Bitter News, Week of August 15, 2011

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Here are your headlines from the Bitter Newsroom, where we pay attention to signs.

Made of Only the Finest Felons: Frederick James is selling an exclusive selection of iPad covers made from the pants of Bernie Madoff, sourced from an auction held by the US Marshals Service last fall. We feel these modern day scalps would make the perfect gift for the attorney who makes a living going after white collar crime. Imagine the effect at a deposition: “Let me just take out my iPad… oh this? This cover’s made out of the pants of Bernie Madoff, I wonder how much yours will fetch.”

Class is Back in Session: Law students from Thomas Cooley and New York Law School are banding together to try and form a class action to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition refunds, as well as other damages and reformed employment statistic reporting practices. They accuse the schools of using deceptive employment statistics to drain them of tuition dollars in exchange for little gain, essentially making them out to be the DeVry and ITT Tech of law schools.

What is Hacking? The Sixth Circuit ruled that, by asking its members to call and email an employer to voice a protest, a labor union violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is supposed to be used against cases of malicious hacking. In tech parlance, it seems that the court compared traditional angry-letter protests conducted by email and phone to a denial-of-service attack, something the tech community finds rather absurd. Not sure what’s going to happen in the long run, but we’re curious whether the judges on the Sixth Circuit do their own typing.

The Bitter News Olympics Games: Anyone who follows trademark law (or is really into sports) will know that there are two brands you do not mess with: The Super Bowl and the Olympics. Unless you’ve paid the incredible licensing costs, your commercial (or even non-commercial) venture better use a term like “The Big Game” or “The Games.” Case in point, the “Redneck Olympics” of Hebron, Maine are facing a cease-and-desist from the United State Olympic Committee, which was granted the exclusive license by Congress. Meanwhile the “Summer Redneck Games” have been going on without incident for over a decade.

We’®e not done with the ™! A judge in New York ruled that Paris-based Louboutin’s previously trademarked red-sole footwear was not enforceable against similar red-soled shoes made by Yves Saint Laurent America. Louboutin introduced the style in 1992, which was popularized by actresses such as Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, and it received a trademark for it in 2008. In denying a preliminary injunction against YSL, Judge Victor Marrero noted that “[b]ecause in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection.” The parties will get together again on August 17th to argue whether the mark should be canceled.

It Got Their Goat: The family of a man gored to death by a mountain goat while visiting Olympic National Park is suing the park for $10m in a wrongful death suit. Unsurprisingly, the initial public reaction was not positive, falling along the lines of implied assumption of risk or “You [mess] with the [goat] and you get the horns”. However, the plaintiff’s attorney did note that mountain goats were a non-native species, that the particular goat had been known for its behavior, and that the goat followed the man’s party and eventually attacked unprovoked. We challenge the court hearing this case to use as many goat puns as possible, including but not limited to “it gets our goat” to G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time).

The Matzoh Nazi (Erm… Maybe No): A federal judge in New York ruled that a Jewish prisoner on Riker’s Island does not have a constitutionally protected right to matzoh and grape juice. The prisoner was already receiving kosher meals and visiting with a rabbi, but did not request matzoh for Passover. Claiming permanent trauma and malnourishment, he took the logical step of trying to sue prison officials for approximately $10 billion (yes, he represented himself). Convicted of first-degree sodomy, he previously unsuccessfully sued for lack of conjugal visits.

Will it Ever Stop? Yet another county in the South is fighting to keep a Ten Commandments display in front of a courthouse. We at the Bitter Newsroom point out that the Ten Commandments make for lousy precedent in tort law: forming your defense around the fact that the plaintiff is an adulterous idolater is frowned upon, even in the South.

Attention all Partners: The Audi R8 Spyder, seen in such films as Iron Man 2 and starting at $127,700, is being recalled because of fuel leaks that could cause engine fires. If you know a partner with the car who doesn’t read this blog, be sure to tell him, his wife, or his mistress.

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