• IP BLAWG

    Trade Secret Judgment Crashes in Bankruptcy Court

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/9/19

    TKC thought it had a slam dunk. It had two judgments for trade secret misappropriation. But, bankruptcy is a whole new world. Bankruptcy is designed to give a debtor a fresh start. So non-dischargeability of a debt is strictly construed. TKC’s result can be avoided. A plaintiff can lay the groundwork for non-dischargeability if the defendant happens to file bankruptcy.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    Cook County Assessor Continues to Punish Commercial/Industrial Taxpayers

    Donald T. Rubin
    7/8/19

    The Cook County Assessor continues his relentless vendetta against business properties in north suburban Cook County. Unprecedented assessment increases upward of 200-300% are being mailed to unsuspecting taxpayers. Every property is being treated as institutional grade investment property, from mom and pop storefronts to small apartment buildings. The assumption that all properties are being leased on a triple net basis allows the Assessor to eliminate property taxes as an expense, which results in higher net incomes and allows the use of much lower capitalization rates. These low rates only allow for a return of the investment necessary to cover debt service, not a return on the investment which allows a return on owner equity. This practice is being used to greatly increase the market value of virtually every commercial and industrial property in the north and northwest suburbs. While claiming complete transparency, Freedom of Information Requests filed on behalf of taxpayers by their attorneys to determine the reason for a denial of relief, are taking upwards of 6 weeks to process, while the law requires a response in not more than 10-days. When responses do become available, a review indicates how the Assessor is manipulating data to ensure that virtually every appeal will be denied. The good news is that the Board of Review has opened a month early, in anticipation of a huge increase in the volume of appeals due to the Assessor's refusal to grant relief, even on the most meritorious cases. The Board has also disclosed that it will continue to review cases as it always has, and will grant relief on the merits of each case, without a pre-determined policy intended to find any means to deny relief to property taxpayers who could see their tax bills skyrocket due the Assessor's failure to act in a fair and equitable manner.

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  • IP BLAWG

    #+*! Trademarks Are Triumphant

    Beverly A. Berneman
    7/2/19

    Erik Brunetti wanted to register the word “FUCT” as a trademark for clothing. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) refused registration saying it was too “scandalous” because it was “extreme nihilism”, evidence of “anti-social behavior” and “extreme misogyny”. Erik appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), who affirmed the refusal. Erik didn’t give up and appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals who reversed the refusal (See IP Blawg Post Dated 1/16/18). The director of the USPTO, Andre Iancu, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who affirmed the Federal Circuit thus allowing the trademark to proceed to registration.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Back Off Mr. Postman

    Beverly A. Berneman
    6/18/19

    Return Mail, Inc. obtained a patent for a computerized system of bar coding so that companies can track returned and undelivered mail. The U.S. Postal Service was interested in licensing the technology. Before they could ink a licensing agreement, the Postal Service walked away and developed its own system. And that’s when the litigation began.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Scrambling for Copyright Infringement Defenses

    Beverly A. Berneman
    6/11/19

    Violent Hues Productions published a tourism guide that used a stock photograph depicting the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. The problem is Violent Hues used it without the permission of the photographer, Russell Brammer.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Model T of Anti-Reverse Engineering Clauses

    Beverly A. Berneman
    6/4/19

    The Versata anti-reverse engineering language may have been fine at the beginning of the license agreement. But over time, the underlying technology changed and the language did not.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Where’s the Cart?

    Beverly A. Berneman
    5/21/19

    Siny Corp tried to register its trademark “Casalana” for a knit textile used in the manufacture of outerwear, gloves and the like. As its specimen of use in commerce, Siny submitted pages from its website. But the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused the specimen because it was mere advertising and not evidence of use in commerce. Siny appealed the decision all the way up to the Federal Court of Appeals and lost. Where did Siny go wrong?

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Schrödinger’s Cat of Trademarks

    Beverly A. Berneman
    5/14/19

    Stella McCartney, the fashion designer daughter of former Beatle, Paul McCartney and his late wife, Linda, tried to register the trademark “Fur Free Fur”. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected it as being merely descriptive of Stella’s use of fake fur in her fashion designs. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) disagreed and overturned the decision.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    Court Setback for Association Health Plans

    Andrew S. Williams
    5/8/19

    The Department of Labor issued guidance in mid-2018 which allowed employer associations to adopt a single multiple employer health plan to cover a greater number of employers and their employees. These Association Health Plans (or “AHPs”) were intended to allow more smaller employers and self-employed individuals to band together in order to secure simpler health plan arrangements and cheaper coverage in the marketplace (our February Benefits Bulletin provides some of the details here).

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  • IP BLAWG

    Holes in the Contractual Jurisdiction Net

    Beverly A. Berneman
    5/7/19

    Ahlam Ramzy, a former employee of Perfect Brow Art, Inc., left and started her own Tennessee eyebrow threading salon. Perfect Brow brought suit against Ahlam in Chicago for trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, false designation of origin, trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    Predictability of Cook County Property Taxes

    Donald T. Rubin
    5/3/19

    Has the value of your business property actually increased by 82% in just 3-years?

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  • IP BLAWG

    Selling Tires Isn’t Like Building Bridges

    Beverly A. Berneman
    4/30/19

    Express Oil Change used the service mark “Tire Engineers” for its tire sales, repair and maintenance services. The Mississippi Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Surveyors had a problem with that. According to the Board, no one can use the word “engineer” unless they are actually engineers and have registered for a license to practice engineering in Mississippi.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    2019 North Suburban Cook County Assessments Causing a Crisis

    Donald T. Rubin
    4/24/19

    In the first three townships having a significant commercial and/or industrial tax base, (Norwood Park, Evanston and Elk Grove, the new assessor has been increasing market values by as much 50 to 300%. He claims that properties in the northern suburbs have been grossly underassessed for years, hence a 1-year catch-up was justified. Of course, no consideration was given to the jobs that will be lost as tenants and companies relocate, nor to the investors who will no longer invest in Cook County, nor to the companies that will no longer consider locating in Cook County, nor to the existing companies that will jettison their expansion plans. The same is true for owners of residential income properties that have also experienced significant increases. Who will be able to afford the higher rents that landlords will try to pass on to them? As to the homeowners, many of whom saw only minor increases, what will become of their property values if local jobs disappear and they cannot sell their houses? To date, the assessor has stubbornly refused to grant relief on a vast majority of commercial and industrial appeals, as his property valuations are apparently perfect.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Angels Fall from Grace

    Beverly A. Berneman
    4/23/19

    VidAngel Inc. removed nudity and violence from films and then sold the ‘redacted’ versions. Disney Enterprises, Inc. its subsidiary Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. sued VidAngel for copyright infringement.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    The Never Ending Battle Between Qualifying Factors for Receiving a Charitable Property Tax Exemption

    Donald T. Rubin
    4/17/19

    In the never ending battle between the qualifying factors for receiving a charitable property tax exemption as first enunciated in the Korzen case, Methodist Old Peoples Home v. Bernard Korzen, County Treasurer, et al, 233 N.E, 2d, 537, 39 Ill.2d 149 (1968), the Illinois Supreme Court initially set forth the following criteria for successfully obtaining a property tax exemption.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Looks Fair to Me

    Beverly A. Berneman
    4/16/19

    Using someone’s trademarks when criticizing their products or services can be tricky. But if you do it the right way, it could be considered nominative fair use.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    Court Case Clears the Way for Illinois Secure Choice Program

    Andrew S. Williams
    4/12/19

    The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program requires employers with at least 25 Illinois employees to set up a state-sponsored IRA based retirement program if they do not already have a retirement plan. Although the program is funded solely by payroll contributions from employees, subject employers must go through an online registration and enrollment process, forward payroll contributions to the program custodian and provide program information to employees.

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  • IP BLAWG

    An Oral Assignment Worth The Paper It’s Not Written On

    Beverly A. Berneman
    4/9/19

    The famous movie producer, Sam Goldwyn, is credited with saying that “An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”. The son of Bob Ross, the Joy of Painting icon, found out that there’s an exception to this rule.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Crashing and Burning of a Trade Secret Case

    Beverly A. Berneman
    4/2/19

    Swarmfly Inc. and CloudFlare Inc. courted each for a potential acquisition and licensing relationship related to video streaming service technologies. Each party signed non-disclosure agreements. Sadly, the courtship didn’t lead to a marriage proposal and each party went their separate ways. Until, Swarmfly sued CloudFlare for trade secret misappropriation.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Casino Dice Game Patent Application Had No Luck

    Beverly A. Berneman
    3/26/19

    Marco Guldenaar Holding BV filed a patent application for a casino dice game. The claims in the patent covered unique markings on the dice and the rules of the game. Guldenaar Holding threw snake eyes when the United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application and the rejection was affirmed on appeal to the Federal Circuit of Appeals.

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  • IP BLAWG

    The Shape of Things to Come

    Beverly A. Berneman
    3/19/19

    The shape of your next burger may be protected by a trademark registration.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Freeing a Princess from a Trademark Tower

    Beverly A. Berneman
    3/12/19

    Anyone with a legitimate interest can oppose the registration of a trademark. But what does “legitimate interest” actually mean. It looks like Rapunzel may help answer that question.

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  • Property Tax Insights

    Contesting your property tax assessment in court

    James W. Chipman
    3/8/19

    Boards of review don’t have the final say about property tax assessments, however they’re a necessary stop in the appeal process. Taxpayers who are unhappy with their board decision have two options: appeal to the state Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) as described in my Aug. 24, Sept. 12 and Nov. 27 blogs; or, file a tax objection complaint in the circuit court. You cannot file appeals in both venues. The good news is that taxpayers who miss the 30-day filing deadline for taking an appeal to the PTAB still have time to pursue the tax objection remedy.

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  • IP BLAWG

    No Shortcut for Copyright Plaintiffs

    Beverly A. Berneman
    3/5/19

    In my blog post of August 1, 2017, I posed the copyright litigation dilemma: “To File or Not to File”. On March 4, 2019, the US Supreme Court resolved the dilemma once and for all.

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  • Benefits Bulletin

    Will a MEP Plan Solve Your 401(k) Fiduciary Problems?

    Andrew S. Williams
    2/26/19

    Department of Labor proposed regulations would allow certain employers (including employer groups or associations) and business owners with no employees to share a single 401(k) plan. This arrangement would transfer administrative and compliance responsibility to the sponsor of the retirement plan under a multiple employer plan, or “MEP.”

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