlee says its just impossible to predict demand this year. "In previous years, you knew that if you didn't have the application in on April 1, you would not receive a visa," she says. "That's no longer a certainty, but waiting too long to make your bid for an H-1B work permit could leave you without a visa."
April 6, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 3:03:09 pm Businesses Facing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Going Prepackaged Route
Popularity of so-called "pre-pack" bankruptcies has been rising for several years now. As we noted here last November, the number of filings tripled in 2009 alone. For businesses facing the likelihood of bankruptcy, prepackaged bankruptcy allows them to reach agreements with creditors on a reorganization plan before filing. Meanwhile, traditional bankruptcies can take months or years to churn through the system.
The idea is that by shortening and simplifying the process, companies save legal and accounting fees, as well as the amount of time spent in bankruptcy limbo. The sooner the company can emerge from bankruptcy, the sooner it can turn the operation around and start making money.
Consider Houston-based Cross Canyon Energy Corp.'s recent prepack handled by attorneys in Thompson & Knight's Houston and New York offices. By going the prepack route, Cross Canyon emerged from bankruptcy in just six weeks. "Transactions of this type involving publicly traded securities often take several months or more to go through the bankruptcy process, but after a brief hearing, we were able to obtain confirmation in 42 days after filing the case," says bankruptcy attorney Matthew S. Cohen. "Properly managed, pre-packs can be an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve balance sheet issues and help businesses restructure."
April 5, 2010 by Robert Tharp at 4:11:28 pm A "Superstar Among Plaintiffs' Lawyers," NLJ Names Attorney Mark Lanier One of Decade's Most Influential Lawyers
As he prepares to take on Toyota over vehicle defects, Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston has been singled out as one of "The Decade's Most Influential Lawyers" by the editors of The National Law Journal. Lanier is the lone plaintiffs' attorney recognized by the NLJ for this list, and one of only four lawyers highlighted for their work in litigation matters, along with famed courtroom attorneys Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Brendan Sullivan Jr. of Williams & Connolly; and Theodore Wells Jr. of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The NLJ calls Lanier a "superstar among plaintiffs' lawyers," while noting his massive win in the nation's first trial over the popular pain medication Vioxx. Lanier's $253.5 million verdict in that case is widely recognized as the turning point in the national litigation over Vioxx, which was later resolved with a $4.45 billion settlement. In an article describing his selection, the NLJ notes Lanier's prominent role in the ongoing litigation against Toyota, including his work for more than 1,000 individuals with claims against Toyota.
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