Update: Virtual Worlds Governance Conference

In his remarks at the Virtual Worlds Governance Conference described previously, Joe Rosenbaum used examples of how digital content taken from real world material, as well as samples that have been merged with user generated content or imported from digital online gaming or entertainment environments, can create problems and potential legal issues that make it difficult for brand owners, celebrities and even the average consumer to not only protect content, but also to determine which laws or contractual agreements are effective and, significantly, enforceable. You can see or download a copy of the slides prepared for this educational event that took place in both real life and Second Life, by clicking "Joe Rosenbaum’s Virtual World Governance Presentation Slides." If you want to know more or need legal counsel or support in virtual worlds, online gaming, digital entertainment and rights of privacy and publicity, don’t hesitate to contact Joe directly.

French Connection: Google’s AdWords Clipped by Louis Vuitton

Over five years ago, in early 2004, luxury fashion designer Louis Vuitton sued Google in connection with the sale of search-related advertising.  You will recall the company behind the Louis Vuitton brands and many others (LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A., usually shortened to LVMH) has been very aggressive in policing and protecting its marks on eBay and other Internet sites.  The Paris District Court held that Google was engaged in trademark infringement, unfair competition and misleading advertising.  The Paris Court of Appeals subsequently ordered Google (and its French subsidiary) to pay €300,000 in damages. When those rulings were announced, a spokesperson for Louis Vuitton, praising the Court’s decision, said, “It was absolutely unthinkable that a company like Google be authorized, in the scope of its advertising business, to sell the Louis Vuitton trademark to third parties, specifically to Web sites selling counterfeits.”  The remarks went on to state, “This milestone ruling grants protection for the first time to both consumers and brand owners” adding that Louis Vuitton believed the Court’s finding meant that Google’s services were “misleading advertising services.”

Google appealed, and today the European Court of Justice (ECJ) released its ruling on appeal of that decision.  For you purists in the audience, procedurally within the ECJ, the decision is one in respect of the Joined Cases C-236/08 to C-238/08, in the proceedings captioned Google France SARL, Google Inc. v. Louis Vuitton Malletier SA (C-236/08), Google France SARL v. Viaticum SA, Luteciel SARL (C-237/08), and Google France SARL v. Centre national de recherche en relations humaines (CNRRH) SARL, Pierre-Alexis Thonet, Bruno Raboin, Tiger SARL (C-238/08).

The case essentially asks whether Internet search providers can be liable for trademark infringement when selling ‘keywords’ that are based upon the trademarks of another.  The ECJ ruling doesn’t completely immunize or exonerate Google, nor does it leave advertisers defenseless either, but it does in effect give the green light to Google and other search providers to continue to offer keywords to bidders; there had been concern in Europe that a negative judgment from the ECJ would have brought all such services to a halt.  The decision takes a now familiar, “let’s examine if you do more than just sell the trademark as a keyword at the request of the advertiser” approach.

So, if all an Internet search company such as Google is doing is selling keywords, the decision appears to allow Google to do so, despite a showing of confusion by consumers.  But – as those of you advertisers and marketing professionals who are tuned in to AdWords’ algorithmically driven ‘suggestions’ will know – Google’s program actually suggests keywords derived from previous selections. So Google’s AdWords code might suggest “British Airways” as related to “Virgin Atlantic” or “Ryanair” or, as in this case, “imitation” or “fake” coupled with “handbags” as a keyword related to “Louis Vuitton.” Not merely passively selling an existing word or mark and more actively engaging in the ‘suggestion’ process, in the Court’s view, consequently attaches liability.

By analogy, one can rationalize such a decision with similar rulings in the United States under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or more directly under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).  In the case of the DMCA, if one has no notice of infringement and innocently publishes infringing content, until knowledge is shown – by ‘take down’ notice or otherwise – a passive distributor would generally not be held liable for intellectual property infringement.  Similarly, the CDA distinguishes between those who participate in the content creation process and those who merely distribute (the traditional news media distinction between editor/publishers and newsstand/distributors).

Under the instant ruling by the ECJ, although simply purchasing a keyword would not seem to constitute a per se legal violation in the EU, some rather arcane wording by the ECJ seems to suggest that advertisers (not necessarily the search provider) could now be held liable for trademark infringement resulting from their keyword purchase if their advertising can be shown to be confusing to consumers.  Thus, courts in the EU will now be examining both the appearance of the advertising and its demonstrable or likely effect on consumers.  One of our Associates, Drew Boortz, who follows these developments, notes that we are not aware of any U.S. case that has delved this deeply into keyword sales.  While there are trademark and advertising cases that deal with “use in commerce,” the eight or nine recent cases against Google directly involving keywords are yet to come up for trial (e.g., Rosetta Stone Ltd. v. Google, Inc., U.S. federal complaint filed on July 10, 2009 in the Eastern District of Virginia; scheduled for trial in May).

Chris Hackford in our London office notes that trademark owners will no doubt be a little disgruntled after this ECJ judgment, as they will have to continue to bid on their own registered trademarks in order to ensure that they remain at the top of the listings.

If you want to form your own view of the ECJ decision, you can read it right here: Louis Vuitton v. Google; or you can call Rimon for help.  Our offices in Paris, as well as London, Munich and Piraeus in the EU, stand ready to assist; and, of course, you can contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, in New York; Chris Hackford in London; Drew Boortz in our Washington, D.C. office; or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Hats Off to CAP: New Advertising Codes in the UK Launched

This post was written by Christopher Hackford.

After an extensive year-long review, on March 16, 2010, the Committee of Advertising Practice in the United Kingdom announced the launch of new Advertising Codes for both broadcast and non-broadcast media, covering television standards, television scheduling, radio and text services.

Much remains nearly the same, but there are some notable new rules, including rules intended to offer greater protection for children, rules to prevent exaggerated environmental claims, and a new section dedicated to lotteries and promotions.

That said, here are two examples of some rules that have actually been relaxed. One: charities are now allowed to make comparisons with each other (competitive advertising fighting for your British Pound Sterling). Two: advertisers in the UK are now permitted to advertise condoms on television before 10:00 pm on television. Some of this may reflect the increasing contention among advertisers for share of wallet from consumers.

The new Codes did not deal with some contentious areas of British advertising, but to find out more, you will either have to plod through the Advertising Code yourself, or you could read the Rimon Advertising Technology & Media Alert, New Advertising Codes Launched, written by our ATM colleagues in the UK.

So, if you need help understanding the new Advertising Codes, or you want to hear from the authors of the alert and experts in this area, feel free to contact Marina Palomba, Christopher Hackford or Huw Morris directly. Of course, you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

LifeLock CEO May Not Be Giving Out His Social Security Number Anymore

Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock is not the first CEO to appear in advertising, but was probably the first to prominently display his U.S. Social Security Number in full-page ads in major newspapers and billboards across the country. Although these ads disappeared a while ago, the action brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorneys General of 35 states of the United States, has now resulted in a settlement valued at $11 million. FYI, the states involved were: Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. The settlement resolves claims that LifeLock’s advertising was deceptive and misleading and misrepresented the types of services consumers could expect if they become victims of identity theft and their personal information was compromised.

While LifeLock does provide some measure of identity-theft protection, it was apparently not as robust and comprehensive as the advertising might lead a consumer to believe (personal information would be “useless to a criminal”). As a result of the action, not only has LifeLock promised to make changes (or has already made changes) to address the FTC complaint – in its business practices as well as its advertising – but the complaint also named CEO Davis and his co-founder Robert J. Maynard, Jr., who both will be barred from making the same misrepresentations as LifeLock. The $11 million received from LifeLock will provide refunds to consumers who signed up for the service. Information about eligibility and how the redress program will work can be obtained directly from the FTC – LifeLock Redress Program.

FTC Chairman Leibowitz stated: “Consumers received far less protection than they were promised," noting further that LifeLock’s service was ineffective against identity theft involving existing credit cards or bank accounts. Despite the advertised claims, according to the FTC, LifeLock often did not encrypt data in storage or transmission, didn’t install any antivirus protection software on computers used by employees, and failed to even require strong password protection for employees’ access to systems and files.

The documents were filed by the FTC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, and you can obtain a full copy of the original Complaint and the Stipulated Final Judgments against LifeLock, Davis and Maynard, right here: Federal Trade Commission v. LifeLock.

The Advertising Technology & Media law practice has lawyers and the resources of Rimon’s litigation and regulatory enforcement team to help clients seeking to prevent legal and regulatory problems and, if necessary, defend you if they arise. We have a team of data security and identity-theft lawyers with hands-on experience who know how to respond if a data breach occurs and can counsel you in complying with federal and state requirements. Need to know more? Call Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you work – and, by the way, don’t give out your Social Security Number.

What in the World! Wait a Minute. Which World? Find Out On March 26th.

On March 26, 2010, the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and World2Worlds, Inc., will present “Governance of Virtual Worlds,” a conference held live in the Great Hall at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and in Second Life™.  For many, an opportunity to save on travel time, cost and carbon emissions.  Audience participation will be facilitated virtually within Second Life, live in the Great Hall at ASU and via a chat-bridge. So you can attend in person and live at The Great Hall of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, on the web via video and interactive text-chat, or by avatar in the immersive virtual world of Second Life.

Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, Rimon partner and Chair of its Advertising Technology & Media Law practice and an Advisory Board Member of the College of Law, is among the panelists participating. The conference will bring together, physically and virtually, a program of experts from academia, legal practice, corporations, governments, and online communities, to present a broad panorama of the state of governance of virtual worlds.

National and international participation is encouraged and the conference will begin at ASU at 8:00 a.m. PDT (11:00 a.m. EDT), but for those brave virtual warriors there will be a reception starting at 7:00 a.m. Mountain Standard (Phoenix) Time – one hour before the formal conference begins.

When Pressing Suits, Judges Tell Jurors Neither Social Nor Media is OK

A few months ago, Legal Bytes reported some important developments and judicial rulings concerning social media and freedom of the press in the United States (see, Freedom of the Press = Freedom to Tweet). But lest you be lulled into a false sense of security, freedom of the press only applies to the ‘press’ and not to jurors.

You have all seen the motion picture and television courtroom scenes played out numerous times. Evidence is admitted or not admissible. The jury is admonished to disregard certain remarks or testimony as inadmissible or irrelevant. Jurors are told they must reach a verdict on only the evidence that is allowable during the trial – nothing else. Now decades ago, a jury was told not to watch accounts of a case on television, or to listen to such on the radio, or to read newspaper articles about the case. Juries could be sequestered – squirreled away out of sight and, theoretically, out of harmful evidence’s way – until the verdict was rendered and justice done.

But today, with a mobile phone, PDA or any one of literally hundreds of devices – some no larger than a credit card – one can ‘tweet’ (www.Twitter.com), one can post to your or someone else’s wall (www.Facebook.com), one can upload photos (www.flickr.com) or videos (www.YouTube.com) or post to one’s own blog (www.LegalBytes.com). All from the convenience of the palm of your hand, purse or jacket pocket. One can also surf, search, ask and obtain answers across the web, almost instantaneously, with the press of a few buttons or the wave of one’s fingers across a touch screen. The interactive two-way communication and searches for independent information is at odds with our jury system that limits the juror’s knowledge base for decision-making purposes to what’s in her or his head when they walk in along with the evidence that is presented and deemed admissible by the court. Everything else is off limits – at least for administering justice. Although not the subject of this two-part blog posting, Legal Bytes has also covered the growing issue of whether a mindless application of disqualification criteria makes sense simply because you have a ‘friend’ or someone is ‘following’ you among the other thousands or millions of individuals on some social media platform (See, Florida Judges Can’t Have Friends).

But now back to our story. Just this past December, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management issued its “Proposed Model Jury Instructions – The Use of Electronic Technology to Conduct Research on or Communicate about a Case”. I know this will surprise you, but the basic do’s and don’ts they proposed are:

  • Thou shalt not undertake any independent research, use any outside reference works, dictionaries, surf the web, or use any digital or other means to try and get information about the case or anything related to the case.
  • Thou shalt not communicate with anyone about the case – anyone – not even other jurors. No mobile phones, email, Blackberry, iPhone, SMS text messaging, tweets, blogging, chat rooms or social media platforms. None, nada, zilch, zero, null, never. Period.
  • Thou shalt decide the case solely on the admissible evidence presented in the courtroom.

Sound familiar? While many of us recognize there are sophisticated rules and regulations established to ensure evidence is presented in a fair manner, consistent with the system of justice – protecting the rights of the accused and the accuser, the plaintiff and the defendant – jurors often are curious – curious about questions that aren’t asked or answered during the course of a trial. In motion pictures or television, we get to go behind the scenes. We can often see what the jury cannot. But real juries may not appreciate, under the constraints of a particular case, why some information is simply not available to them, some questions not permissible, some witnesses never called and some answers never provided. It’s far too tempting to try and find out and with today’s digital technology – well, it’s not that hard to do so – sometimes even believing one can escape detection when doing so.

So stay tuned. In the next installment of this post, Legal Bytes will take you on a brief tour of some court decisions over the last few years, starting from simple emails and online surfing by jurors, to jurors who post blogs in the middle of jury deliberations, to tweets before, during and after multimillion dollar civil trials. Yes, we even have jurors communicating to each other on Facebook during a trial. You just can’t make this up.

While the next installment is pending, if you need to know more – how social media can help or hurt your company in litigation – remember that Rimon has teams of litigators who not only know digital (e-)discovery, forensic evidence, security and other technology applicable to legal proceedings, but also know social media – increasingly relevant, for good or bad, in dispute proceedings. Need us to press your suit and avoid being taken to the cleaners? Contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work and stay tuned for Part II – Jurors Behave, or We’ll Throw the Facebook at You!

Useless But Compelling Facts – March

Belated Happy New Year to all from the UBCF desk. As you know, we took a break from our “Useless But Compelling Facts” in December, and although the break lasted longer than I planned, I am pleased to report – we’re back!

So let’s begin the new year of trivial information that is destined to spice up your social media chatter:

Just a little more than a year ago, then President-elect Barack Obama become the first President-elect in more than 50 years (since President Eisenhower waved a fond farewell from a train on his way to inauguration in 1953) to board a train and head for his inauguration in Washington, D.C. ‘Whistle-stop’ campaigns owe their etymology to train campaigning – probably the most well-known image of a President-elect on a train is the picture of Harry Truman (whose campaign train was nicknamed the “Victory Special”) holding up the Chicago Tribune’s previous day’s headline incorrectly proclaiming “Dewey Defeats Truman”.

The President-elect tradition of coming to Washington, D.C. from Philadelphia by train is often credited as having originated, through a convoluted series of surreptitious changes and disguises, with Abraham Lincoln – who was a railroad lawyer before his ascendency in U.S. politics. But alas, President-elect Lincoln was not the first to make such a train trip.

Tell us, which President-elect was the first to do so? Be the first with the correct answer and be awarded the first prize of 2010. Send your answers to joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com.