Gay couples still face legal issues when getting married

shutterstock_290917601Weeks after the Supreme Court removed the ban on gay marriage across the United States legalizing it in all states, gay couples are still facing legal issues, as some county clerks across many states are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples citing religious reasons.  This has become an issue across many of the Southern states and is sparking a debate over the legality of this.

Four Kentucky couples are suing a county clerk after she not only turned away two same sex couples, but two heterosexual couples.  The clerk is refusing to issue any marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruling, claiming that her religious beliefs kept her from issuing them to any couple.  However, she is not the only clerk denying marriage licenses.  Similar instances have been seen in Texas and Tennessee.  Clerks are not only facing lawsuits from a number of couples, but face serious legal issues.  Under national laws, clerks are not allowed to refuse marriage licenses based on religious beliefs as it violates the first amendment.  Many are calling for stricter penalties to end these actions and new laws to protect same sex couples from being denied marriage licenses.  However, clerks are arguing for their actions, citing it is their right to turn down a same sex couple.

The lawsuits against clerks who refused marriage licenses have resulted in some couples later having the licenses being given to them.  Despite this, other couples are still facing problems receiving them and legal battles still continue.

Nebraska moves to abolish death penalty

shutterstock_253321300Nebraska’s legislative branch has taken another step moving them closer to abolishing death penalty. NPR reports that the lawmakers recently voted on the approval of a measure that would repeal capital punishment in the state. With votes tallying 32-15 on this third round, the legislative branch was able to overrule the possibility of a veto from Governor Pete Ricketts, who is known to be a strong supporter of capital punishment.

The movement to abolish death penalty in Nebraska has had a long history, with a failed previous attempt in 1979. It also comes from all sides of the political spectrum. Aside from opposition from Democrats and Independents, Republican lawmakers are also against death penalty on religious and fiscal grounds.

According to NPR, the state of Nebraska has not executed a prisoner for about 20 years. However, Gov. Ricketts has made concrete actions to ensure that the practice continues on. The governor was also noted to have called the two decade gap in the state’s death penalty rulings as a “management problem.” On his website, Gov. Ricketts called for Nebraska residents to express to the senate their “[deep concerns] about the repeal of the death penalty and attempts…to give more lenient sentences to hardened criminals.”

At present, there are 32 states across America where capital punishment is legal. Several states have repealed capital punishment in recent years, including Maryland in 2013 and Connecticut in 2012.

A Closer Look: Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Law

shutterstock_176595017In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Tim Cook recently spoke out against religious freedom laws currently being introduced in several states across the country. The Apple chief executive criticized the role these laws could play in the wide-spread discrimination against the LGBT community. In particular, he cited concerns about the new religious freedom law passed in Indiana that would allow people to “cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.”

After it takes effect on July 1, Indiana’s religious freedom law will prohibit other state laws that could “substantially burden” a person’s ability to exercise his or her religious beliefs. Ideally, the law is meant to prevent government intervention and allow individuals, institutions, businesses, and other associations the freedom to express and exercise their religious beliefs. However, several Indiana-based companies and businesses are echoing Tim Cook’s opinion about the law’s possible discriminatory nature.

The backlash against Indiana’s religious freedom law has been swift. USA Today reported that business leaders in Indiana are most concerned about how the law could impede their ability to recruit fresh talent because job seekers might fear discrimination. Several corporate leaders from Indiana’s top companies also released a one-page opposition of the law addressed to Governor Mike Pence and state legislative leaders.

In response, Gov. Pence has assured the public that he is actively working with legislators to clarify and make amends to the law. As he told The Indianapolis Star, “I support religious liberty, and I support this law… But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

Ebola Outbreak: U.S. Labs Implicated

shutterstock_210544051Conspiracy theorists always like to point the finger at the U.S. government, usually using farfetched, schizophrenic lines of reasoning that just makes you go, huh? But there are times when the theories sound uncomfortably plausible.

That is the case with the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in west Africa which is already spreading to other parts of the world. After the initial alarm that sent people scurrying to set up their defenses had died down, they began to wonder how it got there in the first place. The Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 in the Congo, nearly 3,500 miles away from the site of the recent outbreak in Liberia.

The first tentative suggestions that perhaps the biowarfare research labs the U.S. had in Liberia and Sierra Leone had a hand in the spread began in September 2014 when it was suggested by a professor of plant pathology in an article published in the Daily Observer. It hardened into suspicion as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrated a lack of preparedness for such a contingency that seemed strange for a country that has spent billions of dollars in biowarfare defenses.

There are already nearly 4,000 dead from this Ebola outbreak, and the World Health Organization warns that it could climb to much higher numbers if the virus is not contained.

Improbable Legal Defenses that Worked

Still fresh in the outraged mind of the public, the “affluenza” defense that got a rich teenager off multiple homicide charges is just another example of some flaws in the American jury system.

Ethan Couch was 16 years old when he plowed through a stalled vehicle, killing four people and injuring two of his own passengers. He had been impaired with alcohol (testing 0.24 for blood alcohol content) and diazepam at the time of the incident. Texas is particularly harsh on driving while intoxicated (DWI) and normally the teenager would have been facing multiple second degree felony charges, each count good for 20 years in prison. Instead, he mounted the “affluenza” defense which argued that he had been so spoiled by his rich parents that he was unable to appreciate the consequences of his actions, and got probation and private rehab instead.

A similar improbably defense that worked is the Twinkie defense, in which a defendant claimed that he had been so hopped up on sugar that he was unable to control himself when he killed two people. Despite the fact that Dan White had a very good motive for murdering San Francisco mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk (he wanted his job back) his defense got him a conviction for voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

Neither the Twinkie defense nor affluenza that so outraged the thinking public is recognized as legitimate diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, but the fact is these trials set a dangerous precedent. It sends the signal that criminals can get away with anything if they can get enough experts to say they were crazy at the time they committed a crime. Now that’s crazy…

The Issue of Marijuana Legalization

marijuanaMaryland is one of the 23 states (and the District of Columbia) that have most recently relaxed their laws regarding the possession of marijuana, and although Pennsylvania still holds to the old statutes, it is now decriminalized in Philadelphia at least. In other words, you can no longer be arrested for having a certain amount of marijuana i.e. less than 10 grams in Maryland and less than an ounce in Philadelphia. Instead, you are levied a fine i.e. $100 in Maryland and $25 in Philadelphia.

However, the issue of marijuana legalization is still a hot topic among legislators, many of whom believe that decriminalization of the substance creates more issues than it lays to rest. For example, it would require law enforcers to make judgment calls about whether the amount of marijuana they find warrants an arrest or not. It also brings up the specter of racial disparities in doing searches for suspected illegal possession of marijuana.

State law enforcement has a reason to be nervous. Making an unwarranted arrest can cost the state a bundle in lawsuits, especially there seems to be an overrepresentation of a racial group in the books. It may just be safer (and less expensive) to simply look the other way.

Supreme Court Neutral on Gay Marriage

supreme courtThe issue of same-sex marriage has been raging on ever since the first application for a marriage license was denied by a clerk in Hennepin County, Minnesota because the applicants were both male. However, this week the Supreme Court chose to take a neutral attitude towards the issue of gay marriage, allowing the rulings of lower courts to stand.

The states immediately affected by this decision are Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, and Oklahoma, which had appealed the lifting of the state bans on same-sex marriages by federal appeal courts. Six other states that are awaiting the ruling of the federal appeals court for the same issue may very well get the same treatment from the Supreme Court.

As of the time of this decision, there are 19 states plus the District of Columbia in which same-sex marriage is legalized. This decision could jumpstart the movement to make same-sex marriages recognized in other states, bringing the total number of states that recognize gay marriage to 30. Nine other states, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, are also in line for denials by federal appeals court, which means that there could soon be 39 states in which same-sex marriage is legal or in which the state ban lifted.

This decision is considered a victory for the gay rights movement, but some advocates criticize the Supreme Court for staying on the sidelines when a definitive ruling would have made the process of nationalizing the legality of same-sex marriages much faster.

Uzi Death at Arizona Gun Range

UziIn a bizarre twist of fate, an Arizona gun instructor was killed by a 9-year-old girl wielding, of all things, a 9-mm submachine gun, popularly known as an Uzi.

The gun range, Bullets and Burgers, catered to tourists who made the one-hour trip from Las Vegas to try out high-powered weapons. There are no age restrictions for discharging a weapon in Arizona when it is done under proper supervision in a gun range. This is supposed to prevent injury to the shooter and bystanders, but in this case the supervisor, Charles Vacca, was killed.

Gun experts criticized the fact that the young girl was allowed to hold the powerful weapon in the first place; the recoil is just too much for even some adults to handle, let alone an inexperienced child. Based on a video tape of the events leading up to the incident, short of the actual shooting, gun instructors speculate that Vacca may have made the fatal mistake of standing to the left of the weapon which effectively put him in the line of fire when the child inevitably loses control. Furthermore, they questioned why the Uzi had a full clip, when it is standard to only load three bullets to restrict the burst of gunfire from the semi-automatic weapon.

No charges are expected to be filed against the girl or her parents, who were present at the time of the shooting. It is so far being considered a workplace accident being investigated by the appropriate state agencies. However, there may be a personal injury case in the offing against the gun range for psychological and emotional damages to the child resulting from the traumatic event.

Ebola Victims May Recover Using Tobacco-Plant Drug

EbolaDeadly biological agent rears its head abroad, and infected U.S. citizens throw caution to the winds by using an experimental drug not yet approved for human testing.

The Ebola virus claimed the lives of more than 900 people in West Africa, while twice that is infected. An American missionary Nancy Writebol was evacuated to medical isolation in Atlanta together with Dr. Kent Brantly for treatment. Dr. Brantly is the physician who exhibited symptoms of the disease after treating Patrick Sawyer, the first American to die of Ebola. Both are undergoing treatment with the use of an experimental drug derived from tobacco plants that has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human applications.

The virus spreads from host to host through contact via bodily fluids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have dispatched 50 infectious disease specialists to contain the outbreak in West Africa.

The spread of disease has become much more a matter of concern because of the ease of air travel. Ebola is fortunately not passed through the air, and has a 55% mortality rate, but experts caution that the virus is tricky and unpredictable. Containment is the best option. There is no confirmed treatment of the virus.

The use of the experimental drug ZMapp on Writebol and Brantly was done so without the sanction of the FDA which is required by law. However, it was first administered in Liberia, thus beyond the jurisdiction of the FDA. Despite the first positive signs of recovery, the efficacy of the drug is not yet confirmed, and the legal ramifications of such a move are also somewhat nebulous, though both patients who received the drug were aware that it was an experimental treatment.

GM Recalls Spark Automaker Liability Scare

car ignitionThe massive brouhaha following the unprecedented recall by automaker General Motors of approximately 18 million vehicles for defects has automakers and suppliers scrambling to beef up on liability avoidance training.

GM has already been slapped with millions in fines by the Department of Transportation and faces criminal charges and civil litigation for problems associated with their vehicles, particularly the ignition switch debacle that has dragged parts manufacturer Delphi Automotive plc and airbag supplier Continental AG into the fray. It is alleged that they kept mum about the defective cars to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The defective ignition switch has been linked to the deaths of 13 people. It is claimed that GM had known that the ignition switches were questionable years before but did nothing about it.

Central to the current attempt to evade liability is proper reporting of any questionable issues that may surface in day-to-day transactions. Suppliers are especially vulnerable to close scrutiny because of the ongoing investigation into the alleged collusion of a group of suppliers to fix prices of auto parts and components. Industry leaders fear that this can lead to isolationist company policies that will prevent effective collaboration.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Corexit Controversy

When BP was tasked with cleaning the crude oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by the millions of gallons in 2010, the company’s main weapon of choice was a dispersant called Corexit. The dispersant worked by breaking up oil slicks into tiny droplets, which could then be better washed away by the motion of the ocean’s waves, or sink to the ocean floor.

However, critics were concerned with the gratuitous use of Corexit because certain ingredients were known to be carcinogenic and to damage DNA. Critics also claimed that mixing Corexit with crude oil made a solution much more toxic than either component was by itself. Two different formulas were used, 9500 and 9527, and the latter was recognized as more dangerous.

BP asserted that “the toxicity of Corexit is about the same as dish soap,” in a statement against the dangers of using Corexit. While the Environmental Protection Agency had no data to support that Corexit significantly impacted wildlife, EPA studies did show that a dozen other dispersants were more effective in dispersing the specific kind of oil in the spill, while also being much less toxic in some cases.

When questioned about not choosing a less toxic dispersant formula, BP cited other companies’ use of Corexit as a sign of reliability. In total, 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were reportedly sprayed into the Gulf, although that figure has been disputed.

Social Network Sites after Death

Over a billion people across the world have created a profile on the social networking site Facebook. Millions of people also use other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and a number of other sites.

Logging on to these sites has become a daily habit like taking a shower or eating a meal, but what happens to someone’s accounts after he or she is no longer living? It is a question that many people think about and has even grabbed the attention of lawmakers in New Hampshire and other states.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Peter Sullivan introduced a bill that would give control over a deceased’s social networking pages to the executor of the estate. This includes one’s Facebook, Twitter, and additional accounts like Gmail to be passed to the executor of one’s estate in the event of death.

Sullivan is proposing such a bill in order to provide a sense of peace and closure to family members that lose a loved one. He said the bill would also prevent any form of bullying on a deceased’s Facebook or Twitter page.

Along with New Hampshire, five other states, including Oklahoma, Idaho, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Connecticut, have legislation dealing with one’s online and digital presence after death.

Currently, there are online services available such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, and My Webwill, so individuals can pass on digital assets and account information to trusted sources. People can also speak with a probate lawyer.

Contract Disputes At Your Tech Startup

According to the website of Cedar Rapids business lawyers Arenson & Maas, PLC, contracts can be incredibly complex, detailed, and often confusing legal documents that many parties would rather not deal with. However, in a number of business and work relationships, contracts are absolutely essential to make sure that all involved parties’ interests are protected and upheld. Whether looking at a contract between an www.slaterpugh.comemployer and an employee, a business and a vendor, or any other legally binding agreement, the nitty gritty of contracts can be confusing, but is nonetheless incredibly important.

As such, it is important that when you are first establishing a contract with another party, you do everything possible to make sure that it is drafted as clearly and thoroughly as possible, not only to make sure your interests are fully represented and protected, but also to prevent against disruptive and potentially damaging contract disputes down the line.

Contract disputes can occur in a number of ways, and can take place while a contract is being drafted or can occur after a contract has been established and one of the involved parties feels that the contract has been violated in some way.

For tech startup owners, contract disputes in any form can be incredibly damaging, as they have to potential to divert a business owner’s attention away from running and growing their business, at a time when work is hectic and there are few resources to spare towards resolving the dispute. When contract disputes arise, they have the potential to slow, or even bring to a stop, normal business operations, especially if the dispute involves an important client or business partner.

Additionally, depending on the nature of the dispute, they can damage a company’s reputation in their field, regardless of the party at fault for the contract dispute or violation. Because of the seriousness of these situations, most contract disputes cannot be handled without the assistance of an internet lawyer. These professionals can help alleviate some of the burden of managing the dispute and working towards a resolution, and may be able to help settle a problem faster and more efficiently than if a business owner attempted to do so on his or her own. However, even with the availability of professional assistance, businesses should do everything in their power to avoid becoming entangled in a contract dispute of any kind.

The Social Network All Over Again

Pinterest, the social media platform which allows users to create boards on which they can “pin” their favorite online media, has become the subject of a lawsuit leveled against the company and one of its first investors, Brian Cohen. The lawsuit alleges that the concept and technology for Pinterest were not original creations, but rather that Cohen and his business partners stole the idea from another site, RendezVoo, with which Cohen was also connected.

The suit has six total causes of action that it alleges harmed RendezVoo’s founder, Theodore Schroeder, who filed the suit. Overall, Schroeder is seeking an award of more than $75,000 in damages which, in consideration of the considerable success Pinterest has found, seems fairly insignificant in the long run. However, Pinterest’s business attorneys are still planning a defense against the suit, though it’s quite likely that the suit will eventually be settled out of court, much as the strikingly-similar Facebook case eventually was.

Holiday Season Dangers: Dog Bites

Dog BiteDuring the holiday season, visits from friends and family members are a common occurrence. Unfortunately, reports of injuries caused by family pets tend to increase during this time, and in most cases, the injuries could have been avoided.

If a dog owner doesn’t exercise the right safety precautions, they may be unable to stop their dog from attacking another person in the event of an unexpected trigger or uncontrollable provocation. Dogs are supposed to be kept on a leash when in public and, if potentially a danger to others, should be restrained behind a fence. Especially in the case of potentially dangerous breeds, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pet and may be held legally liable if that pet injuries someone.

A dog bite or attack may leave a person with considerable injuries that may require immediate medical care. Depending on the extent of the injuries, a person may need to go through a significant treatment and recovery process that can be physically, emotionally, and financially taxing. However, compensation may be available for these injured individuals through a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner.

Legal Recourse for Dog Bites

Bites and attacks may leave a person with a sizable medical bill to address, as well as other expenses and a lack of income due to time spent away from work recovering. Compensation may be able to address the following financial concerns after a dog bite or attack:

  • Medical treatment expenses, including skin grafts and antibiotics
  • The cost of staying in the hospital while recovering from an attack
  • Long-term care in the event of particularly vicious attacks or falling injuries
  • Emotional damages and psychological therapy
  • Lost wages due to time spend off of work for medical operations and recovery

If an attack is particularly serious and causes life-long disability or disfigurement, a person may be entitled to pursue compensation that will support them for years into the future. While it may be difficult to consider legal recourse following a tragedy like a dog attack, it is advisable to discuss the circumstances of your claim with an experienced personal injury lawyer. This way, you will not be forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical bills, lost wages, and other unforeseen expenses following an avoidable accident like a dog bite.

What Nerds Need To Know About Dialysis

When individuals seek medical attention, they do so in the hopes that said treatment will help them to recover from a condition or ailment that is troubling them and that in the end, they will find themselves better off than they were when they sought treatment. Unfortunately, there are instances in which individuals are harmed by the medical treatment they receive, suffering because of dangerous medical products with damaging side effects.

Dialysis LawsuitWhen an individual is harmed because of a dangerous medical product or device, they should not be the ones left paying for the resulting damage. By taking legal action against the party or entity responsible for a dangerous medical product, victims and their families may be able to recover much needed compensation for their losses.

This is the situation that many families are facing after their loved ones have suffered because of the negative side effects associated with GranuFlo. GranuFlo is a dialysis medication that has recently been recalled by the FDA because of damaging side effects associated with the use of the medication.

Some individuals who have used GranuFlo have experienced a wide variety of health problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, and stroke. This occurs because GranuFlo can increase the number of bicarbonates in the blood, resulting in a compromised health condition for some users of this medication.

In some situations, users of GranuFlo have died as a result of this medication. Fortunately, for victims and their families, it may be possible to take legal action to pursue compensation for the losses resulting from use of GranuFlo. In most cases, affected individuals seek the assistance of a Granuflo lawsuit lawyer to help them pursue the compensation they need. Compensation can be awarded to help cover medical bills, lost income from time spent away from work recovering, and for emotional damages, such as pain and suffering.

Watch Out For Holiday Season DUIs

BeerOver the holiday season, millions of Americans participate in festivities to celebrate this special time of year. Unfortunately, this can put the lives and safety of others at risk as many people choose to drink more often and in larger quantities. As a result, during the holidays accidents caused by drunk drivers spike, often resulting in serious injuries to all those involved in the accident. Fortunately, DUI accident victims may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, pain, suffering, and losses that they suffer at the hands of a drunk driver.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a drunk driving accident, you may be entitled to take legal action against the party or parties who caused your suffering. Because of the high costs that many of the consequences of a DUI accident may cause, laws throughout the country allow accident injury victims to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering.

DUI Accident Injuries

Injuries caused by drunk drivers are often extremely serious. Some of the most common DUI accident injuries include the following:

[ Broken bones
[ Whiplash
[ Internal organ damage
[ Spinal cord injuries
[ Traumatic head injuries

These and other DUI accident injuries can have devastating consequences for those who suffer in them, not to mention their families. However, no one should have to pay for the consequences of a drunk driver’s reckless decisions on their own. Thus, if you have been the victim of a DUI accident, you should contact a good lawyer to discuss the details of your case and learn more about your legal rights and options when a drunk driver has caused you and your family to suffer after an accident. An attorney can help you understand what you may be able to do to get the justice you deserve in this difficult situation.

eTicketbuster Speeds to Front of Legal Tech Revolution

In the past two decades alone, the legal industry has undergone a quiet technological Yearout & Traylor, P.C.revolution that is dramatically reshaping the way in which people have their legal needs served. Lawyers are now more likely to use technology in court to help them with their cases. One example is using iPads to present evidence and take notes.

A great example of this trend is a new company in Washington state, eTicketbuster. This service allows people who have been issued a traffic citation to fill out a few simple forms online, pay a deposit (which is refunded if their case is lost), and have their ticket contested by experienced an criminal defense lawyer. All this without requiring the individual to lose valuable time fighting on their own in court. Obviously, this can be incredibly convenient to anyone facing criminal charges.

This is the type of technology that is beginning to seriously change how lawyers across the country operate. While some of the more traditional legal industries, such as personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, will continue to require much of the same industry structure, more specialized practices, such as traffic offenses and wills and trusts attorneys, are slowly being phased out in favor of user-friendly technology.

When Dogs Attack!

If you are attacked and hurt by a dog, you have the right to take legal action against the dog’s owner and obtain financial compensation from them for your injuries. If you are attacked, the following are some steps you can take to prepare for legal action per the “one bite rule“.

  • Obtain contact information from the dog owner – Whether or not you are thinking about filing suit, it is a good idea to get the name and phone number of the dog in question’s owner. If you discover that you are suffering from anxiety later on, or have an injury you weren’t initially aware of, you may decide to go ahead and pursue compensation.
  • Obtain contact information from witnesses – If you decide to pursue legal action, it will be necessary for you to call on the testimony of any witnesses that saw the attack. A witness may be able to back you up if the dog’s owner tries to claim you provoked their pet. If you don’t know who the owner is, the witnesses may be able to help you or animal control find out who the owner is.
  • Keep documentation of any related medical attention – If you visit a hospital to treat your injuries, make sure to keep a record of your visits, hospital bills, etc. You’ll need to have that information in order to be compensated if you win your case.
  • Report the attack to animal control – If the dog poses a danger to others, it is important to have animal control identify who the owner is and possibly quarantine the dog temporarily. A lot of cities have laws for dog attacks which require owners to have their dog observed by animal control for seven to twenty days to determine if it is rabid.

If you have been attacked by a dog, in addition to these steps, you should contact a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer and begin discussing which course of action is best for you.

Ohio Gets Cracking With Creeper Tracking

In Ohio, a state which currently has more than 19,000 registered sex offenders living within its borders, new technology is helping to monitor the actions of these individuals. The office of Ohio’s attorney general has helped to create an online database through which sex offenders can update their information online, speeding up the reporting process and helping law enforcement agencies better track the movements of registered sex offenders at all times.

Even more intriguing is a new mobile app that allows police officers to identify all registered sex offenders within a quarter-mile radius of a sexual assault or missing person investigation. In combination, these two technological tools should allow Ohio law enforcement agencies to more effectively protect the communities under their care. However, many of these new technologies have been controversial among criminal defense lawyers and other parties, who claim that they unduly punish individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes, making it difficult or in some cases, impossible, for them to secure housing, jobs, and other opportunities, even after they have served their sentences in full.

Patent Infringement: Two Can Tango

A recent decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has set an important precedent for future patent infringement claims relating to information technology. In Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., the Court determined that, while Limelight Networks hadn’t directly infringed on every aspect of Akamai’s patented content delivery technology, it was nevertheless liable for infringement because it had been aware of the patent and had instigated outside companies to do the other procedural moves that led to an infringement on the patent.

Law

This is an important development because, until this point, it was considered necessary for a company to infringe on every step of a patented method in order for an infringement claim to be successful. However, as the Court noted, the nature of these types of technological processes often involve interactions between multiple parties, which can easily be induced to violate portions of another company’s patent rights in fulfilling their obligations. This decision, therefore, could have a substantial impact on future decisions relating to process patents and patent law.

Mobile Technology and Client Portals

For attorneys, communication is a crucial part of success.  Computer services targeting lawyers are not a new concept, but there have been many recent changes to the way that attorneys can use applications, such as cloud storage systems, to better their client relationships.  Advances in mobile technology have allowed people to make the most of these services via mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads, allowing both attorneys and clients to access critical information from anywhere with the simple touch of a screen.

Client portals are unique online storage spaces that give attorneys and their clients access to case-relevant documents from any device with an internet connection.  These secure portals can be used to:

  • Share documents
  • Make travel arrangements
  • Answer questions
  • Pay bills
  • Set reminders
  • Request client feedback

By utilizing client portals, law firms have been able to keep clients up-to-date in real time and include them in important discussions.  While this can make cases easier, it also may help to increase client loyalty by helping them feel connected to what’s happening in their case.  Hopefully , this will allow smaller firms that make the most of client portals to better compete with larger firms and improve their ratings in order to grow their business.

Many personal injury law firms have been able to make the most of technological advances in their practice without encountering problems pertaining to security. However, it is important to ensure that the portal service selected has proper security protections in place to safeguard the sensitive information stored in the cloud system.

Farmville Isn’t Hacking

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently released a decision announcing that employees cannot be subject to criminal sanctions under a federal anti-hacking law simply for violating a website’s terms of use or an organization’s computer use policies. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 was ideally passed to help employers and government agencies prosecute those who steal data from their networks, but lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that the Act could also be used to prosecute those who engage in less clearly criminal conduct, such as abusing computer use policies.

In a blow to the government’s case, the Circuit Court ruled that this use of the law was far too broad. Noting that it could encompass employees who engage in activities such as playing the Facebook game Farmville at work or posting incorrect information about themselves on dating websites, the Court determined that too many unsuspecting individuals may be subjected to legal proceedings for their activities.

Do Not Track: Good or Bad News?

With many people worked up about whether or not Do Not Track will affect the freedom of the internet, it may be time for everyone to decide how it will really affect their searches.  The ad industry, understandably, is arguing adamantly against the use of DNT.  They believe that by ridding the internet of personal data collection, the way that tracking-based advertising works will become ineffectual.  This may be somewhat true, but because there are so many other sources of advertising revenue, it is not going to seriously affect online ad sales.

Most browsers have chosen to move in this direction and Google Chrome—the biggest one to hold out—has announced that by the end of the year, they too will have a Do Not Track option for their users.  At this point I think it is better for readers to consider what the impact will be on their personal life rather than getting wrapped up in the potential complications of ad agencies.  At this point, it appears that no one is going to be hit by this act too seriously, but internet users may be able to retain a bit more privacy than they have experienced in previous months.

Tweets Not Private

Hach & Rose, LLPRecently, Twitter decided to hand over deleted tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protestor’s account to a criminal judge in New York. Prosecutors had subpoenaed the social networking giant to receive access to the tweets, but until recently, Twitter had refused to turn them over. However, after months of pressure, Twitter capitulated and gave prosecutors access to the information they sought.

At issue in the case is whether or not an individual’s tweets should be considered private communications. In this case, the protestor’s tweets are alleged to contradict his claim that police led protestors into the street in order to arrest them for obstructing traffic. According to a New York personal injury lawyer, the “social” nature of tweets and similar communications renders them ineligible for privacy protection, as they are intended to be broadcast to a public audience.

Apple vs. Samsung Decision

Nerd Law recently discussed the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit that was ongoing for several weeks.  Now, we have the results.  Late last Friday night, a jury voted in favor of Apple and awarded the company $1,049,343,540 in damages.  Samsung was not awarded any financial compensation by the jury at this time.

The complex case centered mostly around whether or not Samsung products infringed on Apple patents and vice versa.  The lawsuit included the consideration of over 30 different devices, 12 patents, and the jury was asked to make over 700 decisions about the case in order to come to a decision about the infringement issues.

Samsung is expected to appeal this decision, so the case is far from over.  Apple is now engaging in a legal battle with HTC over similar concerns, and it will be interesting to see how this verdict will affect future patent infringement cases.

Phone Phishing?

While many people have heard of phishing in relation to their emails, a recent trend has shown that many scams now include phishing via text message.  This type of fraud, commonly referred to as SMS phishing or Smishing, may be on the rise because cyber criminals have recognized a lack of spam alerts on mobile devices.  PCs typically alert users to incoming messages that appear risky or potentially dangerous, but texts that link to websites may be more successful at getting users to follow the link.

Analysts at Symantec Security Response have commented that this growing trend is dangerous because it spreads malware throughout the device.  In some situations this virus sends personal information to the cyber criminal that could allow them to access a person’s financial accounts or even listen in on phone calls.

It may be a good idea for users to consider purchasing security software for the phones and carefully analyzing suspicious messages from both known and unknown contacts before following links.  By thinking of your cell phone as a computer, it may be possible to minimize the risks of fraud.  By checking with your bank’s policy on texting consumers, deleting suspicious messages, and enabling a text block feature available on many service plans, it is possible to reduce the dangers associated with phone phishing.

SHIELD Act

The issue of patent trolling, or nonpracticing entities (NPEs) who collect technology patents for the sole purpose of suing legitimate companies while they themselves produce nothing, has long been a limiting factor in American software and technology innovation. According to a study released by James Bessen and Michael Meurer at the Boston University School of Law, defendants suffered $29 billion in direct costs from frivolous lawsuits in 2011, and a previous study indicated that troll lawsuits like this ended up costing tech companies $500 billion in legal fees, out of court settlements, awards, and hits to share value between the years of 1990 and 2010.

New proposed legislation is targeted at forcing the trolls back under the bridge however, as two congressmen have introduced the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act which would require patent lawsuit plaintiffs to pay their defendent’s legal fees should they lose the suit. In the majority of patent lawsuits, NPEs target smaller firms with the objective of forcing a settlement for a few hundred thousand dollars. In cases such as this, the SHIELD Act would be an effective deterrent as the NPE would have more to lose than they had to gain in pursuing a lawsuit. Hopes are high for the bill, but similar legislation such as the America Invents Act was dismantled in Congress by the influence of lobbyists, leaving it largely ineffective.

Wi-Fi Privacy

Recent concerns about the privacy of Wi-Fi networks have many Americans wondering how secure their internet traffic is.  Although Congress amended the wiretap law to protect the privacy of everyone who relied on cellular phones rather than only corded telephones, they have not yet included Wi-Fi traffic.  Password protected networks are likely safe from this potential threat, but open-networks may not be legally protected.

The decisive, long-term ruling on this is currently unclear because this type of technology was not considered in previous amendments to the federal wiretap statute.  A class action lawsuit filed against Google ruled that although the networks were not specifically mentioned in the exclusions of the wiretap law, they should be protected even if they are not encrypted.  This case is currently being appealed, so the final outcome may be changed.  Future weeks will likely present further debate on this type of privacy issue.

Apple vs. Samsung

Tech powerhouses Apple and Samsung are facing off in court in order to determine possible patent breaches between their phone and tablet products.  Apple began the legal battle in 2011 when they filed a lawsuit against Samsung for copying the iPhone and iPad models.  Samsung retaliated with a counter-suit and in turn, Apple pushed for similar patent cases in other countries.

But fortunately, a verdict has been reached!  United States District Court Judge Lucy Koh determined that sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 should be postponed until Samsung can prove innocent in the lawsuit.  Should the infringement claims be found invalid, Apple has agreed to compensate Samsung’s potential losses up to $2.6 million.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed by Samsung, so possible changes to the ruling could go into effect in upcoming weeks.  Cases like this can be complicated and often requires the on-going dedication of legal teams, so it may be a while before we hear a final decision regarding the appeals process.