Monthly Archives: June 2016

Opinions From An Internet Lawyer: Gawker’s Conundrum

gawker defamation

You’ve heard by now: Gawker is caught in a professional storm.

Let’s take a moment to look at one aspect of the conundrum — a defamation lawsuit filed by the guy who claims to have invented e-mail. Will this recent Gawker defamation case add to the website’s woes? Or is it something else?

Fran Drescher’s husband, Shiva Ayyadurai, is joining the ranks of Gawker litigants. His spat? Ayyadurai insists he invented e-mail; Gawker says he didn’t.

Who’s telling the truth? Who knows; that’s a question for the courts. What makes the case intriguing, right now, is the timing. Ayyadurai’s suit comes on the heels of Gawker’s mega-million loss to Hulk Hogan, which raises the question: Did the Hogan verdict topple Gawker’s litigation levies? Is the website about to suffer some sort of content karma course correction? (Update: Apparently, yes; Gawker filed for bankruptcy shortly after this article was written.)

He Said; Gawker Said: A Defamation Case Study

In the not too distant past, the Washington Post profiled Ayyadurai. According to the article, 14-year-old V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai invented e-mail while Doogie-Howsering his way through a New Jersey university.

Interestingly, the WAPO piece featured a disclaimer:

“A number of readers have accurately pointed out that electronic messaging predates V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai’s work in 1978. However, Ayyadurai holds the copyright to the computer program called “email,” establishing him as the creator of the “computer program for [an] electronic mail system” with that name, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.”

Well, good ole’ Gawker published an unsolicited rebuttal, questioning the truthiness of Ayyadurai’s accounts. Long story shortened, Ayyadurai decided to sue Gawker for defamation; he’s asking for $35 million.

From the filing:

Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have caused substantial damage to Dr. Ayyadurai’s personal and professional reputation and career. As a result of Defendants’ defamation, Dr. Ayyadurai has been publicly humiliated, lost business contracts and received a slew of criticism relating to Defendants’ false accusations and statements.

Gawker Doesn’t Seem Worried, But Should It Be?

Gawker doesn’t appear worried about Ayyadurai’s case. (The bankruptcy is probably paramount right about now.) A site spokesperson explained:

 “These claims to have invented email have been repeatedly debunked by the Smithsonian Institute, Gizmodo, the Washington Post and others.”

Judging by the above statement, the website will likely argue “truth” and “fair opinion” — a straightforward legal tact for this scenario.

Will it work? Gawker may have a decent shot at escaping this particular legal noose.

His Whole Story

Ayyadurai’s beef goes much deeper than  this Gawker defamation case. MUCH deeper.

According to reports, Ayyadurai allegedly believes that an international conspiracy, possibly masterminded by tech incubator CSIR, has kept his name from gracing history’s pages.

Not only that, but he supposedly insists his falling out with CSIR involved a Family Von Trapp-esque getaway; except in his version, instead of the Swiss Alps, Ayyadurai escaped under the cover of a hot Indian night. Head over here for the whole story.

The Gawker Defamation War

But, as we mentioned earlier, the filing date is noteworthy. Ayyadurai’s case comes in the wake of Gawker’s high-profile loss to Hulk Hogan and revelations that billionaire Peter Thiel (longtime Gawker rival and apparent student of Vary’s School of Patient Revenge) has been a one-man crowdsourcing Godfather for people in hot legal pursuit of Gawker.

(NOTE: There is no indication, and we are not implying, that  Thiel has anything to do with Ayyadurai’s case.)

Our Opinion? Cockiness Can Land You In Legal Trouble.

Gawker brass may have been a little too cocky during the Hogan trial — and perhaps a bit too comfortable in their irreverence, overall. Which raises the question: has the media outlet previously crossed the defamation or privacy line without getting caught? And from a PR perspective, is the public simply sick of Gawker? Perhaps.

Footnote: Sadly, the gentlemen commonly credited for creating e-mail in 1971, Ray Tomlinson, died earlier this year of a heart attack.

Kelly Warner Internet Law

Kelly Warner is a legal practice that focuses on Internet defamation law. To learn more about our top-rated — yet down-to-earth — firm and team, head here.

Article Sources

Harris, D. L. (2016, May 10). Cambridge man who claims he invented email sues Gawker for $35M. Retrieved June 28, 2016, from http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2016/05/10/cambridge-man-who-claims-he-invented-email-sues.html

Time To Rethink Your Trade Secret Strategy? Legislation is Looming.

trade secret law change

Are you trade secret reliant? If yes, take two minutes to read this post. Why? Well, federal Representatives OK’d a bill that, if fully passed, may impact your intellectual property protection strategy.

Summary of Proposed Trade Secret Law: Addition Of Federal Jurisdiction Privileges

Dubbed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), it’s been described as the “most significant expansion of federal law in intellectual property since the Lanham Act in 1946.”

Currently, trade secret governance is a state issue. If, however, DTSA becomes law, certain people could file trade secret claims in federal court. To qualify, potential plaintiffs would have to supply “evidence of actual or threatened misappropriation before a court [could] issue an injunction to prevent it.”

Join or Die! The Supporters Are Saying…

Why alter trade secret standards? The argument goes like this:

  • Back in the day, trade secret disputes were “largely a local matter.” Typical cases involved a departing employee smuggling confidential customer lists to their new job…down the street.
  • Enter the Internet. Many a tech fortune was built on the back of a trade secret (i.e., Google’s infamous algorithm). Or, to put it in cash-money terms: Trade secrets represent trillions of publicly traded dollars!

On account of their exalted economic position, people feel that federal courts are best equipped to handle complex, high-dollar trade secret claims.

Objection! The Opposition’s Standpoint…

Not everyone is cheering for this new trade secret law. Opponents say the measure is superfluous. States, they argue, are well-equipped to handle all manners of trade secret claims. Also, DTSA detractors think the bill’s wording — specifically the phrase “extraordinary circumstances” — is too vague.

Pundits portend a trade secret litigation spike if  politicians pass the law.

Speak With A Trade Secret Lawyer

Trade secrets play a giant role in today’s tech industry. Formulas, algorithms and calculations are at the heart of many startups and established firms.

Our team has successfully handled all manners of trade secret-related situations. A lawsuit isn’t always necessary to remedy a misappropriation. Get in touch today to start reviewing potential solutions.

Article Sources

Gershman, J. (2016, April 27). Congress May Be About to Shake Up Trade Secret Law: Is That a Good Thing? Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/04/27/congress-may-be-about-to-shake-up-trade-secret-law-is-that-a-good-thing/

3 Good Reasons To Start An FBA Business

FBA business happyThinking of starting a Fulfillment by Amazon business? Smart idea. In 2015 alone, FBA sellers shipped over a billion items to more than 185 countries, and experts predict it’ll be a multi-billion-dollar industry by 2020.

What Is an FBA Business?

FBA stands for Fulfillment by Amazon. How does it work? Here’s an (admittedly oversimplified) explanation.

  • Step One: Third party sellers (i.e., work-from-home entrepreneurs) either find or create a product. Typically, people source items from Chinese manufacturers because it’s infinitely cheaper than stateside options. Yes, most folks would prefer to use American manufacturers (understandably); but the price point is almost always too high for startups.
  • Step Two: Once the inventory is ready, the seller has it shipped directly to an Amazon warehouse.
  • Step Three: Sellers advertise their products on Amazon and elsewhere online.
  • Step Four: When a customer places an order through Amazon.com, Amazon handles the shipping and inventory logistics.

At first, it may sound logistically complicated, but, typically, after reading a few websites (and books) on the subject, most people are up and running.

The Benefits of Running an FBA Business

Starting an FBA business is a great decision. Not only is the profit potential high, but e-commerce ventures can, theoretically, improve your happiness quotient.

How? Let’s break it down.

Less Stress

Of course, no business is without its stressors. But by letting Amazon handle quotidian administrative duties — returns, inventory management, shipping — many typical headaches associated with running a retail business are removed.

More Money

In many ways, an FBA business is the ideal residual income opportunity because (depending on the product) it falls into the “set it and forget it” model. Now, of course, the more you market, the better your products will sell.

Fewer Responsibilities

Again, since Amazon assumes responsibility for shipping, returns, and warehousing administration, sellers have fewer logistical elements to administer. Plus, the e-commerce model is super scalable; you can start a business for as little as $400; plus, you don’t have to bother with fixed assets. In a statement, a company spokesperson explained:

“With FBA, we take care of the order fulfillment, customer service and product returns, so that sellers can focus on growing their businesses and sourcing products that delight customers. In 2015, sellers worldwide adopting the FBA service grew more than 50 percent year-over-year. We are getting a tremendous response from sellers and we will continue to listen to their feedback to make the FBA service even better.”

Less stress, more money, and fewer responsibilities is pretty much the recipe for happiness. So, there you have it, starting an FBA business CAN lead to a more comfortable, stable life.

We Can Answer Your FBA Business Questions

Interested in moving forward with an FBA venture? Need assistance with an e-commerce issue, like account suspension or counterfeit problems? If yes, get in touch today.

To read more about laws and news that affect the private label e-commerce space, head here.

IoT Startup City Spotlight: Shenzhen, China

Is Shenzhen poised to become another international startup stronghold?Every so often, we take a minute to highlight a city or country gaining popularity in the startup community. Last time, we discussed Estonia. Today, let’s take a look at Shenzhen — China’s booming IoT haven.

Where is it?

A short 40km north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen was the first city to be declared a Chinese Special Economic Zone.

Generally Speaking, What Drives Shenzhen’s Economy?

The city’s population has steadily grown since 1980. In 2015, Shenzhen’s GDP weighed in at nearly $270 billion.

The city is home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) and one of the busiest container ports on the planet.

Who Is Flocking To Shenzhen?

Shenzhen is considered the “darling of IoT entrepreneurs from around the world.”

Several big names already landed in the Chinese city. Famously, Zach Smith of Makerbot moved there a few years back. An executive at IoT accelerator Brinc explained why Shenzhen has become an attractive option for the niche:

“Time and time again, IoT startups aren’t able to successfully manufacture their product and nothing beats in-person, hands-on experience and knowledge working with the manufacturer.”

Drone manufacturers are also converging on the city.

Shenzhen-based companies have begun to “westernize” working environments by establishing “campus style” facilities, like Google.

Best Non-Work-Related Benefit of Shenzhen

The climate. It’s never too hot or too cold; typically, the mercury lands between 60 and 84 degrees.

Worst Aspects Of Shenzhen

Oddly enough, Internet access isn’t the best; decent, but not the highest-end. Plus, some people aren’t impressed — or even satisfied — by the cultural and dining offerings. That said, world-class Hong Kong is a short ride away.

Shenzhen In A Nutshell

A manufacturing mecca, Shenzhen is emerging as a hub for the Internet of Things community. For IoT startups, a contact in Shenzhen may be worth considering.

Connect With A Startup Lawyer

Internet law firm Kelly Warner works with tech and online startups. To learn more about our top-rated practice, head here. Ready to talk? Great, so are we. Get in touch today.

Article Sources

Desai, F. (2016, May 7). Innovators Find Internet of Things Paradise in Shenzhen. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/falgunidesai/2016/05/07/innovators-find-internet-of-things-paradise-in-shenzhen/#7a2854f2552d

Yes, Amazon Sues Fake Reviewers

Fake Review Law and Lawyer
The Legal Low Down On Fraudulent Feedback
Online Marketing Legal Reminder: Avoid using and writing paid reviews for Amazon.com. Why? You could be sued or banned!

Amazon is cracking down on phony feedback. Not only is it suing fake review services, but also suspending complicit seller accounts. In fact, just the other day, Amazon announced a lawsuit against a group of third-party sellers who used “sock puppet accounts” to post phony, positive reviews on their product pages.

Recent Action: Amazon Sued Phony Appraisal Services

A few weeks ago, Amazon sued five websites servicing the fake feedback “ecosystem.” An Amazon spokesperson explained:

“We will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause of reviews abuse — the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews, as well as the ecosystem of individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews.”

Ongoing Dragnet Against Fake Review Services

Amazon is obsessed with review integrity because customer posts fuel the e-commerce engine. To that end, last year, the company litigiously targeted parties that allegedly contributed to review corruption. Since then, the online retail giant has targeted about one-thousand phony feedback operations and forced many offline.

Is Amazon’s Review Integrity Initiative Working?

Are Amazon’s attempts to stomp out phony feedback working? Depends on how you assess the situation. Sure, more people now know about the company’s anti-fake review stance, prompting some marketers to stop using them. But, due to the pop-up-shop nature of review services, attempts at extermination have ultimately proven to be whack-a-mole level frustrating.

Need Help With An Amazon Review Problem?

User reviews are essential to the e-commerce success formula. For sellers, the quality and quantity of customer feedback can mean the difference between success and failure.

And unfortunately, unscrupulous marketers use disparaging reviews as a negative SEO tactic.

If you’ve been hit, and you’re ready to right a wrong, get in touch immediately. Our team of attorneys and techs has helped tons of people and businesses overcome various review issues. We can help you, too.

Don’t wait. The longer phony reviews fester, the more damage they can do.

Get in touch immediately to get back on a profitable path, free of fake review problems.

Native Advertising Rules Are Now In Effect (And The FTC Is On The Hunt)!

native advertising law

Don’t Let The FTC Decimate Your Profits

A quick reminder.

Native advertising rules are now in effect!

At the end of 2015, the Federal Trade Commission published native advertising (promotional content designed to mimic editorial content) guidelines.

Before the release, websites profited from native advertising blocks that fell under headlines like “Promoted Content” — basically, headers that disguised links as internal links. Or, to put it another way, click bait.

However, despite the regulation’s release, Adweek recently reported that about 70% of websites using native advertising are flouting FTC guidelines.

So, what happens if officials catch you snubbing online marketing rules and regulations? Well, they can sue you, fine you and make you pay.

Native Advertising Startup Opportunity Alert!

Another interesting tidbit to pop out of Adweek’s piece? Experts estimate that portions of the native advertising niche will generate as much as $53.4 billion by 2020.

Put Me In Touch With An Online Marketing Lawyer, Pronto!

Unaware of the new native advertising guidelines? Click here for a summary. For those in a rush, the gist is this: Make sure native advertising is distinguishable as advertising.

Are you sure you’re 100% FTC compliant? If not, get in touch. We may be able to help you avoid an FTC investigation — and subsequent fines.

Article Sources

Swant, M. (2016, April 8). Publishers Are Largely Not Following the FTC’s Native Ad Guidelines. Retrieved May 31, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/publishers-are-largely-not-following-ftcs-native-ad-guidelines-170705