…And Now a Word from Your Hedge Fund

This post was written by Frederick Lah.

This past Wednesday (July 10), the SEC voted 4-1 to approve amendments to Rule 506, lifting the 80-year ban on advertising for hedge funds and certain other investments (See, SEC Votes to Ease 80-Year-Old Ban on Private-Investment Ads.) Rimon previously reported these amendments when they were initially proposed in August 2012, and you can read our earlier analysis, SEC Regs Amended To Allow Hedge Funds To Advertise: Potential Data Privacy Implications.

Under the revised Rule 506, hedge funds and other issuers seeking to conduct private offers may now use general solicitation and advertising to offer their securities, provided that: (1) the issuer takes reasonable steps to verify that the purchasers are accredited investors; and (2) all purchases of the securities fall within one of the categories of persons who are accredited investors, or the issuer must reasonably believe that the investors fall within one of the categories at the time of the sale.

To be an accredited investor, the individual’s net worth must exceed $1 million, excluding the value of a primary residence, or the individual’s annual income must exceed $200,000. According to the SEC, the determination of the reasonableness of the steps taken to verify that the investors are accredited is an “objective assessment” by an issuer. An issuer is required to consider the facts and circumstances of each investor and the transaction. The final rule provides a non-exhaustive list of methods that an issuer may employ for verification.

As noted in our previous analysis, it is unlikely we’ll see hedge funds competing with large consumer brands for prime advertising space. Instead, given the target audience, we’ll likely see more tailored efforts, such as email marketing campaigns, direct phone marketing, and targeted online advertising. We are also likely to see new strategies from issuers such as speaking about funds in public and posting details on websites (which may represent quite a change considering many issuers don’t even have websites). As issuers enter into the world of marketing, they will also have to deal with the reality that the SEC is not the only regulatory agency on their radar; these issuers will need to make sure that they’re not engaging in unfair or deceptive marketing practices and drawing the ire (and an investigation or enforcement action) of the FTC.

The amendments become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. For more information on this issue, please contact Frederick H. Lah, the author, or Joseph I. Rosenbaum, editor and publisher of Legal Bytes.

WOMD. Now Available at Your Nearby Staples!

I read with interest, recent reports of a 3-D printed hand gun, created by Defense Distributed, being test-fired at a gun range just south of Austin, Texas. Defense Distributed, whose website bills itself as “The Home of the Wiki Weapons Project,” fired the gun in front of an observer from Forbes, and you can view the gun, named The Liberator, being test-fired in a video taken during the test and posted on YouTube. Defense Distributed also announced it would post the gun’s blueprints and construction details on the company’s own DefCAD design site. For you history buffs, the “Liberator” was also the name of a single-shot pistol designed to be distributed by dropping them from airplanes flying over France during World War II.

The gun isn’t completely plastic – the firing pin is a common metal nail that can be purchased at a hardware store and can be detected by metal detectors – and that single metal nail apparently makes it legal under U.S. law (the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988; Pub.L. 100–649, H.R. 4445, 102 Stat. 3816). The 3-D printer used to make the rest of the plastic components is a Dimension SST 3D printer made by Stratasys, which apparently now has a U.S. federal license to manufacture firearms.

Continue reading “WOMD. Now Available at Your Nearby Staples!”

New York E-Retail Ruling May Tax the Supreme Court

This post was written by Kelley C. Miller and Daniel M. Dixon.

On March 21, we posted Clouds Continue To Rain State Tax On Retailers, the most recent in a series of blog posts related to the U.S. state tax implications of cloud computing, e-Commerce and retailing. To keep the thread going, this past Thursday (March 28), the New York Court of Appeals, the highest state court thus far to consider the issue, issued a much-anticipated ruling in Overstock.com v. New York Department of Taxation and Finance (combining two similar cases brought by e-retailers Overstock.com and Amazon.com. At issue is the New York statute that requires the collection of sales or use tax from an e-retailer (a remote vendor) with no physical presence in the state, if, as part of its business model, it pays in-state residents to assist in business solicitation; and the question being litigated is whether that statute violates the Due Process Clause or Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Trial Court—and now the Court of Appeals—have upheld the law.

Significant to the Court of Appeals’ decision is its deference to the bright-line requirement of physical presence necessary for a state to require sales or use tax collection. This standard was set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Quill v. North Dakota (504 U.S. 298; 1992). Although the Court of Appeals acknowledged that Quill is still applicable even though the “world has changed dramatically in the last two decades,” it nonetheless noted that changing the physical-presence requirement in light of the way e-retailers now conduct their business, “would be something for the United States Supreme Court to consider.” A key issue in the case was whether the in-state residents hired or engaged by Overstock and Amazon, and who were involved in soliciting business – they are often referred to as “affiliates” – were actively soliciting customers in the state or whether their actions were more akin to that of an advertiser seeking to influence buying patterns – conduct that might be seen as more passive and, accordingly, would not meet Quill’s physical presence standard.

Despite hopes that the Court of Appeals might address this issue in its decision, the majority deferred discussion of this important distinction in lieu of a more focused analysis of whether the New York statute was unconstitutional on its face. The court held that a discussion of the affiliates’ activities was not warranted as neither Overstock.com nor Amazon.com could prove there were no circumstances under which the statute could be constitutionally applied: “The bottom line is that if a vendor is paying New York residents to actively solicit business in this state, there is no reason why that vendor should not shoulder the appropriate tax burden.”

The dissenting opinion, however, does address the possibility that there could be significant distinctions between those who act as sales agents for a company and those who place advertisements for a company on websites. The dissent noted that mere advertising by a remote seller, through use of an in-state affiliate that might place advertisements on websites, does not meet the Quill test for physical presence. Placing links on websites from within the state to e retailers are advertisements and not solicitations.

Reacting to the decision, Overstock.com indicated that it may ask the United States Supreme Court to review the issue. In a press release issued yesterday by Overstock.com, Acting Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Johnson noted, “Given that courts in other states have upheld U.S. Supreme Court precedent, and struck down similar laws, the matter appears ripe for resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court.” To ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling in the case, a petition for writ of certiorari would be due on or before June 26.

The Rimon State Tax Team will be closely following developments in this case, including not only the possibility of an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, but also the status of The Main Street Fairness Act of 2013 – U.S. federal legislation currently pending in the House of Representatives (and recently given symbolic approval in the Senate) that would allow states to impose sales and use tax requirements on e-retailers (presumably engaged in inter-state commerce) even if the e-retailer does not have a physical presence in a state.

For more information regarding these developments and to stay on top of the legal wrangling in state taxation related to e-Commerce, contact Kelley C. Miller or Daniel M. Dixon directly. Of course, you can always find out more about our Cloud Computing initiative or get the assistance you need by contacting me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Clouds Continue To Rain State Tax On Retailers

As you may remember, this past January, Rimon presented a teleseminar entitled: State Tax Update: States Can Be Taxing in a Digital World, led by Dan Dixon and Kelley Miller, who are leading the charge in keeping clients informed as the worlds of cloud computing and state tax converge – or perhaps we should say “collide.”

Increasingly, states are scrutinizing the operations of cloud providers and their cloud-related business activities as they seek ways to force online retailers to collect sales tax from customers. Dan and Kelley have become recognized leaders in this area, closely monitoring all 50 state tax departments within the United States, and the dynamically evolving landscape. Dan and Kelley continue to assist clients, speak and write about new state tax developments, and have been quoted in a variety of media sources, including BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, NetworkWorld, E-Commerce Times and The Hartford Courant.

Dan and Kelley have prepared a recent Rimon Client Alert, entitled “The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, BusinessWeek and Fortune 500 Companies All Agree: No One Knows Taxing the Cloud Like Rimon State Tax!” You can read the full alert online “Cloud Computing is Taxing (Web)”, or you can download a PDF version “Cloud Computing is Taxing (PDF).”  As you may also recall, in 2010 Rimon launched a cloud computing initiative, commissioning a series of individual white papers, now compiled into a comprehensive work entitled, “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing.”

For more information regarding this alert or to stay on top of the developments in state taxation related to cloud services, products, and platforms, from Rimon lawyers who really know this area, contact Dan Dixon or Kelley C. Miller directly. Of course, you can always find out more about our Cloud Computing initiative or get the assistance you need by contacting me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Multiple Choice Question: What do the following have in common:

“Privacy & Data Protection: Distinctions Between Surveillance and Secrecy”

“Ethics, Process, Privilege, Discovery and Work Product in the Digital Age”

“When Worlds Collide: Old Ethics and New Media”

“Outsourcing: The Law & Technology”

“The Changing Legal Landscape: Evolution or Revolution”

“Growing Your Business Internationally – What to Know Before You Go”

“Social Media, Mobile Marketing, Clouds and Crowds: (modules)

  • Advertising & Marketing in a Digital World
  • Media & Entertainment: Digital Rights and Wrongs
  • Financial Services, Payments & E-Commerce
  • Online Gaming, Gambling & Virtual Worlds
  • Apps & M-Commerce
  • Context & Geo-Marketing: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SMS, RFID, QR Codes & Augmented Reality
  • Operations & Performance, Security, Compliance and Interoperability
  • Wired & Wireless: Sweepstakes, Contests, Product Placement & Branded Entertainment
  • Anti-Social? Communication & Public Relations for Companies, Employees & Investors
  • Behavioral Advertising, Endorsements, Blogs, Buzz, Viral, Street Teams & Word of Mouth
  • Labor & Employment Policies in a Networked Age: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
  • Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Funding, Crowd Investing: Today & Tomorrow

“Privacy, Data Protection & Globalizing Technology: Digital Commerce Brings Legal Challenges”

“Comparative Advertising Issues: Multinational Brands; Global Challenges”

“Direct to Consumer: Legal Challenges in the Digital Marketplace”

“Out of Control? Challenges to Privacy & Security in a Big Data World.”

 

Answers: (a) Seminars & Presentations Given; (b) Seminars & Presentations Available; (c) Targeted at Lawyers; (d) Targeted at Commercial and Business Management; (e) Relevant to Small-to-Medium Size Business; (f) Relevant to Multinational, International & Global Companies; (g) None of the Above; or (Y) All of the Above.

If you guessed (Y), you are correct. Let us know if any of these, a combination of these or a customized version of these or any other presentations might be right for you. Hey, you never know, but what you don’t know, can hurt you. For more information, contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

A New Twist to Chubby Checker – Oh No, Not an App for That!

Chubby Checker, whose real name is Ernest Evans, is suing Hewlett Packard for trademark infringement. Chubby Checker, an iconic music entertainer, rose to fame when his song “The Twist” first reached No. 1 on the charts in 1960 and his appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand” helped spawn a national, if not international, dance frenzy. His 2008 song “Knock Down the Walls” reached the top of the dance charts and sparked a brief comeback for the music legend.

Ernest Evans Corporation, one of Mr. Checker’s companies, was originally granted trademark rights for the use of his name in connection with musical performances. Later, The Last Twist Inc., another of his companies, was granted trademark rights for “Chubby Checker’s” in connection with food products, based on the release of a line of snack foods.

The mobile “app” named “The Chubby Checker” – no, we couldn’t possibly make this up – ostensibly enabled users who downloaded it to calculate the size of a male penis based on the individual’s shoe size. The development shop named Magic Apps, now non-existent, had touted the international appeal of the app, noting “The Chubby Checker” allows calculations based on U.S., UK and European shoe sizes.

Lawyers for Mr. Checker had sent HP a cease-and-desist letter last September and apparently the app was removed from all HP or Palm-hosted websites later that month. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, lawyers for Mr. Checker, now 71 years old, claim that “irreparable damage and harm” has been done to the entertainer’s name and reputation, are seeking an injunction, and are asserting claims of millions of dollars in damages arising from “The Chubby Checker” app that Hewlett Packard Co. made available on Palm mobile devices starting in 2006. You may recall that HP acquired Palm in 2010, and a year later opted to shutter the production of Palm hardware, although it continued to provide technical support to existing Palm users.

The suit alleges that purchasers of the app, as well as anyone simply browsing the webpage, had been misled into believing that Chubby Checker had endorsed the app, and that the use of his name would confuse users who might reasonably conclude the singer had some association with the app bearing his name.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants made millions of dollars exploiting the name of one of the greatest musical entertainers of our time, and claims the “Defendants’ use of the name ‘Chubby Checker’ in its app is likely to associate the plaintiffs’ marks with the obscene, sexual connotation and images evoked by defendants’ app ‘The Chubby Checker.’” You can read the filing in its entirety right here at Evans, et al. v. Hewlett Packard Company, et al., Case 2:13-cv-14066-JEM.

The Advertising, Technology & Media Law Group at Rimon has lawyers with decades of experience in working with advertisers and agencies, marketing and promotional companies, online, mobile, and traditional, handling matters involving celebrity endorsements – good, bad and sometimes ugly. Let us know if you need us. Call me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work. We are happy to help.

State Tax Update: States Can Be Taxing in a Digital World

Please join Rimon lawyers Dan Dixon and Kelley Miller Thursday, January 31 at Noon EST (9 a.m. PST; 11 a.m. CST) for "Clouds, Codes, and Crunching Numbers: An Update on Current Multi-State Tax Developments in the Taxation of Electronic Goods and Services." Participants will hear about the latest state developments and trends, including affiliate nexus, “Amazon” legislation, states’ tax treatment of various digital products, software, cloud computing, web-based & web-hosting services, information services, data processing, and sourcing rules for digital goods and services transactions. Don’t miss this timely teleseminar!

Registration link: Click here to register for this seminar.

Mobile Money, Mobile Risk – The Future of ePayment Systems

Earlier this week, the editorial staff of the UK-based publication e-Finance & Payments Law & Policy, interviewed Joseph I. Rosenbaum, New York-based partner and Chair of Rimon’s global Advertising Technology & Media law practice, in connection with its cover story for the January 2013 issue. The stimulus for the initial story was the release late last year of a report by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) regarding the risks attendant to the growth and evolution of the mobile payment industry, and the use of mobile contactless payment technology by consumers and merchants in routine purchase transactions (e.g., NFC, Bluetooth, RFID, SMS, Wi-Fi, and WAP enabled devices generally.)

While the cover story is still in the process of being edited for publication, the editorial staff felt that publishing the full interview separately was itself newsworthy. So follow this link and you can read the full text of the e-Finance & Payments Law & Policy interview with Joseph I. Rosenbaum, partner at Rimon LLP.

You can also read the FDIC report, issued in its Supervisory Insights – Winter 2012 release, right here: Mobile Payments: An Evolving Landscape.

Of course, if you need help or more information, contact Joseph I. Rosenbaum (joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com), who also leads the ATM Mobile Marketing initiative, or feel free to call upon any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work. We are happy to help.

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.

Bond Meets Bond Street: Mannequins are Watching You Shop

An Italian company, Almax S.p.A., is selling a mannequin (price tag about $5,000) in a development that is being closely watched – literally – by retailers, consumers and, of course, regulators and privacy gurus. The new product, marketed as the EyeSee Mannequin, contains a camera embedded in the mannequins eyes, and according to the company’s website: “This product will do much more; it would make it possible to ‘observe’ who is attracted by your windows and reveal important details about your customers: age range; gender; race; number of people and time spent.”

In Europe and the United States, the mannequins are making sporadic appearances – perhaps in showrooms and even in street-side display windows, gathering data as people saunter by the store gazing into the windows. According to reports, Almax may also be testing auditory capabilities that would allow a mannequin to not only see, but to hear what customers are saying as well. Hey, did you just call that mannequin a dummy?

 


(Image from Almax Website)

 

The EyeSee Mannequin has a camera placed as an “eye” that includes facial recognition technology that records information about passersby, such as their gender and race, and the software guesstimates the approximate age of each person scanned by the camera. Typically, cameras can be used in retail stores for security, but in many jurisdictions the shop owners are required to post signs alerting consumers browsing the aisles that they are subject to being recorded. Now, the EyeSee Mannequin gives retailers the ability to collect and store information for marketing purposes – a commercial purpose that may put the technology squarely under a microscope (these vision puns really must stop), since it collects personal data about individuals without their consent. That said, the current product is only supposed to record information, not any actual photographs or image scans, but . . . it could, couldn’t it?

Need to know more about the legal implications of technology in advertising and marketing? Concerned about your rights (and wrongs) in deploying surveillance equipment and gathering data and information about customers and consumers? Are you up-to-date on the latest privacy and compliance requirements? Not sure? Need to see these issues more clearly? OK, don’t be a dummy (I mean mannequin) and consult your lawyer. Don’t hesitate to contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or the Rimon lawyer with whom you regularly work. We would be happy to see you, hear you and help you.