In 2014, in the District Court of Arizona, a judge ruled that “Google” was not a generic term and was eligible to receive trademark protection in Elliott v. Google. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. In 2011, Forbes estimated that the “Google” trademark was worth $113 Billion; the trademark is worth more now in 2018 and the company’s trademark is likely its most valuable asset. The suit first ensued when Elliott purchased over 700 domain names with the word “Google” and after the company had successfully won a name dispute, Elliott filed to cancel “Google” trademarks. Elliott claimed that Google was a generic term and should not receive trademark protection. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in this case will most definitely affect companies and entrepreneurs of all sizes, perhaps giving companies more protection than they were afforded in the past; what some are calling an unintended consequence.
The number of Americans who purchase goods online is steadily rising. Recent data published by the U.S. Department of Commerce stated that retail e-commerce had increased by 16.2 percent in 2Q 2017 from 2Q 2016. The report also stated that as a whole retail e-commerce had risen from 3.5 percent of total quarterly retail sales in 2008 to 9 percent as of 2Q 2017. In hard numbers, 2Q 2017 e-commerce generated 111.5 billion dollars in sales. Showing strong growth in under 10 years, these staggering numbers indicate that e-commerce has started to creep up on the traditional brick and mortar (BM) style of retail which has so long dominated the retail landscape. One can only look at the financial data and stock charts of traditional BM stores as well as the REITs that own the malls and land these stores call home to see there has been some effect with this shift.
After years in an opioid crisis, the United States now faces an opioid epidemic that has left the government and public desperate for relief and a workable solution. A group of senators hopes to be part of the solution with the introduction of a bipartisan bill that aims to better enable the DEA to establish opioid quotas. Despite already-present struggles to effectively manage its quota system and policies, the DEA would be given significantly more responsibility under this bill. Drug manufacturers, directly responsible for following DEA, FDA, and OIG regulations to hopefully resolve the epidemic, will need to grow their compliance efforts and create responsive solutions to remain both profitable and compliant.
One of the most difficult things many of us will experience in our lifetime is the death of a loved one. Whether unexpected or a drawn out farewell, it is a situation no one can be full prepared to handle. In this moment of extreme vulnerability, most people begin the process of planning a funeral. Society has placed an incredible amount of faith in funeral directors to make sure the wishes of our loved ones are met and insure a memorable service for the living. However, this is not always the case.
Over the years, the Internet has become a vast space for people to create and view content shared by millions of Internet users. The abundance of content makes it nearly impossible to regulate everything that is posted. This has created a problem for authors, songwriters, and artists whose work is protected by copyright laws, because it has become increasingly easy for anyone to use, copy, and share copyrighted works that they do not have the right to use. Copyright law exists to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” While the Copyright Act clearly grants artists certain exclusive rights to their work, claims of infringement often cause courts to engage in subjective analyses that leave some areas of copyright protection unclear. This has been especially problematic with fanfiction. In Fanfiction, fans of existing books, movies and television shows used different elements of those works to write their own stories, which are often then posted on websites such as, fanfiction.net. Fanfiction raises questions of copyright infringement and whether online forums should be more strictly regulated to monitor compliance with copyright laws.
On June 19, 2017, the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 ruling, found that the government can no longer sensor trademarks on the grounds that they may be offensive. In Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court Justices found the seventy-one year old rule allowing the government to refuse offensive trademarks to be unconstitutional and to violate free speech and first amendment rights. The justices were unable to agree on exactly what legal standard was to apply to the present case or future cases. The revocation of this seventy-one year old rule that has affected the registration of many marks over the years is bound to have an effect on the future of trademark law and trademark litigation. Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was inundated with requests to register offensive trademarks.
In November of 2016 voters in California passed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act which legalized the sale and use of marijuana throughout the state, similarly to states such as Colorado and Washington. Starting January 1, 2018, it will be legal to go to a licensed dispensary and purchase marijuana for personal use, without needing a medical marijuana card. However, marijuana possession or use is still a federal offense; navigating the new law can be hazy.
The cosmetics industry, unknown to many, is essentially not regulated by a federal regulatory agency. Cosmetics technically fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), but there are few requirements that manufacturers must comply with. The FDA only requires that manufacturers comply with several labeling regulations so companies can avoid listing a product’s total ingredients, and the FDA does not require manufacturers to report health complaints. The FDA instead relies on direct reports of adverse events from consumers, which has the potential to delay remedying a potentially dangerous situation. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that between 2015 and 2016, the number of complaints of adverse health results related to cosmetic products more than doubled from the previous years. Additionally, the FDA only has the equivalent of six full-time inspectors to monitor three million shipments of cosmetics that come into the United States each year. Last year, inspectors only conducted tests on about 364 of those shipments, and 20 % of those shipment that were inspected led to adverse findings.
Regardless of opinions on legalization, many people accept the idea that medical marijuana, and more specifically CBD, can be a powerful treatment for many medical conditions. However, there has been one major roadblock: the FDA. According to the FDA, more than 90 warning letters over the past 10 years have been released to companies claiming that their cannabis products cure various symptoms. The most common is the claim that marijuana prevents or treats cancer. In 2017, as the medical properties of marijuana continue to be trumpeted to the general public, the FDA is still working to protect the public by issuing warning letters to marijuana providers making unsubstantiated claims.
Starting on January 1, 2013, Section 203 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 became a tool for songwriters and musicians to recapture control of their work that was registered with the United States Copyright Office on or after January 1, 1978. Who are they recapturing control from? Record companies. Songwriters own the copyrights in their work, but in making a deal with a record company to publish and promote the work, writers transfer those rights or license the work (only granting certain rights) to the company. Section 203 came into effect in 1977 and specifically concerns music created after 1978. (Music created prior to 1978 is governed by Section 304 of the Copyright Act.) Due to the limitations of Section 203, January 1, 2013, was the first opportunity for artists to terminate ownership of their songs and/or recordings from the record companies that previously owned them. Putting that into perspective, in 2017, artists that created the major hits of the 80’s (think AC/DC, Michael Jackson, and Journey) can file a notice of termination with record labels that were previously granted ownership rights at the time the music was created in an attempt to regain all control of their work. Issues with termination rights have caused quite the battle between record companies and musicians both publicly and privately. Those battles can become more complicated in cases with multiple writers, vague copyright agreements, and the death of musicians. As artists seek to exercise their termination rights, it will be interesting to see if and how the music industry will change.