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Patent Assignments to Native American Tribes: Brilliant or Bad Business?

The recent trend of companies transferring patents to Native American tribes has raised some concerns about anticompetitive business practices.  Lawsuits brought by patent-holding tribes as a result of these assignments have been popping up a lot lately, and major companies are fit to be tied. Essentially, companies are assigning their patents to tribes in order to take advantage of the tribes’ sovereign immunity, thus shielding them from the patent review process and potential patent invalidation.  The most recent targets of these lawsuits in the tech industry have been Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. The method works something like this.  A company files for...

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Bounding into Trouble: Trampoline Review Sites Launch Brothers into FTC Investigation

Trampoline selling brothers, Sonny and Bobby Le, are prohibited from engaging in deceptive marketing practices after sending consumers to "independent" product review sites that were actually owned and operated by the brothers' company. According to the FTC complaint, the brothers advertised and sold Infinity and Olympus Pro trampolines through various websites. These e-commerce websites displayed logos and seals for the Bureau of Trampoline Review, Trampoline Safety of America, and Top Trampoline Review. As a result, consumers were led to believe that these review sites containing ratings based on safety and performance, were comprised of unbiased, expert reviews. In reality, these...

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Truth in Advertising Going to the Dogs?

Last week a class action lawsuit was filed in California against Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, the owners of Rachael Ray™ Nutrish® dog food products for, among other claims, negligent misrepresentation and violations of California's false advertising law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act. According to the complaint, the defendants engaged in deceptive labeling practices by marketing the food as "natural" and containing "no artificial preservatives." The ingredients at the center of the lawsuit are synthetic versions of vitamins B, C and K, as well as caramel color. Although not proven to be harmful, and present in animal and human foods, the ingredients...

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Battle of the Copper Pans

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but such flattery is unwelcome when it comes to copying products. In the consumer product industry, hot items are quickly adapted by competing companies, resulting in consumer confusion as to the origin of the product; sometimes resulting in lengthy legal battles. We saw this most recently with retractable hoses (X Hose, Pocket Hose, etc.), which has been in litigation since 2013. Right now, the hottest product igniting lawsuits is copper. Copper pots and pans (or at least copper in color) are the latest sensation in cookware. Big sellers...

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Is ‘Made in China’ a Thing of the Past? What tariffs and trade relations mean for the consumer product industry.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, China is our largest goods trading partner with approximately $579 billion in total trade during 2016. Imports from China totaled $463 billion, resulting in a $347 billion U.S. trade deficit for the year. This deficit, along with the goal of bringing manufacturing jobs back home, has the President Trump contemplating high tariffs on Chinese and other imports, including those from another major trade partner – Mexico. The World Trade Organization stipulates that tariffs can only be imposed when there is material injury to the domestic industry, such as the detrimental effects of...

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FTC shakeup may be welcome news for online product marketers

The president appears to be making good on his promise to cut government regulations, as the Federal Trade Commission is the latest body to get “Trumped.” Maureen Ohlhausen of the FTC, a critic of government regulation, has been appointed the interim chair by President Trump. She replaces Edith Ramirez who will be resigning today, February 10, 2017. Ohlhausen will be bringing a new focus to the FTC; specifically, an emphasis on pursuing claims based on actual consumer harm, not just whether a regulatory violation occurred. For example, on a recent $2.2M settlement with Vizio regarding the software in...

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Lawsuits and Fines Plague Amazon to Kick off 2017

Despite its recent announcement of plans to create 100,000 jobs during the next 18 months, 2017 is off to a rocky start for Amazon. Just days before the new year, RUN-DMC Brand filed a lawsuit against Amazon (and others, including Walmart and Jet.com) seeking $50 million in damages for trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition. RUN-DMC’s complaint alleges that the defendants are advertising, manufacturing, selling, and distributing multiple products with the iconic 1980s rap/hip-hop group’s RUN-DMC trademark without the permission of RUN-DMC, which is owned by former band member, Darryl McDaniels. Run-DMC alleges that Amazon directly advertises and sells infringing products,...

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DRTV Powerhouses Take on Amazon in Federal Court

Digital Law Group has been advocating on behalf of its clients and the direct response industry for some time now against Amazon’s unscrupulous business practices of knowingly selling counterfeit products on its marketplace. In fact, when we pitched a panel idea for a recent tradeshow on policing and enforcing intellectual property rights on online marketplaces, the organizer notified us that Amazon could not be included/mentioned in the content of our session. Naturally, we were concerned by this information and perplexed as to why so many marketers continue to do business with Amazon in spite of the fact that knockoffs and counterfeits...

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How much is that Hamdog in the (drive-thru) window?

Perhaps the first question should be: “What in the world is a Hamdog?” The Hamdog is a combination of a hamburger and a hot dog. Mark Murray, who lives in Perth, Australia, invented it in 2004. The invention has been granted patent rights in Australia and the United States, and, more importantly, has become a viral phenomenon, spawning hundreds of interviews of the inventor. Thanks to the attention the product has received, Murray has decided that rather than sell directly in the U.S., he is auctioning the U.S. patent and trademark to the highest bidder, transferring global rights (not including Australia)....

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Fembots, opiates and federal prison – the latest on FTC consumer protection

Ashley Madison The website whose tagline used to be "Life is short, have an affair" saw many of its users exposed last summer when hackers leaked personal information related to more than 30 million users.  Now, amidst the company's efforts to rebrand, its parent company, Avid Life Media, is facing an FTC probe due to the website's former use of "fembots." The thrust of the investigation is that the company used fake female profiles (fembots) to lure in male customers and artificially inflate the number of female users on the site.  This is not the first time a dating website has been...

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