Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Washington Redskins Trademarks Are Out of Bounds

          The federal government has cancelled six registered trademarks of the NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The cancelled marks include THE REDSKINS, WASHINGTON REDSKINS, REDSKINETTES, as well as various stylized logos.
Five Native Americans brought suit with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the Redskins’s trademarks that were registered between 1967 and 1990 which used the term “REDSKINS” to identify football-related services. In a recent ruling, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled the Washington Redskins’ trademark registrations and held that the “Redskins” name was disparaging to a substantial group of Native Americans at the time of registration and violated United States Trademark law, (15 U.S.C. §1052), which prohibits the federal protection of names that may disparage or bring into disrepute individuals or groups.

            The ruling will not require the Washington Redskins to change its team name, but it will limit the ways that the team can use the legal system to prevent others from using the Redskins trademarks. There are significant advantages associated with federal trademark registration. For example, federal trademark registration enables trademark owners to obtain exclusive rights to use their trademarks nationwide on or in connection with goods and services listed in their registrations and allows owners to recover actual damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and injunctions if they prevail in trademark infringement litigation. Nevertheless, the Washington Redskins’s trademarks are still eligible for common law trademark protection, which means that the team may still use its trademarks in commerce and prevent others from using its marks for monetary gain without authorization.

            The Washington Redskins plan to appeal the ruling, and during the appeal process, the team is entitled to federal protection of its trademarks. Although the impact of the cancellation of the trademark registrations is still unclear, the individuals who filed the lawsuit may still claim this as a victory as one of the purposes of the suit was to draw attention to the use of the term “Redskins” in an attempt to persuade management to change the team’s name.

            The lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott can help you to protect your intellectual property, register your trademarks, and defend against claims of infringement. For more information, visit our website or contact Attorney Regina von Gootkin.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Connecticut Now Allows Foreclosure by Market Sale

On June 3, 2014, Governor Malloy signed into law Public Act 14-84: An Act Concerning an Optional Method of Foreclosure. This new law creates a third option for those facing foreclosure: foreclosure by market sale. Traditionally a house going through foreclosure will either be transferred directly to the foreclosing party in cases where there is no equity in the property (strict foreclosure) or the property will be put up for sale at a foreclosure auction (foreclosure by sale). A foreclosure by market sale will allow for a realtor to list and sell the property in order to pay off the lender. 

The new law gives the borrower the ability to sell their home in a more traditional manner by selecting a listing agent and listing the house for its fair market value. Foreclosure auctions tend to yield lower selling prices, so the market sale should ideally be a win-win for both borrower and lender. The market sale requires approval by the lender and the court, so in practice it will likely look and feel more like a “short sale”, where the lender agrees to a sale of the property, even though the lender’s net proceeds are less than what is owed.  

The law will take effect January 1, 2015, and will be codified in Section 49-24 et seq. of the Connecticut General Statutes. With questions or concerns on how this new law may affect you, please contact the experienced real estate lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Taxi Companies Want to Stop Popular Uber Technologies and Lyft Inc

Connecticut taxi companies are unhappy with the popular start-up companies Uber and Lyft. Last week, fifteen taxicab companies asked the District Court for the District of Connecticut for an injunction to stop these companies from operating in Connecticut. Taxicab companies in other states have initiated similar lawsuits. 

Uber and Lyft, both internet start-up companies, are new to Connecticut. The companies allow customers to summon rides through smartphone applications. Rides with Uber can be paid for with credit cards that are connected to the smartphone application. Lyft similarly accepts only credit card payments via the app but allows riders in some cities to instead make a “donation” in the amount the customer feels is appropriate for the services rendered.

The Connecticut taxicab companies argue that Uber and Lyft violate state regulations and other federal laws. The taxi companies also argue that Uber and Lyft deceive customers about insurance coverage, the safety of Uber and Lyft vehicles and the fares that customers are charged. 

They further claim that both companies’ practices result in discrimination. Uber and Lyft drivers have discretion in choosing who to drive and there are no requirements that Uber and Lyft vehicles be handicap accessible. Finally, because Uber and Lyft accept only credit card payments, those without credits cannot utilize their services. 

It will be interesting to see whether the court grants the injunction, which would effectively shut down increasingly popular services or whether the court will permit Uber and Lyft to continue to operate in Connecticut, which would effectively give Connecticut taxicab companies some stiff competition.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Could New Law Make You Responsible for Snow Removal and Maintenance Costs For Your Shared Driveway?

An easement is a property right that allows a person to use the property of another.  An easement can give you the right to use someone else’s property, or give someone else the right to use yours.  The question is who needs to maintain a driveway that is on your property, but is used by your neighbor?  A new law, effective October 1, 2014, Public Act. No. 14-67 will now require those who use easements to pay the costs associated with the maintenance and repair of the easement. What constitutes maintenance or repair is not explicitly defined in the law, although the law does state that snow removal is included as a maintenance cost.  

If multiple people use the easement, then the costs associated with maintenance and repair are to be divided on the basis of the proportionality of use among all easement users. A single person, however, may be responsible for the costs associated with the easement repair if that person directly or indirectly caused damage to the easement. Failure to pay for these repairs gives the other easement users a cause of action against the user who caused the damage.

The law applies to “private appurtenant easements.” These types of easements remain associated with the property, even after it is sold or another person takes possession. The parties, however, do have the ability to enter into agreements that could supersede the law’s provisions. The law firm of Brown, Paindiris & Scott has experienced real estate attorneys that can assist you with questions on how this law may impact you as an easement user or owner of a property with an easement.