Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is a state of being in which one or more individuals articulate innovative ideas – ideas that stimulate thought and are futuristic or leading-edge.

Thought leadership requires confidence and a willingness to share ideas in the form of insights and principles that inform and guide future considerations.

Thought leadership is often controversial. New or different ideas, like innovative technology, can cause evolutionary change, but can also create disruptive or revolutionary change.

Although not all thought leadership must be actionable, it is often the basis for a re-evaluation of existing pathways, and a guidepost for new roads ahead.

2016 Metamorphosis *

Legal Bytes will soon morph** and undergo a transformation***

Watch For It

*    Metamorphosis: A noticeable change in character, appearance, function or condition.

**    Morph: To undergo dramatic change in a seamless and barely noticeable fashion.

*** Transformation: A marked change in appearance or character, especially for the better.

Thank You for 2015 – Best Wishes for 2016

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This is the time of year when many of you are celebrating holidays; spending time with family, friends and loved ones; bidding farewell to 2015; and looking forward to the New Year – 2016. A time when many of us pause to reflect on what has happened in the past year and wonder what the new year will bring. There are people who have touched us and some with whom we’ve gotten closer; some we have missed and many with whom we resolve to try and be better in the new year; and perhaps a few we might like to forget. We pause to remember those who are no longer with us and appreciate that by remembering them, we keep their spirit – all we have learned from them and all they have meant to us – alive. As 2015 comes to an end, we reflect on friendships and relationships, events and experiences. Many will use the opportunity to thank those who have helped us in tough times and those with whom we cherish sharing the good times.

For me it has always been a time to resolve to keep doing the good things I’ve done and to be better about trying to do those things I should have done. This time of year gives me an excuse to say thank you and express appreciation to everyone who has enriched my life. If you are reading this, you are part of my audience – part of the fabric of my professional life and, like the threads of that fabric, you have helped me weave the patterns and textures you read in these digital pages and the thoughts and sensitivities that become imprinted in my mind. I am grateful for your readership and in some cases, your friendship. I am always appreciative when you take a moment to read and perhaps gain some insight, while also being a little entertained.

So let me take this the opportunity to wish each of you, your families, friends, loved ones and yes, even an enemy or two, a beautiful and joyous holiday season and a healthy, happy new year, filled with wonder and magic, health and joy, challenge and opportunity, and prosperity and success. I especially want to thank a few people at Rimon like Kaitlin Southron, Lois Thomson and Rebecca Blaw who make this blog happen. These are the people you don’t see, but I do! They make Legal Bytes come alive. They are always amazing, consistently awesome and unbelievable under pressure. There are insufficient words to express my gratitude and appreciation – especially when they get my email that says “can we please post this ASAP.” Thank you. You make it look easy, you make me look good. I could not do this without you!

Continue reading “Thank You for 2015 – Best Wishes for 2016”

FTC Updates Its FAQs for Endorsement Guides

The Federal Trade Commission has just updated its version of Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQs, that relate to the “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” that went into effect December 1, 2009. You can find the updated FTC website page right here “What People Are Asking.”

If you are a loyal Legal Bytes’ reader, you know we have been following this since as early as November 2008, when we posted Endorsements & Testimonials – FTC Broom Proposes Some Sweeping Changes, and numerous updates and informational pieces have graced these pages since then (now when we say “pages,” we mean web pages). You can refer back to any or all of them, or you can check out any you may have missed right here: FTC Testimonial and Endorsement Guides Stimulate Industry Comment (March 2009); a presentation given at the University of Limerick on the subject entitled “Trust Me, I’m a Satisfied Customer: Testimonials & Endorsements in the United States,” which you can download; Ghostwriters: Medical Research or Paid Endorsers (and are they mutually exclusive?) and Rights of Publicity – Wake Up and Smell the Coffee! (both in August 2009); and FTC Releases Updated Endorsement & Testimonial Guidelines and Rimon Analysis of the New FTC Endorsement and Testimonial Guidelines (both in October 2009).

In December 2009, Legal Bytes posted another thoughtful and practical analysis FTC (Revised) Endorsement Guides Go Into Effect, written by John P. Feldman, so you know Rimon is following and keeping up with developments as they occur.

So, if you want to know more or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

mHealth – The Future of Mobile Health Care

Last month, I had the privilege of being invited to attend and make a presentation at an mHealth and the Law Workshop in Washington, D.C., convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. As part my presentation (October 7), I was asked to prepare a brief corresponding paper prognosticating the future of mobile medicine and health care. With permission of the AAAS, I am happy to share that paper with readers of Legal Bytes, and you can read the paper or download a copy for your personal use, right here: mHealth: Looking Forward [PDF].

As always, if you have questions, or need advice or guidance, just contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the lawyer with whom you regularly work at Rimon.

Advocate General Asks EU Court of Justice WHAT?

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union recently announced that it had delivered an opinion in connection with a number of proceedings calling for a preliminary ruling in cases involving Ireland and Austria. In Ireland, the owner of a mobile phone submits that the Irish authorities have unlawfully processed, retained and exercised control over data related to its communications. In Austria, three cases brought by the Province of Carinthia have alleged the Austrian Law on telecommunications is contrary to the Austrian Constitution.

Essentially, the top EU legal advocate is asking the EU court NOT to enforce a bad law so the legislature is afforded a chance to fix it. Seriously? That is like asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to strike down discriminatory laws and give Congress a chance to fix them. Seriously?
 

Continue reading “Advocate General Asks EU Court of Justice WHAT?”

Crowd Funding. Apologies, William Wordsworth

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,”

. . . and so begins the beautiful and timeless poem by William Wordsworth. Although Wordsworth’s crowd was a host of golden daffodils, the crowds most of us have been hearing about lately are either crowd sourcing (check out When Online Games, Health & Life Sciences and Crowd Sourcing Combine) or crowd funding – the subject of this post.

In today’s world, according to the Wikipedia definition, “crowd funding” refers to the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.”

There remains some confusion in the marketplace as to the mechanisms by which the crowds’ funds are made available to business ventures, film promotion and production, worthy causes, and civic organizations. Contrary to what many may believe, it is currently not legal to solicit, offer or otherwise make available any form of securities or equity investment (I’m over-simplifying, but that is the net effect) through online, crowd or other web-based funding schemes. In other words, you can’t raise equity or solicit investments through crowd funding that provide the expectation of profit or the risk of loss of capital investment – in much the same way the traditional stock markets function when they allow individuals to purchase and sell securities.

It is true that the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission has been talking about promulgating regulations aimed at legitimizing, with regulation and oversight, the use of crowd funding as an investment opportunity (and the SEC has publicly announced that it hopes to have the regulations released for comment this fall). But until the regulators promulgate rules and enable it, you can’t “invest,” and businesses and other ventures can’t “raise capital,” through equity or securities offerings through crowd funding.

So what’s the buzz about. Well, first it combines “power to the people” with “put your money where your mouth is” in ways unheard of prior to the Internet! Second, there are still opportunities to raise capital from the public in ways that aren’t illegal and don’t involve equity or securities. Currently, there are four major categories of crowd funding activity. To wit:

I am a musician (not really, it’s just an example) and I tell you that if you pay me $1,000, I will write a song to or about you. If you pay me $5,000, I’ll not only write the song, but if I’m nominated for a major music award (e.g., Grammy, VMA, CMA), I’ll get you two tickets to the awards show. That is referred to as the ”rewards” model of crowdfunding.

Next is the ”pre-payment” model. Please send me $5 and when the song is completed, but before it’s released and available to the general public for $7, I will send you a copy. If I offer to autograph it for another $3, I’ve combined the pre-payment and rewards model.

Then there’s the cause-related model. Listen, I am talented and you love good music, but I’m starving. Please just send me $10 so I can eat, rent recording studio time, and try to publish and distribute my music. Pure online begging – there is no expectation of anything in return.

Last, but not least, the ”loan” model. Please help finance the production of my music, my tour (I’ll send you a T-shirt) and just lend me some money. I promise to pay you back when I start making money – but, WITHOUT interest. There must be no expectation that anyone who lends money will make a profit (interest) on the loan. While there may still be lending laws that apply as to how this is done, it won’t trigger the prohibitions under securities’ laws, as long as you don’t pay interest.

In conclusion, while there are some high-profile examples of projects that have raised millions through crowd funding, most do not – at least not yet. In fact, most commercial ventures raise very little through crowd funding. In the words of Wordsworth: “A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company. I gazed – and gazed – but little thought, What wealth the show to me had brought.”

Airlines May be Mobile But Delta Apps Irk California Regulators

In a civil action filed in California (People v. Delta Air Lines Inc., California Superior Court, San Francisco, 12-526741), the California State Attorney General’s office alleges that Delta Air Lines was distributing a mobile application without a privacy policy, in violation of the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (COPPA), which became effective July 1, 2004. The California statute provides a penalty of up to $2,500 for every violation.

Among other things, the Delta ‘app’ allows customers to check in, and display and make reservations; and, according to the lawsuit, Delta has been allowing customers to download and use the ‘Fly Delta’ app without a privacy policy, since at least 2010.

Of course, Delta is not the only company with user-friendly mobile apps for on-the-go busy travelers, and I’m guessing that company lawyers are now scrambling to determine if their apps are in compliance and whether changes need to be made and, just as importantly, how to make those changes to ensure compliance with the law and still maintain the customer friendliness mobile users are accustomed to and demand.

Our Advertising, Technology & Media law practice can help you navigate the challenges of compliance – preventive law as well as representing clients when the regulators come calling . . . and we have a group dedicated to legal support when your needs, defensive or as a defendant, turn to privacy, data protection and identity theft. So if you need help or more information, contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum (joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com), or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

Gift Cards Deal With Discounts & Charity; Chart Updated

This post was written by Keri S. Bruce and Joseph I. Rosenbaum.

If you have been coming back to Legal Bytes to keep up with this and other developments in the law of Advertising Technology & Media ("ATM"), you know that we have been following the world of gift cards for many years (e.g., Gift Card Issuers Fight & Switch, Gift Cards in New Jersey: It’s Complicated!, Federal Reserve Board Has a Free Gift (Card) For You, Credit Card Act of 2009: Act I, Scene 1, Gift Cards in the Legal Limelight, Gift Cards: The Updated Chart is Still Free). If you are a regular Legal Bytes reader, you also probably know that we published and routinely update our U.S. Gift Card Statutory Chart – a reference tool you will certainly find helpful, although not a substitute for experienced legal counsel. In addition to the amendments noted below, we have updated our U.S. Gift Card Statutory Chart and you can read or download the updated chart right here (U.S. Gift Card Statutory Chart) [PDF].

You will also appreciate that we advise clients in this area all the time, assisted by an able team of financial services regulatory specialists, and so it will come as no surprise that we are telling you about some changes to the law in Vermont and Rhode Island that apply to gift cards. The term "gift certificate" is often used in the law, but separate definitions make it clear that the law applies to cards or any similar instrument, regardless of the material (e.g., paper, plastic, beads).

In addition to the Federal Credit Card Act of 2009, many states have their own regulations of gift cards and gift certificates. While many states have carve-outs in their gift certificate laws for loyalty and reward cards, Vermont has gone a step further and embraced group coupon/discount providers by separately defining these cards and providing separate disclosures to benefit consumers. In light of popular group coupon/discount providers, new marketing efforts involving gift cards and the continued prevalence of class actions, such as In re Groupon Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, where Groupon reached a nationwide class action litigation settlement over allegations it had illegal expiration dates and other provisions on its vouchers, it is even more important to stay on top of these ever-changing laws.

Effective as of May 18, 2012, amendments to the Vermont statutes (Vt. Stat. § 2701 et seq.) seek to address issues arising from popular group coupon/discount providers. The new amendments introduce definitions for "a loyalty, award, or promotional gift certificate," "paid value" and "promotional value," extend the expiration dates for the paid value of a gift certificate, and remove the specific exemption for food product gift certificates.

Under the amended law, a "loyalty, award, or promotional gift certificate" is defined as a gift certificate issued on a prepaid basis primarily for personal, family, or household purposes to a consumer in connection with a loyalty, award or promotional program, and that is redeemable upon presentation to one or more merchants for goods or services, or is usable at automated teller machines.

These definitions are important because, if defined as loyalty, award or promotional gift certificates, they can be exempt from the statute’s requirements on expiration dates and fees and some other restrictions that would otherwise apply, provided that certain requirements are met.

To qualify, these instruments must disclose, on the front of the certificate, that the certificate is issued for loyalty, award or promotional purposes, and the date of expiration for both the paid value and promotional value (if any). (More on that distinction in a moment.) On or along with the instrument, the consumer must be informed as to the amount and conditions under which fees may be imposed, and if a fee is assessed and on the instrument, a toll-free telephone number and, if one is maintained, a website a consumer may use to obtain fee information (disclosed on the certificate).

The Vermont amendment distinguishes between "paid" and "promotional" value. Paid value is the value of any money or other consideration given in exchange for the gift certificate. Promotional value means any value shown on a gift certificate in excess of the paid value. Example, a loyalty program buys 1 billion $25 gift cards and pays $19.99 each. The $19.99 is the paid value and the $5.01 is the promotional value. The statute prohibits the paid value from expiring for five years (extended from the previous three-year requirement), while the promotional value is exempt from the restrictions on expiration dates and fees.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, amendments – effective as of June 19, 2012 – to gift certificate provisions of the state’s Unfair Sales Practices law (R.I. Gen. Laws § 6-13-12) allow gift cards donated for fundraising purposes to expire, but only if the card clearly states that the instrument has been donated for charity and a clearly defined expiration date of not less than one year after the issuance, is disclosed to the recipient.

If you need help from lawyers who know this area and can provide experienced, practical counsel, contact Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum or Keri Bruce or your favorite Rimon lawyer, all of whom will be happy to help.

Annual Registrar Summit – Take the Fifth (Amendment or Bourbon – What’s In A Name?)

Just last Thursday, I had the joy of attending and presenting at the Fifth Annual Registrar Summit (2012) sponsored by GoDaddy.com. A great group of people gathered to discuss the current state of domain name registration. Kicked off by a terrific “how to properly hold a meeting of competitors without running afoul of anti-trust and competition laws” presentation by Chris Compton, the topics ranged from what ICANN is up to these days, to discussions of authentication, security, phishing, malware and what the domain name registration community is trying to do about it.

As I always attempt to do, when permitted, I post a PDF version of my presentation for all to read, and, if you choose, to download a personal copy in PDF form. So, without further ado – feel free to browse through “What’s in a Domain Name? Registration by Any Other Name Would Still Create Legal Issues (subtitled “Clouds, Mobile & Internet Domains – What Me Worry?” [PDF] (The embedded videos have file sizes that are too large to include – so next time show up in the audience and you’ll see them.)

If you want to know more about anything covered in the presentation, or if you need counsel or help navigating the legal issues, feel free to call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.