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Less-Heralded But Nevertheless Interesting Disputes of the Year

Some under-the-radar legal disputes that I thought were more interesting than the overhyped stories:

  • Barclays v. theflyonthewall. A brokerage house gets an injunction against the republication of its stock recommendations based on the hot news doctrine. The case is now on appeal to the Second Circuit. The case exposes the precarious business model of brokerage houses: They are content publishers trying to monetize via a commodity service, and brokerage house stock recommendations were exactly the kind of information John Perry Barlow explored in his 1994 "Economy of Ideas" article. Will the hot news doctrine prop up a doomed business model?
  • Anderson v. Bell. Electronic signatures count towards the requirements for an election petition. This could launch a new era of citizen petitioning of the government.
  • Snap-on v. O'Neil. A company can't scrape its own data from its outsourced vendor, seemingly authorizing the vendor to play hold-up games for companies that don't handle their vendor contracts correctly. The Eventbrite v. Cvent case provided some interesting contrast.
  • Goforit v. Digimedia. A court upholds domain name wildcarding and says the trademark owner/plaintiff pursuing those wildcarded domain names may have engaged in reverse-domain name hijacking.
  • Lara Jade Coton v. TVX. The blog post title said it all: "Tip for Clean Living: Don't Use a 14-Year-Old's Self-Portrait in Advertising for Porn."

Most Overhyped Stories

This year, for the first time, I'm separately breaking out a category for most overhyped stories of the year:

  • Craigslist shuts down its adult services category. A toxic mix: Craigslist took a legally defensible but nevertheless obstinate position, and state attorneys general love to show their constituents how much they hate the Internet. When Craigslist finally gave in and shut down its adult services category, people went crazy.
  • Borings get $1 for their trespassing claim. Google's Street View contractors made a mistake, drove up a private driveway, and captured what they saw. Google posted the photos until it got a complaint, then the homeowners with the odd surname ("Boring") went on a litigation frenzy. Their payoff for several years of litigation? Not even enough for extra foam on a Starbucks mochachino.
  • The Supreme Court's tech docket. Several fizzled out non-decisions from SCOTUS this year: Bilski, Quon, and Costco. The Supreme Court is taking a steady diet of tech-related cases, but it is gun-shy about actually resolving them.
  • Mark Hurd. Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard's CEO, had an inappropriate relationship with an HP contractor/former B-list soft-core porn actress and maybe fudged his expense reports. When he tried to take a job at HP's frenemy Oracle, HP got litigious, but it turns out its fur can be smoothed for a few million.
  • Lost iPhone prototype. Stop me if you've heard this joke before: An engineer walks in a bar and...loses a super-stealthy prototype of one of the most important new consumer technology launches ever. I realize it's an uber-cool phone, but still, IT'S A PHONE, PEOPLE!
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