Category: Business Law

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Abuse of Process – When Parties Submit Frivolous Filings to Delay Litigation and Increase Costs

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The word “process” as used in the tort of abuse of process “has been interpreted broadly, and encompasses the entire range of procedures incident to the litigation process. Rosen v. American Bank of Rolla, 627 A.2d 190, 192-193 (Pa. Super. 1993).

To establish a claim for abuse of process in Pennsylvania it must be shown that the party: (1) used a legal process against the other party, (2) primarily to accomplish a purpose for which the process was not designed; and (3) harm has been caused to the other party. Lerner v. Lerner, 954 A.2d 1229, 1238 (Pa. Super. 2008). “[C]ourts have consistently held or assumed that plaintiffs asserting a claim under Pennsylvania law for abuse of process that arises out of an underlying civil case need only establish the three common elements described above”. Langman v. Keystone Nat ‘1 Bank & Trust Co., et al, 672 F. Supp.2d 691, 700 (E.D.Pa. 2009). A plaintiff asserting an abuse of process claim does not have to show that the underlying proceedings terminated in his favor. Id., at 701; Lerner, 954 A.2d at 1238.

For more information on abuse of process, contact Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Craigslist Copyright Lawsuit

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A long-standing case between Craigslist and 3taps has finally been resolved. The two companies came to a settlement agreement for one million dollars that Craigslist will be donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) over the next decade. Additionally, 3taps will be shutting down.

Trademark Infringement, Unethical Competition and Breach of Contract

Craigslist sued 3taps, as well as another company, PadMapper, in July 2012, claiming that both companies were guilty of copyright infringement. PadMapper took the data Craigslist had for apartment listings and created its own site that was easier to use, while 3taps took other Craigslist postings and published them on third-party websites. In addition to copyright infringement, PadMapper and 3taps were also accused of infringing on the Craigslist trademark, unethically competing with Craigslist and breaching Craigslist contracts.

Countersuit Filed

In late 2012, 3taps filed a countersuit against Craigslist, opening the door to a legal battle that lasted nearly three years. 3taps countered that Craigslist had effectively created a copyright infringement trap by their practice of selectively obtaining copyright assignments and registrations in some user-generated posts, but failing to inform visitors which posts its own.

The recent settlement fully resolves each lawsuit. The one million dollars that 3taps will pay to Craigslist will help support the EFF, which will receive $100,000 a year for 10 years, and 3taps will no longer be allowed to operate.

Copyright Litigation Trap Questions Remain

There is still debate regarding the question of legality for private enterprises which operate public websites and attempt to exclude certain visitors, while at the same time exposing the excluded visitor to civil and criminal liability through use of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Philadelphia Copyright Infringement Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Represent Trademark Infringement, Breach of Contract and Business Litigation Claims

Certain types of small businesses and websites that source their data from other systems may be exposed to the potential of being targeted in lawsuits filed by the original source company or website. If you are being sued over copyright infringement or are considering filing a lawsuit of your own, our Philadelphia litigation lawyers can help. We can consult on how to avoid trademark litigation and offer legal counsel on how to pursue a trademark violation claim if one is warranted. At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, we are skilled in breach of contract and copyright infringement litigation and will pursue your case until we reach a viable outcome or settlement. Please call 215-574-0600 or fill out an online contact form today to schedule your consultation.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers : Significant Trademark Ruling in 9th Circuit

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Amazon, the online marketplace giant, recently lost an important court case. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the company will be subject to an ongoing trademark lawsuit, which was instigated by Amazon’s publishing of competitors’ list prices. A lower court originally ruled in Amazon’s favor in the case.

Multi Time Machine v. involves Multi Time Machine (MTM), a watchmaking company that filed suit against Amazon for “confusing search results.” Consumers who search for “MTM Special Ops” on Amazon do not actually see the MTM product they are searching for because Amazon does not sell the product. Instead, the search engine provides a list of competitors’ watches that are sold by Amazon. Consumers may be aware the product they are trying to purchase does not come from MTM, but could also think they are purchasing an MTM product since the search results page displays “MTM Special Ops” at the top of the page.

Ruling Not an Automatic Victory

The ruling does not automatically grant MTM a trademark victory. The case will return to court wherein MTM must prove that Amazon intentionally caused this confusion. A judge from the majority ruling said that a jury should have the opportunity to make the final decision. “A jury could infer that users who are confused by the search results will wonder whether a competitor has acquired MTM or is otherwise affiliated with or approved by MTM,” he said.

A dissenting judge disagreed saying that online consumers are knowledgeable enough to understand the difference. He equated the search engine results to a waitress offering a diner Pepsi because it does not serve Coca Cola.

Philadelphia Trademark Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Represent Trademark Infringement Claims

As technology continues to evolve, laws must also be changed to keep up with technology’s fast pace. Across the nation, trademark law is in flux. If you think that an individual or company has violated your trademark or marketed your product in violation of fair trade laws, contact a Philadelphia trademark lawyer at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green today. Please call 215-574-0600 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers discuss Contra Proferentem: Ambiguity in Contract Construed Against Drafter

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“Contra proferentem” or “against the offeror” is a legal principal used by Courts in Pennsylvania when parties dispute contractual language. A written instrument is ambiguous if it is reasonably or fairly susceptible of more than one construction. When a contract is ambiguous, it is undisputed that the rule of contra proferentem requires the language to be construed against the drafter and in favor of the other party if the latter’s interpretation is reasonable. Com., State Pub. Sch. Bldg. Auth. v. Noble C. Quandel Co., 585 A.2d 1136, 1144 (1991)

In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State Public School Building Authority, the Court ruled in favor of Defendant because “a government contract will be construed against the government where, as here, the contractual provision in question is ambiguous and unreasonable, we conclude that the Authority’s interpretation of Paragraph 75 is erroneous and that Quandel must prevail.” Id.

For more information, call Philadelphia contract lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Disparaging Trademarks

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Trademarks are a business asset that help identify a business. Most trademarks promote the business in a positive light. Some trademarks are contested because they are too close to another trademark. Other trademarks can be considered offensive. Trademark applications and contests over trademarks are decided by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB.)

Constitutional Law vs. Trademark Law

The USPTO and TTAB currently decide if a trademark is disparaging based on whether the trademark refers to an identifiable group and whether a substantial part of that group considers the trademark to be offensive. Factors used to decide whether trademarks are disparaging are how a dictionary defines the key words, as well as how and where the trademark will appear.

Offensive or disparaging trademarks raise the issue of whether they are protected by the US Constitution’s Freedom of Speech provision of the First Amendment. Trademark applicants claim that the USPTO and TTAB cannot deny the application even if the trademark is disparaging because the denial violates the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Those who think disparaging trademarks should be denied rely on the federal Lanham Act.

Current Cases

The case of In re McGinley decided the issue in favor of the USPTO and TTAB. The case reasoning was that applicants were still free to use the disparaging words to identify their business – they just could not get an approved trademark for it.

The federal case involving the Asian band relied on In re McGinley to hold that the band could not get a trademark. A dissenting judge in the Asian band case reasoned that it might be time to revisit the In re McGinley decision because recent law has held that commercial speech is protected by the U.S. Constitution. The federal court overseeing the Asian band case agreed with the dissenting judge and recently decided it would revisit the constitutionality of denying disparaging trademarks.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus and Green handle Intellectual Property Issues

Philadelphia business lawyers at the Law Offices of Sidkoff, Pincus and Green have experience handling intellectual property issues and are knowledgeable in current trademark laws. Our commercial litigation lawyers in Philadelphia have the experience to help businesses overcome the constitutional and legal challenges they often face. Call 215-574-0600 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your intellectual property concerns with an experienced Philadelphia business lawyer today.

Philadelphia Business Attorneys Explain Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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A fiduciary duty is a legal obligation to have the best interest of another party when making decisions. A lawyer has a fiduciary duty to their client; as does a board member share that same duty to the company’s shareholders. This obligation exists whenever the relationship involves a special dependence on the fiduciary to implement his expertise in acting for the client. The fiduciary must knowingly accept that trust and confidence to exercise his expertise and discretion to act on the client’s behalf. When a legal fiduciary relationship exists, the law prohibits the fiduciary from acting in any manner unfavorable to the interests of the client, including only acting to benefit themselves.

In Sutow v. Family Endowment Partners, two investors sought damages under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL). The Sutows claimed over $20 million in investments that were recommended by their advisors were negligent and were similar to a Ponzi scheme. The firm had failed to disclose personal interests in some of the companies recommended for investment to the Sutows. One company was considered “technically insolvent” by an expert for the Sutows and another company was behind on loan payments. Other recommendations and expectations of those companies showed a lack of due diligence according to an expert for the Sutows. Although the firm argued that brokers do not owe a fiduciary duty on non-discretionary trades, the arbitrator awarded $48.4 million to the Sutows.

Philadelphia Business Attorneys at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green handle Breach of Fiduciary Duty Cases

Philadelphia business attorneys at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. are experienced in handing all aspects of business law and commercial litigation. Our dedicated team of trial lawyers in Philadelphia assist clients in a wide range of complex litigation matters, including breach of fiduciary duty. Call 215-574-0600 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your breach of fiduciary duty concerns with an experienced Philadelphia trial lawyer today.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers:  Cyber-hacking and Class Action Lawsuits

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Recent news coverage has shown a proliferation in cyber-hacks—hackers stealing information about former and current employees including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, employment records, including compensation records, human resources, records, medical information and financial information from both large corporations as well as the Government.

Class action litigation has been initiated as a result of these data breaches. In order for a plaintiff to bring an action as a result of a data breach a plaintiff must have suffered an injury to have standing. That injury must be “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). If identity was “stolen” but has not been used by anyone else, can you still bring a lawsuit? A plaintiff who can prove that a hacker used his information has a much stronger argument than a plaintiff who can allege only an increased risk of identity theft.

The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Spokeo v. Robins, 724 F.3d 409 (9th Cir. 2014), which could change the injury requirement for a plaintiff trying to bring a lawsuit after their personal information has been hacked. The court will have to decide whether Congress may confer standing on a plaintiff who had not suffered a concrete injury, but rather permit a private right of action based on the violation of a federal statute.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Protect Victims of Cyber-Hacking

Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green have the experience to pursue lawsuits for individuals who have had their privacy violated by having their personal information hacked. Our Philadelphia business law firm offers free consultations at our convenient Philadelphia, Pennsylvania location. Call Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or complete our online contact form to see how a Philadelphia business lawyer at our office can help you.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: New Report Released on Trademark Litigation

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Trademark litigation is a niche area of the legal field, with over 4,000 cases filed last year. Lex Machina, a legal analysis company, recently conducted a comprehensive study on trademark litigation. The report examined all aspects of trademark cases and defined metrics such as number of filings and amounts of damages awarded. The Trademark Litigation Report published findings that since 2009, trademark lawyers have filed nearly 25,000 cases, resulting in over nine billion dollars in damage payments over the course of five years.

The purpose of the study, according to Lex Machina, was to help business attorneys determine effective strategies for all types of trademark litigation cases by quantifying results from past cases. The Trademark Litigation Report is a useful resource for trademark lawyers, especially for its analysis of damage award payouts. The report determined that of the nine billion dollars in damages paid out, more monies have been awarded by juries rather than by judges. Furthermore, most cases are decided through default judgements.

Litigation Cycle of Trademark Cases

The litigation cycle of each type of case was also measured. Certain trademark cases reach an injunction stage much faster than other cases, specifically cases that involve cybersquatting. Copyright cases and patent cases take longer to get to the injunction stage, while cases involving false advertising almost always face a slow, lengthy process during both initial and long-term injunction.

Lex Machina has also conducted reports analyzing patent litigation in several different districts, and the trademark report follows the same patterns by looking at cases in high profile judicial areas such as the Southern District of New York, the Southern District of Florida, the Central District of California and the Northern District of Illinois. These courts deal with major and luxury fashion brands as well as music and film trademark cases.

The Trademark Litigation Report is divided into two sections; the first part of the report defines and analyzes metrics for the past five years of trademark cases, while the second section details how major retailers and brands have been involved in trademark law over the course of the study. Specific companies profiled include BMW, Nike, Chanel and Dunkin’ Donuts, and the report includes information on the overall outcome of each case.

Trademark Lawyers in Philadelphia at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green help Commercial Clients Avoid and Pursue Litigation When Necessary

At the Pennsylvania business law firm of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green our trademark lawyers in Philadelphia have experience representing business clients in claims involving commercial contract issues, intellectual property, trademark infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets, among other business law and commercial litigation matters. We provide experienced legal counsel on how to avoid trademark litigation and on how to pursue a trademark violation claim if one is warranted. Contact our Philadelphia trial lawyers today to schedule a consultation by calling 215-574-0600 or submit an online inquiry.

Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers : Vanguard Accused of $1 Billion Tax Fraud

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The city of Philadelphia is home to one of the most active jurisdictions for Qui Tam lawsuits. A Quit Tam suit is a type of lawsuit brought by a third party whistleblower on behalf of the government. In the United States, under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., “an individual with knowledge past or present of fraud committed against the federal government may bring suit its behalf”. If their case recovers funds for the government, a whistleblower can be awarded substantial sums of money as a percentage of the settlement.

Pennsylvania based investment company Vanguard Group, which manages nearly $3 trillion in assets, is currently in the midst of a qui tam suit brought by its former employee David Danon, who alleges that the company illegally manipulated transfer pricing to keep costs artificially low. Danon’s suit states that after expressing serious concerns about the transfer pricing arrangements, the company brushed aside his concerns and eventually fired him.

Vanguard filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that as a former tax attorney for the company, Danon cannot file suit against them. Furthermore, Vanguard alleges that Danon improperly used privilege and confidential information to bring the suit.

The lead counsel in Danon’s suit, Stephen Sorenson of Thomas, Alexander & Forrester LLP remains optimistic about the suit, stating in an interview with Forbes Magazine that he is hoping for a hearing by early next year. The suit alleges a violation of federal and state tax laws, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion.

Philadelphia qui tam lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus and Green represent third party whistleblowers throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey.  If you or someone you know needs a whistleblower lawyer in Philadelphia call Sidkoff, Pincus and Green at 215-574-0600, or complete and online contact form to schedule a consultation today.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers: Whistleblower Retaliation Case

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A Fresno, California cardiac perfusionist is suing Community Regional Medical Center and a well-known cardiac surgeon for wrongful termination and retaliation after being identified as a whistleblower. Community Regional Medical Center was fined $75,000 in April of 2012 after James Robillard reported that the cardiac surgeon named in the suit left the operating room before closing his patient’s chest.  An inexperienced assistant was left to complete the surgical procedure, but did not perform it properly.  As a result, the patient’s heart stopped, causing him to bleed and be deprived of oxygen.  He was revived and put on life support but remains in a vegetative state in a nursing home.

The patient’s family filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital and surgeon in December of 2013.  When the case went to trial, all pertinent records were subpoenaed, including the whistleblower file.  James Robillard was identified as the person originally reporting the incident.  He was also identified by name in two news reports on the case, causing him loss of wages because other medical facilities were reluctant to hire him.

Robillard is seeking $25,000 in punitive damages, and another $10,000 in fines.  He claims that being identified as the whistleblower in this case has had such an effect on his professional career that he had to relocate to Monterey, California in order to find work.  Community Regional Medical Center and the cardiac surgeon named in the suit contend that the claims are absurd and report that Robillard was fired for violating hospital policy on patient confidentiality.  They claim Robillard accessed medical records of patients without authorization, and in doing so, caused a breach in the hospital’s patient confidentiality policies.  Patients were informed of this breach and Robillard was fired.

Community Regional Medical Center and the cardiac surgeon deny all of the allegations brought against them.  The surgeon named in the case filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Robillard, but has since had the case dismissed.  The surgeon has the right to refile in the future.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Represent Whistleblowers

Employees who report inappropriate and illegal business practices that have been wrongfully terminated may be protected by whistleblower laws.  If you or someone you know is in need of an whistleblower lawyer in Philadelphia, call Sidkoff, Pincus & Green at 215-574-0600 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today.

The Philadelphia business lawyers of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green are located in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia and serve clients throughout the Philadelphia area, including Bala Cynwyd, Merion Station, Wynnewood, Darby, Narberth, Upper Darby, Sharon Hill, Cheltenham, Clifton Heights, Folcroft, Lansdowne, Drexel Hill, Elkins Park, Havertown, Glenolden, Ardmore, Gladwyne, Wyncote, Norwood, Holmes, Haverford, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.