7 notable GCs in the news

General counsel sound off about television, tobacco, Twitter and more

 

“Regardless of the venue, we look forward to proceeding with this case. Dish will stand behind consumers and their right to skip commercials, something they have been doing since the invention of the remote control.”

--R. Stanton Dodge, general counsel of Dish Network

CBS, NBC and Fox have struck a blow to Dish Network in a scuffle over the latter’s Hopper digital video recorder (DVR), which allows TV viewers to record the primetime lineups of major networks and then automatically watch them without commercials. On July 10, a Manhattan judge declined Dish’s request for declaratory relief, along with its attempts to have all of the charges tried in New York. Instead, most breach of contract claims will be heard in the Big Apple (Fox's claims are headed to California), with most of the copyright infringement charges moving to Los Angeles (except ABC's, which will remain in New York).*

*An earlier version of this article stated that all breach of contract claims would remain in New York, with all infringement charges headed to Los Angeles. We have since updated the story for accuracy.

"This suit has always been about who has the authority to regulate the content of cigarette warnings. That is a power reserved to the federal government without interference or additional efforts by state and local authorities.”

--Murray Garnick, associate general counsel of Altria Group

Score one for the tobacco companies in the ongoing legal battle over graphic cigarette packaging. Earlier this month, the 2nd Circuit ruled that the New York City Board of Health’s attempts to mandate the packaging—which would include images such as blackened lungs and autopsied corpses—are preempted by the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.

 

“The court’s decision is an important one for all companies who do business with the state, because it makes clear that the state is not above the law.”

--Robert Weber, senior vice president and general counsel of IBM Corp.

Earlier this week an Indiana judge ordered the state’s government to pay $52 million to IBM Corp., although he added that “neither party deserve[d] to win” the case. In 2006, IBM won a 10-year, $1.37 billion contract to automate Indiana’s welfare system, but Governor Mitch Daniels cancelled the contract less than three years later amid constant service complaints. In his ruling, Judge David Dreyer called the case “a perfect storm of misguided government policy and overzealous corporate ambition,” but ultimately ruled that IBM deserved the payout for equipment and subcontractor fees.

 

"Our decision to settle is based on our belief that MasterCard and our stakeholders are best served by an amicable resolution. Although we have strong defenses to all claims, a settlement avoids years of litigation and uncertainties that are inherent in such cases. We believe that today's settlements should resolve all issues with the merchant community."

--Noah Hanft, general counsel of MasterCard Inc.

MasterCard Inc. joined Visa Inc. and more than a dozen major U.S. banks in a whopping $7.25 billion antitrust settlement over card swipe fees, which cost retailers at least two percent on every credit or debit card purchase. As part of the deal, stores will be able to negotiate collectively over the fees, which will also be subject to a cap in most states.

 

"DuPont/Pioneer's inability to deliver a novel trait product to farmers...does not grant it the right to be above the law nor misuse another company's product for its own gain."

--Dave Snively, general counsel of Monsanto Corp.

DuPont and Monsanto are embroiled in yet another battle over valuable seed patent technologies. Last week, the two companies kicked off a patent infringement trial centered on DuPont’s herbicide-resistant soybeans, which, according to Monsanto, was created using Monsanto’s patented technology. For its part, DuPont has accused its rival of intentionally deceiving the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

 

"Discussions about working conditions or unionism have the potential to become just as heated or controversial as discussions about politics and religion. Without further clarification of what is 'objectionable or inflammatory,' employees could reasonably construe this rule to prohibit robust but protected discussions about working conditions or unionism."

--Lafe Solomon, general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Social media has infiltrated nearly every aspect of the modern world, and the workplace is no exception. But, in a recently released advisory, the NLRB found that many corporate social media policies include unclear or intrusive provisions that could hamper employees’ right to free speech. The organization says that employees might misinterpret overly broad social media policies as a ban on any union activity or workplace discussion.

 

“A consistent and growing body of social science and neuroscience research findings support the conclusion that juveniles are less culpable than adults, and are entitled to different treatment in sentencing in light of their immaturity, vulnerability and changeability.”

--Nathalie Gilfoyle, general counsel of the American Psychological Association (APA)

The final days of the 2012 Supreme Court session were dominated by blockbuster rulings on health care and immigration, but the high court also had time to strike down mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Kagan ruled that the mandatory sentences violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, as juveniles differ from adults in their neurological development and psychology.

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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