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Los Angeles Business Law Blog

"Black Vogue" in trademark infringement dispute

Even small, independent businesses in California could face trademark infringement lawsuits from major corporations. In one such case, Vogue, the famous fashion magazine owned by Advance Publications, has filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement against a 26-year-old designer and activist who created a line of shirts and other items bearing the words "Black Vogue" in a similar font to the magazine's famous header.

The designer filed a trademark application for "Black Vogue", but it was rejected because it was too similar to the existing trademarks for the magazine. According to Advance Publications' lawsuit, the company contacted the designer when it learned about the trademark application, requesting that she stop pursuing it. After her refusal, the company also sent a demand letter, telling her to stop selling the t-shirts, sweatshirts and other items bearing the "Black Vogue" insignia.

How to prevent wage and hour lawsuits

Litigation is an inevitable part of business, but how much so depends in part on how proactive you are in preventing cause for lawsuits. One of the highest sources of claims is employees, and an increasingly growing reason for suing is over wage and hour violations.

This cost businesses over $270 million in 2017, reports the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Paying back wages is costlier than paying employees deserved wages, so avoid getting into this situation by taking the following preventive measures.

Wage and hour claims: How can employers protect themselves?

It is critical for both employers and employees to be aware of what constitutes wage theft. For example, plenty of employers try to get out of paying overtime. California has strict laws on what accounts for overtime, so business owners need to make sure they do not inadvertently run afoul of the law. 

Occasionally, employees will bring up baseless allegations of unpaid labor. Employees may falsely claim that they deserve overtime or received less than minimum wage. To resolve any of these issues, there are several steps all employers should take to ward off these kinds of unwarranted accusations. 

Heaven Hill distillery sues manufacturer of Heaven's Door whiskey

Music fans in California will likely recognize the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan. This famous tune inspired the name of the Heaven's Door brand of whiskey, which debuted this year in collaboration with the famous songwriter. However, the name has also inspired a trademark infringement lawsuit. Heaven Hill, a large distillery, filed a complaint in federal court because the whiskey producer considers the name and logo of Heaven's Door whiskey confusingly similar to its brand.

This legal action accompanied a cease-and-desist letter issued by Heaven Hill to Heaven's Door Spirits, LLC. In the view of the management at Heaven Hill, the similarities of the stacked logos for the whiskey brands would impede consumers' ability to distinguish between the two products. Heaven Hill has used its name since 1937, but Heaven's Door only launched its whiskeys this year.

Judge rejects Disney's claim of trademark infringement

Disney is finding it more difficult than anticipated to sue third parties that allegedly violate the use of its trademarked characters at birthday parties. The California-based entertainment company lost a summary judgement against a company in New York that sent characters with names like "The Princess," "The Duck" and "Big Harry Guy" to birthday parties. Disney claims the characters are meant to trick customers into thinking they are well-known trademarked property.

The New York federal judge who refused to rule in favor of Disney claimed that the birthday party characters didn't infringe on the company's trademark rights because there wasn't adequate evidence of competition or confusion. Children may believe that they are seeing an actual Disney character, but since adults are the ones paying for the services, it's only their perception that counts.

California ranked among the most innovative states

California is a major hub of innovation in the U.S., according to a WalletHub report. The report included California among the nation’s most innovative states.

The report gauged and ranked the innovation-friendliness of the states and the District of Columbia. It did this by looking at factors touching on human capital and innovation environment.

Sexual harassment claims you think may be baseless

Social media’s #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment and other forms of sexual abuse into the spotlight. In many ways, the movement has empowered people to tell their stories, stand up for their rights and say, “no more.” However, there is another side to a claim of sexual harassment – the side of the person being accused. While many harassment claims are valid, and it is important for California business owners to investigate and put a stop to such claims, you should also understand that some claims are false and may impact your business.

To recap the definition of sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that this is unwanted, unreciprocated behavior of a sexual nature at work that a reasonable person would find offensive. Sometimes, the behavior is pervasive, and at other times it may be subtle and difficult to recognize. Sometimes it can escalate to make your employee feel threatened, unsafe and afraid for his or her job.

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