If you live within a 25-mile radius of Trader Joe’s, or even if you don’t, you may identify with this story. Trader Joe’s is a California based specialty retail grocery store carrying their own store branded items. For many Americans, it’s a favorite place to shop for something new and fun, especially with the change of seasons. Pumpkin biscotti anyone?
Michael Hallatt, a Canadian, took his love for Trader Joe’s products to a whole other level. Hallatt calls himself Pirate Joe and operates a store in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he sells only Trader Joe’s products. Trader Joe’s has locations all over the United States, but none in Canada.
As Hallatt made weekly trips over the border to purchase stock for his Canadian store, Trader Joe’s employees started noticing him. He was eventually banned from several stores and now has other people shopping for him. While Hallatt loves Trader Joe’s, they don’t love him. Early this summer, they sued him in federal court in Washington state.
The allegations against him included federal trademark infringement, deceptive business practices, false advertising and unfair competition. After the lawsuit was filed against him, Hallatt changed the name of his store to Irate Joe’s.
Hallatt’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss and stated that there was really no damage and that he buys the products at full-price. Last week, U.S. district judge Marsha J. Pechman granted the motion and dismissed the lawsuit. Her ruling stated that any alleged infringement takes place in Canada and Trader Joe’s cannot show economic harm. So for now, Canadians can continue to purchase their favorite Trader Joe’s treats. However, state law claims could possibly still be filed within the next few days. We’ll have to wait and see.
Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? Do you think it’s fair for Pirate Joe’s to sell their products in Canada without permission?
In California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed an anti-paparazzi bill into law that is intended to protect celebrities’ children from harassing behavior of photographers.
In addition to potential jail time of up to a year, the law will impose significant penalties on a photographer who harasses a celebrity’s child under the age of 18. Potential fines include $10,000 for the first violation; $20,000 for a second offense; and up to $30,000 for a third. The parent or guardian of the minor may also seek damages.
Harassment is defined within the law as encompassing “conduct in the course of the actual or attempted recording of children’s images and/or voices, without express parental consent, by following their activities or lying in wait.”
One of the law’s main and most prominent supporters has been Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry, who is currently pregnant with her second child. Others involved in the fight for this law include actresses Jennifer Garner and Nia Vardalos.
“On behalf of my children, it is my hope that this is the beginning of the end for those overly aggressive paparazzi whose outrageous conduct has caused so much trauma and emotional distress,” said Berry.
The law will go into effect on January 1, 2014.
What do you think of this law?
When Huguette Clark, daughter of a Montana copper baron who founded Las Vegas, died in 2011 at age 104. She left her $300 million estate to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life, several arts charities, and various employees — but explicitly excluded relatives.
Not surprisingly with so much money at stake, some of those distant relatives have come forward to dispute the 2005 will, which Clark signed when she was 98 years old. A will that she had signed just six weeks before that, left her fortune to distant relatives.
The parties tried and failed to reach a settlement in the case, which delayed the start of a civil trial. The case includes more than 60 attorneys, so the lack of an agreement among them was almost expected. Jury selection began on the case on Thursday, September 19, but was halted so the presiding judge could decide whether attorneys for the art foundation established by Clark’s will, Bellosguardo in Santa Barbara, California, should participate in the case.
Clark’s father was U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark, who made his riches building railroads, running copper mines, and founding Las Vegas. Huguette Clark was his youngest daughter, and she had no children. The relatives challenging her will, who are alleging fraud and that Clark was incompetent when she signed it, are descendants from the first marriage of her father.
In addition to a charitable foundation for the arts and New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, Clark’s beneficiaries include her attorney, accountant, doctor, and private nurse. The relatives also maintain that Clark had given many of those individuals substantial gifts during her lifetime as well, including more than $30 million to her nurse.
The trial is expected to last up to two months.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether a juror may be excluded from a jury on the basis of sexual orientation.
The question arose in the appeal of the verdict in a case in which SmithKlineBeecham accused Abbott Laboratories of antitrust violations when it instituted a 400% price hike of Norvir, a drug used in the treatment of AIDS. In 2011, a jury mostly sided with Abbott Laboratories, but an important issue before the appellate panel now is whether a potential juror can be excluded based on sexual orientation.
The three judge panel heard oral arguments on this issue for more than an hour, but there is no estimate on when their decision might be released.
During the course of jury selection for the underlying trial, a lawyer for Abbott Laboratories excluded a juror who had identified himself as gay. Abbott Laboratories maintains that the reasoning for excluding the juror did not have anything to do with sexual orientation but instead with three factors: the potential juror had a friend who had died of AIDS, had worked in the court system, and had heard of the SmithKline treatment that was the subject of the lawsuit.
Based on two previous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, excluding a potential juror on the basis of race or gender is prohibited by federal law, but SCOTUS has not yet addressed the issue of sexual orientation.
Could this case and this issue eventually make it the highest court in the land? Stay tuned.
Late last year, a California court declared unconstitutional a program to provide tax breaks to small business owners opening particular types of enterprises — and now the California Franchise Tax Board is seeking back taxes.
About 2,000 small businesses are affected, and tax revenues could reach beyond $100 million. Some individual businesses could see tax bills approaching a quarter of a million dollars.
“It sends a message that you can’t trust government,” Ken DeVore of the National Federation of Independent Businesses told CBS Sacramento. “If you comply in good faith with the rules, they can go back and penalize you.”
California small business owners aren’t without support, though, in the fight against paying back taxes. A bill to block the collection of such taxes has already been passed by a state Senate panel and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval. Senator Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Redondo Beach, is behind the proposal.
Lieu is focused on the unfairness of the decision to go after small biz owners after they trusted the state and followed all the rules available to them at the time.
“They obviously can’t go backwards five years in time and change their investment or change what they did,” said Lieu to CBS Sacramento. “They are stuck with what they did and it’s unfair to penalize them.”
The California Franchise Tax Board has not commented on the pending legislation.
Are any of you in California affected by this action? What do you think of the Tax Board going after back taxes five years later?
NorthJersey.com reports that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has signed a law that prohibits employers from asking both current and prospective employees for their social media passwords.
The legislation also states that employers cannot require applicants to waive or limit their rights as delineated in the newly signed law.
While the legislation stops employers from asking for social media access information like user names and passwords, it does not prevent employers from asking whether employees have profiles on social media platforms.
Moreover, it is important to note that there is nothing in the law that prohibits employers from viewing any information on social media sites that an employee or applicant has made public.
A similar bill prohibiting colleges and universities from making requests for social media passwords was signed late last year. According to NorthJersey.com, the legislation came about in response to reports that businesses and schools in New Jersey were increasingly asking for such information from prospective employees.
Democratic Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. referred to these requests as an “invasion of privacy” and the legislation as a way to “protect the rights of job seekers from being trampled.”
Employers who violate the law are subject to civil penalties up to $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 per violation beyond that.
What do you think of this law? Do you think your state needs one too? Have you ever been asked for your social media passwords by an employer?
Cyberlocker Hotfile has been found liable for copyright infringement, according to a statement released by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Ars Tecnica reports that the judgment of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida will be sealed for two weeks, but based on the MPAA’s statement, the Panama-based online file-sharing service was “Most likely . . . found liable on secondary infringement, as its direct copyright infringement allegations were tossed aside in July 2011 by the federal judge in the case.”
Hotfile had argued that it was protected from copyright infringement claims under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The company also claimed it had no vicarious liability for its users’ action, but it seems that part of the argument may not have convinced the judge in the case.
The MPAA’s statement included the following quote from former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the organization’s CEO and chairman:
“We applaud the court for recognizing that Hotfile was not simply a storage locker but an entire business model built on mass distribution of stolen content. Today’s decision is a victory for all of the men and women who work hard to create our favorite movies and TV shows, and it’s a victory for audiences who deserve to feel confident that the content they’re watching online is high-quality, legitimate, and secure.”
As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, the MPAA has proclaimed this to be “the first time that a US court has ruled that a cyberlocker can be held liable for copyright infringement.”
Hotfile has not yet commented publicly about the decision, and the MPAA has maintained that it cannot comment further until the judge’s opinion is released.
We await further news of the details of the decision to see how this could possibly affect the many other online file sharing services out there.
What do you think of this news?
Just before the start of the 2013 US Open, tennis great Maria Sharapova announced plans to change her last name to Sugarpova to match her successful candy brand.
The idea was to temporarily change her surname in order to market her product during the two-week tournament and then change her name back to its original form once the Open was over.
The third-ranked women’s tennis player went so far as to file a name change petition with the Florida Supreme Court. Sharapova, who was born in Russia, has been a Florida resident for a decade.
But shortly thereafter, she (and/or someone on her marketing team) reconsidered, and she withdrew the petition. Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, cited potential travel difficulties in the decision to pull the request.
Sharapova began Sugarpova, a line of gummy candies, in 2012, and is reportedly looking to expand the brand into other goods such as purses and jewelry.
Even though Sharapova has decided against the name change, the publicity surrounding the idea certainly generated lots of buzz for her product. Sharapova pulled out of the US Open early because of bursitis in her shoulder.
What do you think of Sharapova’s name change move(s)? Ace or foot fault?
A Tennessee judge recently stopped a new mom from naming her baby Messiah.
What was the judge’s reasoning? Well, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew concluded that the name “is a title . . . that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ,” according to what she told a local news station.
Jalessa Martin and the father of her newborn were in the court to begin with because they wanted a ruling on whose last name the boy should have; they had agreed, apparently, on the first name, but the judge didn’t.
So what’s a judge to do?
Why, take it upon herself to rename the child in question Martin Deshawn McCollough, using both parents’ names, of course.
Judge Ballew said the name Messiah “could put him at odds with a lot of people” in the area, which is predominantly Christian.
But Jalessa Martin wasn’t swayed; she said she will appeal the decision and keep calling her son Messiah in the meantime.
“I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs,” Martin said. “Everybody believes what they want, so I should be able to name my child what I want to name him.”
Indeed, as noted by the Los Angeles Times, Messiah has actually become quite a popular boy’s name over the past several years in the United States — though it would seem that those parents who successfully named their children “Messiah” didn’t have to go through Judge Ballew’s court.
What do you think of the judge’s ruling?
Even though we’ve missed National Hot Dog Day, we can still take a moment and consider what surely must be one of the most unique taxes in American history: the hot dog tax.
Thanks to TaxGirl a.k.a. Kelly Phillips Erb at Forbes, it has come to our attention that in the 1970s there was a sales tax known as “the Hot Dog tax” in New York, though it actually affected much more than hot dogs. The law taxed any restaurant bill that totaled 11 to 99 cents, and brought many lunches such as the beloved hot dog, under that umbrella. Breakfast and any meals that cost a dollar or over were exempt.
It didn’t take long for the people to revolt against the Hot Dog tax, and so the Citizens Committee to Repeal the Hot Dog Tax came to life; their main beef was that many believed the tax penalized the poor.
Eventually the tax was broadened to include meals totaling more than a dollar, so it’s no longer known as the Hot Dog tax, but as Erb notes, the strange relationship between hot dogs and taxes in New York continues, as refrigerated hot dogs are not subject to sales tax whereas those heated and/or served on a bun are.
And if you’re in the mood for even more exploration of the hot dog vis-à-vis taxes, check out Erb’s full post for fun facts about how other states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and California, handle such meaty matters.
In any event, there’s always next year to celebrate National Hot Dog Month (July) according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council!