Let’s meet the halfway point in the week head-on and take a peek at today’s legal news.
The US Supreme Court is deciding whether US trademark law applies to foreign conduct in a case involving a $90m infringement award over radio remote controls. The Tenth Circuit upheld a $115m award, including $90m in trademark infringement damages, to Hetronic International against Abitron Germany for infringing radio remote controls for heavy-duty construction equipment sold worldwide. While Abitron maintained that nearly all its conduct was international and therefore the Tenth Circuit had overreached, Hetronic argued the focus should be on whether actions caused consumer confusion in the US. The case has raised concerns about the reach of US trademark law into other jurisdictions, but the justices have also indicated that Congress’ authority over US commerce becomes difficult to square with arguments limiting the reach of trademark law in a global, internet-connected context. IP attorney Mark Lezama of Knobbe Martens said the majority of justices appeared to be in favour of reversing the Tenth Circuit’s judgment in large part and limiting the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act.
By way of brief background, the Lanham Act, also known as the Trademark Act of 1946, is a United States federal law that governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition. It provides for the registration of trademarks and service marks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and establishes procedures for enforcing trademark rights. The Lanham Act prohibits false advertising, false designation of origin, and other deceptive practices that may confuse consumers about the source or quality of goods or services. It also provides for remedies such as injunctions, damages, and attorney's fees in cases of trademark infringement. The Lanham Act has been amended several times over the years to keep pace with changes in technology and commerce, but it remains an important tool for protecting intellectual property rights in the United States and, maybe now, worldwide.
Texas and Idaho will operate under a federal waters rule that was in place before March 20, after a federal court barred the Biden administration’s 2023 waters of the US (WOTUS) rule from being implemented in those states. The new rule is designed to protect water quality in major waterways across the US, and impacts housing, agricultural, mining and other development projects in every state, as a permit is required to disturb federally protected waters and wetlands. The definition of federally protected waters under the Clean Water Act has been subject to a complex series of challenges and revisions, including a 2008-15 rule, the Obama administration’s expansion of federally protected waters and wetlands, a subsequent court decision rejecting that rule, and the Trump administration’s changes to WOTUS. The Biden administration is facing five lawsuits challenging its 2023 rule, brought by at least 26 states and industry groups. Although the injunction against the rule in Texas and Idaho is not expected to affect the other lawsuits, a Supreme Court case, Sackett v. EPA, could undermine the significant nexus test that is currently used to determine whether waters and wetlands are protected under the law, potentially prompting further litigation.
Manhattan prosecutors are expected to decide within days whether to bring charges against former President Donald Trump for his role in hush-money payments made by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump denies having had an affair with Daniels. The inquiry into the payments opened and closed several times, leading to the case being referred to as a "zombie case". Doubts had arisen as to whether state felony charges could be brought against a candidate for federal office, and whether the conduct could be considered money laundering. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg launched the probe after his predecessor Cyrus Vance twice looked into the payment and did not bring charges. The new prosecutor is reportedly approaching the case with a different legal theory. Trump, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency again in 2024, has called the probe a "witch hunt" – which is probably accurate … if there really was a witch and it really had paid off an adult film actress.
Content warning here for a hateful law enacted by a hateful person, with my condolences to all the good people in Arkansas that aren’t currently governor. If you want to hop off here and catch up with us tomorrow, this is our last story of the day. Have a great one.
On Tuesday, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law that prohibits transgender individuals from using public school restrooms that match their gender identity. The law applies to multi-person restrooms and locker rooms in public schools and charter schools serving pre-K through grade 12. The law requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations, such as single-person restrooms and changing areas, and school authorities that violate the law can face fines of at least $1,000, while parents can file lawsuits to enforce the measure. A spokesperson for Sanders said that the governor is focusing on protecting and educating children, not “indoctrinating” them – and indoctrinating should be viewed with huge sarcastic air quotes. This law is similar to ones in Alabama and Oklahoma that are aimed at making life miserable for transgender youth, while Republican legislators across the United States have been campaigning to ban healthcare for them. Some are even seeking to charge parents and doctors with child abuse if they provide treatment, all are aiding and abetting their most extreme colleagues by putting party loyalty ahead of basic human decency.