Memorial Day

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We here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. hope you had a safe and fine Memorial Day weekend. As we do each year, today, we pause to reflect upon all of the sacrifices made by American servicemen and women and all they have done for the country, both in present times and years past. Above, you’ll find the cover of War Comics #34, published way, way back in 1955.

We’ll resume with regular posting tomorrow.

Friday Links

We here at Abnormal Use had, of course, hoped to see X-Men: Apocalypse at the theatre late last night, but as it does, life got in the way. We plan to see it this weekend (or, if that plan fails, catch up on episodes of “The Americans.”) That sounds like a wonderfully lazy agenda. (And, no, we’re not planning on attending tonight’s Dave Matthews Band concert in Charlotte, North Carolina).

Friend of the blog Jeena Cho’s new book, The Anxious Lawyer, arrives in stores next week!

We hope everyone has a safe Memorial Day weekend! Try not to do any billable work this weekend, as you’ve earned a break.

Don’t forget that you can follow Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. on Twitter by visiting here!

What Are Smart Contracts?

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use find ourselves members of a number of legal groups, including the North Carolina Legal Geeks, which puts on several programs per year in the Charlotte area. If you find yourself in the Queen City tomorrow, Thursday, May 26, 2016, you might be interested in their latest program.

Called “What Are Smart Contracts?”, the program will feature local attorney and self professed legal hacker Tom Brooke will be speaking. Brooke is the founder of the North Carolina Legal Hackers, and as such, he knows a good bit about legal technology issues. He will be discussing how smart contracts will be used in the future as well as how they may affect the practice of law. As a refresher, our friends at Wikipedia have defined “smart contracts” as follows:

Smart contracts are computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that make a contractual clause unnecessary. Smart contracts usually also have a user interface and often emulate the logic of contractual clauses. Proponents of smart contracts claim that many kinds of contractual clauses may thus be made partially or fully self-executing, self-enforcing, or both. Smart contracts aim to provide security superior to traditional contract law and to reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting.

The event takes place Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at Kickstand Charlotte located at 1101 Central Avenue in Charlotte.

For more information, see the event’s Facebook page here.

Kanye West Accused Of Ripping Off 1969 Hungarian Pop Favorite

According to reports, Kanye West, rap star and most recent addition to the Kardashian clan, has been sued for ripping off the beats of a Hungarian composer. The complaint, filed by Hungarian composer Gabor Presser in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that West used a portion of his band Omega’s song “Gyöngyhajú lány” (recorded way, way back in 1969) in the song “New Slaves,” released in 2013 on the Yeezus album. The Omega song is allegedly “one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across Eastern Europe.” In other words, Omega is basically the Beatles. Or, something like that.

Now, we understand if you have some doubts as to how a rap mogul the likes of Kanye West could come across a 1969 Hungarian pop tune. Whether it be through iTunes or an excursion into the darkest corners of the internet, West allegedly was aware of the song and even asked Presser for permission to use it. According to Presser, West’s lawyer emailed him soon after the marketing of New Slaves began, indicating that West “would like to work out a deal with you as soon as possible.” Presser allegedly was given 24 hours to respond. Presser agreed in principle to the use of the song on the condition that a formal deal follow. However, a formal agreement allegedly never came to fruition. West allegedly sent Prosser $10,000 as an advance for the audio track, but Prosser never cashed the check. Now, he is seeking $2.5 million in damages.

We here at Abnormal Use have no idea whether the allegations of the suit have any merit. We have listened to the two tracks (available here) and, admittedly, can at least hear some resemblance. West has apparently at least acknowledged some resemblance and copyright issues by virtue of the alleged offer to work out a deal. If true, what is curious is whether West intentionally borrowed from the 1969 Hungarian track or created “New Slaves” independently, discovered the resemblance, and tried to hedge off any issues, knowing that musicians are no strangers to copyright lawsuits. Presser apparently thinks it is the former more so than the latter. He alleges that West “knowingly and intentionally misappropriated plaintiff’s composition,” and “after his theft was discovered, [West] refused to deal fairly with plaintiff.”

Is this a case of coincidence or a musician digging through the depths of the music library of Eastern Europe to make music? Take a lesson to the songs, and we will let you be the judge.

Friday Links

xmen

Okay, so as you know, the new X-Men film, X-Men: Apocalypse, see its release next week. The film’s bad guy is, well, Apocalypse, who you can see depicted on the cover of X-Factor #19, published way, way back in 1987. As we like to say, those were the day. Oscar Isaac of Ex Machina and The Force Awakens fame plays the title villain, so we have some faith that the movie will be a good one. Yes, we do plan to at least try to see it at one of the sneak previews next Thursday night. What else would we do?

Um, did you see the new teaser trailer for the new “Star Trek” television series?

Has anyone registered for the North Carolina Bar Association Annual Meeting, which takes place in late June in Charlotte? As he does each year, our own editor, Jim Dedman, will be attending (something which will be made far easier since the event takes place in his home city). We hope to see you there!

Speaking of Charlotte events, if you’re interested in learning more about “smart contracts,” the North Carolina Legal Geeks are hosting a free event next Thursday, May 26, right here in the Queen City. Attorney and legal hacker Tom Brooke will be speaking. For more information, see the event’s Facebook page here. (Note: One great part about the event page is the usage of Willie Wonka’s contract as the header image.).

By the way, that three disc Grateful Dead tribute album is out today.

Trade Secrets Get Greater Protection – Benefit Business Owners

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use often direct your attention to the work of our writers and lawyers published elsewhere. Well, this week is no exception, as our own Zach Weaver has published a new piece about trade secrets entitled “Trade Secrets Get Greater Protection – Benefit Business Owners,” the first two paragraphs of which are:

Trade secrets are the lifeblood of a successful business. Be it the formula for Coke, a small business’s special manufacturing techniques, a corporate marketing strategy, or any other competitive business information that has value because it is not known to the public, trade secrets are what differentiate and give businesses an advantage over competitors. Congress has recently decided that such trade secrets and the businesses that hold them are deserving of greater protection. Last week, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (the “DTSA”) was signed by President Obama. Applicable immediately, the Act substantially amends Chapter 90 of Title 18 of the US Code and creates a federal cause of action for theft or misappropriation of trade secrets. The law effectively federalizes a significant number of trade secret claims, adding to the federal jurisdiction over intellectual property matters that already includes patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Previously, trade secret cases were brought in state court unless another claim involving federal law existed or the parties were from different states and a sufficient amount of money was involved. This was because the majority of states had adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act in some shape or form, including South Carolina which has the South Carolina Trade Secrets Act, S.C. Code 39-8-10, et seq.  The likely result of the DTSA will be that the federal and state law claims will be brought simultaneously in federal court (as the DTSA does not replace any of the claims one has under state law).

You can read the full piece here.

Goya Accused Of The Old Octopus Bait and Switch

According to a report from Business Insider, a lawsuit has been filed in California against Goya Foods, Inc., the largest Hispanic-owned U.S. food company, alleging that the company has been selling canned octopus products that actually contain canned squid. Apparently, independent DNA testing has confirmed the alleged cephalopod bait and switch. The lawsuit was filed by Plaintiff Luis Diego Zapata Fonseca on behalf of purchasers of Goya canned octopus in garlic sauce, hot sauce, pickled sauce, or olive oil, and seeks $5 million in damages.

We here at Abnormal Use do not know what is more surprising, that there is a market for canned octopus or that the suit was filed in the first place. We have eaten our fair share of canned food in our day and take no issue with the practice. However, we can’t imagine a world where octopus-in-a-can is acceptable. If there were ever a product we would assume should be served fresh, octopus would be it. Tentacles just don’t sound like they would take well to preservation. But, what do we know?

In any event, we acknowledge that it is probably deceptive to sell one animal product as another. Nonetheless, how much damage have consumers really sustained in this case? We are sure the most sophisticated palate could distinguish between octopus and squid, but we have serious doubts as to whether those people are actually buying canned octopus bathed in garlic sauce, hot sauce, pickled sauce, or olive oil. Our guess is that the average canned-octopus buyer can’t tell the difference between octopus and squid tentacles. In fact, the plaintiff in the lawsuit seems to acknowledge the same. In the complaint, Fonseca alleges that Goya “intentionally replaced the octopus in its octopus products with squid as a cheap substitute to save money because it knew an ordinary consumer would have trouble distinguishing the difference.” We are certain that we would fall squarely within that category.

As with many class actions, we predict this class action will be resolved with all class members receiving a voucher for a free, delicious canned octopus product of their choosing. Hopefully, they will then have an existential awakening about why they are eating garlic marinated octopus out of a can in the first place.

Friday Links

topgun

Did you know that next week heralds the arrival of the 30th anniversary of Top Gun? That’s right, the film was released in theatres on May 16, 1986, which certainly doesn’t seem like three decades ago. To be honest, we here at Abnormal Use fondly remember the Nintendo game more than than the film. We appended an image of the video game cartridge box above for nostalgic purposes.

This afternoon, you can see our editor, Jim Dedman, speak at the The South Carolina Bar Employment & Labor Law Midyear Meeting. He will be presenting on the issue of “Blogging For Lawyers and Related Ethical Issues.” You can see the program information here.

Congratulations to attorney and blogger Lindsay Joyner, who has been awarded the Katharine Heath Manning Perry Award from the Junior League of Columbia (JLC). The Katharine Heath Manning Perry Award recognizes a member of JLC who has excelled in community voluntarism and activism, through her JLC placements and through extensions of her JLC work and training. By the way, you can read Lindsay’s past blog posts here.

The Power Of Your Voice

I recently received a phone call from an old friend, long since retired. He just wanted to catch up on things. He did not send me a letter through the mail. He did not send me an email over the Internet or a text. It was a real live phone call. It was so good to hear his voice. I cannot tell you how much that call meant to me.

Perhaps we should remember the power of our voice. The next time you need to communicate with a client, pick up the phone! It makes a difference. The next time you need to address a difficult issue with opposing counsel, don’t start off by sending them an email. Use your voice! My friend set an example for us. Do you have someone who needs to hear your voice? What about the next time you need to deal with a sensitive issue in your law office? It is so easy and convenient to fire off an email.  Instead, get out of your chair and walk down the hall to do it in person. Not only are you using your voice, but you have added the power of your presence.

Remember the power of your voice.

Golden Rule – Treat Everyone Like They Are A Potential Source of Business

Respect Blog Post

Every lawyer occasionally receives a responsive pleading from an opposing counsel with whom they are not familiar. When this happens to me, I typically ask around about the lawyer. On one such occasion, I received answers that I will never forget:

“He is the most pleasant and gentlemanly lawyer you will ever deal with, but he will disembowel you.”

“He is honest as the day is long and a pleasure to deal with, but he will destroy you.”

“He is a pleasure to deal with, but you need to bring your A game because he is one of the best lawyers you will ever run into.”

This struck me, because what stood out to everyone first about this lawyer was how gracious and pleasant he was. But, everyone considered him to be an elite lawyer. This seemed counterintuitive at the time. But sure enough, this lawyer unconditionally granted extensions, treated me fairly and with respect even though I was fresh out of law school, openly complimented my skills in front of my client, and then proceeded to decisively win the pivotal motion hearing in the case. He was an absolute assassin in the court room, but he was friendly and respectful inside and outside of the courtroom. Think 007 with a Southern accent.

On the other side of the coin, there are lawyers who make the practice of law excruciating. They talk down to you and remind you of how much longer than you they have been practicing law. They apply pressure by putting you in a position that makes you look bad to your client. They fight you on extensions and pleading amendments, bicker over procedural minutia, memorialize every conversation you have with them in a letter or email, and otherwise make a case about everything besides the merits. Are some of these good lawyers? Absolutely. They are some of the best lawyers who get great results for their clients.

But what happens when I have a conflict and need to refer a case to someone? I’m sending the work to the genteel assassin every time. The practice of law is stressful enough without making everything more difficult than it needs to be or should be, and good behavior should be rewarded. Plus, as my grandmother used to say, “the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s backside every day.” The lawyer who needs a professional courtesy today may be the lawyer from whom a professional courtesy is needed tomorrow.

The scope of this post should not be limited to opposing attorneys. Court staff, legal support staff, your employees, wait staff in restaurants, parking attendants, police officers, and everyone else we encounter in the world are human beings and should be treated with respect and kindness. This should be done because it is the right thing to do, but for those who need a monetary incentive, it has the added benefit of creating a network of potential referral sources who will remember you next time someone they know needs a lawyer.