Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Weds 4/10 - Historic PFAS Water Standards Pass, Trump SPAC Litigation Rolls on and Russia's Hefty Fine on Google re: Ukraine

Legal News for Weds 4/10 - Historic PFAS Water Standards Pass, Trump SPAC Litigation Rolls on and Russia's Hefty Fine on Google re: Ukraine

EPA's historic PFAS water standards, Trump SPAC litigation developments, and Russia's hefty fine on Google.
A water glass full of small colorful pieces of plastic of varying size and texture, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Patent Act Approved

On April 10, 1790, a significant milestone in U.S. legal and innovation history was reached when Congress approved America's first Patent Act. This foundational legislation was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the protection of intellectual property in the United States, a concept that has become a cornerstone of the modern global economy. The Patent Act of 1790 empowered inventors with the "sole and exclusive right and liberty of making, constructing, using and vending to others" their inventions, providing them with a fourteen-year period of protection. This period was designed to incentivize innovation while balancing the public's interest in the eventual free use of inventions. 

Moreover, the Act led to the creation of the U.S. Patent Board, marking the establishment of an official body responsible for the examination and awarding of patents. This entity is recognized as the precursor to today's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), an institution that plays a pivotal role in the protection of intellectual property rights and the encouragement of technological advancement and creativity. The enactment of the Patent Act of 1790 not only recognized the importance of protecting inventors' rights but also set the stage for the United States to become a global leader in innovation and economic development.

The EPA recently established the first-ever drinking water standards for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), commonly referred to as "forever chemicals," due to their persistence in the environment. This rule aims to reduce exposure to these carcinogenic substances, affecting up to 6,700 utilities and potentially benefiting around 100 million Americans. Specifically, the EPA has set an enforceable limit of 4 parts per trillion for two primary PFAS compounds—PFOA and PFOS—and a non-enforceable goal of zero exposure due to associated health risks, including cancer. Additionally, a limit of 10 parts per trillion is applied to three other PFAS categories, covering compounds like PFNA, PFHxS, and GenX chemicals.

This regulatory action reflects growing concern over PFAS presence in approximately 45% of U.S. drinking water sources, posing significant risks to public health. Utilities will be mandated to monitor, reduce, and notify customers of PFAS levels exceeding these new limits, incorporating advanced treatment technologies such as granular activated carbon and reverse osmosis for removal.

To support compliance, the federal government has allocated about $1 billion for PFAS testing and removal, with an additional $12 billion for broader drinking water system improvements. The implementation of these standards represents a critical step by the Biden-Harris Administration towards ensuring environmental justice and safeguarding clean water, contrasting with the World Health Organization's less stringent PFAS guidelines.

However, compliance is expected to be costly, with estimates suggesting an annual financial burden of up to $3.8 billion for water utilities. This financial challenge underscores the broader issue of funding essential infrastructure updates and addressing emerging contaminants, highlighting a significant shift in regulatory approach to protect public health from PFAS contamination.

Final PFAS Drinking Water Rule to Affect Up to 6,700 Utilities

US sets first standard to curb 'forever chemicals' from drinking water | Reuters

The litigation involving Donald Trump's merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) concerning his social media platform, Truth Social, has been assigned to Vice Chancellor Morgan T. Zurn in Delaware Chancery Court, known for her experience with meme stock litigation. This case is among four lawsuits filed over the Trump-Truth Social merger, plus an additional insider trading case. Despite an attempt to block the merger, it concluded in March, leading to an initial surge in Trump Media & Technology Group Corp.'s value, which later saw a significant decline, diminishing billions in value.

By way of very brief background, a SPAC operates as a shell corporation designed solely to merge with a private company, thereby taking it public (that is, listing its shares for trade publicly on the market) without going through the traditional and often lengthy initial public offering (IPO) process. SPACs are initially created by a group of investors—often led by a seasoned entrepreneur or business executive—known as the sponsors, who raise capital through an IPO of the SPAC itself, even though it has no existing business operations. The funds raised are placed into a trust account, and the SPAC is given a predetermined timeframe, typically 18 to 24 months, to identify and complete a merger with a target company. 

If the merger is successfully executed within the allotted time, the target company becomes public as a result. However, if the SPAC fails to find a suitable company to merge with or the shareholders disapprove of the proposed merger, the SPAC is dissolved, and the funds are returned to the investors. This mechanism provides a faster, albeit sometimes riskier, alternative to the traditional IPO, offering private companies a streamlined path to public market access and investors a unique investment opportunity tied to the SPAC sponsors' expertise and the potential of the target company.

Vice Chancellor Zurn, recognized for her adept handling of cases involving meme stock traders and complex market manipulation theories, now faces the Truth Social lawsuit, highlighting the increasing intersection of retail trading phenomena with legal disputes in the corporate sector. This case centers on allegations that Trump wrongfully diluted the equity of two former "The Apprentice" contestants who co-founded Trump Media, with Trump counter-suing to cancel their shares. The legal battle involves claims of breach of fiduciary duties and retaliatory actions against the co-founders, with new complaints recently allowed to be updated.

The assignment of this high-profile case to Zurn underlines the Delaware Chancery Court's role as a crucial arena for major corporate and shareholder disputes, now expanded to include the unique challenges posed by the involvement of meme stock traders. The outcome of this litigation could have broader implications for corporate governance, investor rights, and the regulation of digital and social media ventures in the rapidly evolving landscape of retail trading and online community-driven investment strategies.

Trump SPAC Litigation Heads to Judge With Meme Stock Experience

A Russian court has upheld a significant fine against Google, rejecting the tech giant's appeal against a 4.6 billion rouble ($49.4 million) penalty. This fine was imposed for Google's failure to delete content that the Russian government deems to be false information about the conflict in Ukraine. The decision comes amid ongoing tensions between Russia and foreign tech companies over issues of content censorship, particularly following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The Moscow City Court confirmed the decision made by the Tagansky District Court, effectively leaving Google's challenge unsatisfied. The fine also pertains to Google's inability to remove extremist content and what the Russian authorities label as LGBT propaganda, indicating a broader crackdown on the digital content distributed by international tech firms within Russia.

Notably, Google's YouTube platform, while under scrutiny, has not faced the same fate as Twitter and Facebook, which have been blocked in Russia. This penalty against Google is part of a series of fines based on the company's annual turnover in Russia, with Google facing increasing financial penalties over similar issues in the past. This ruling underscores the escalating conflict between the Russian government and global technology companies over the control and regulation of online content and freedom of expression.

Russian court rejects Google's appeal against $50-mln fine over Ukraine content | Reuters

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at