Business owners and entrepreneurs face unique challenges when entering into a divorce. Any business that one or both spouses own, or in which they may have an interest, will come into play in a divorce case. There are three main areas in which treatment of a business in a divorce can be particularly important.
Property division is rarely ever the easiest step in the divorce process. This is because most Massachusetts couples don't realize how entangled their assets -- as well as their debts -- have become until they are forced to separate them. As you can imagine, this can lead to disputes, especially if one spouse thinks they're not getting a fair deal.
One of our themes in this blog is that there are other ways besides the courtroom to resolve business disputes.
A Massachusetts store that sells supplies for do-it-yourself makers of beer and wine saw an eight-month trademark dispute finally come to a close. The shop, Strange Brew, had targeted a Virginia craft brewery known as Strangeways Brewing in the business litigation after Strangeways attempted to register its name as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Strange Brew's opposition to the trademark request was filed in May 2013, shortly before the brewery started selling beer.
Massachusetts businesses may be interested in an article that looks at potential issues with worldwide intellectual property protection for the pharmaceutical industry. A new trade agreement could have implications not just for drug companies, but for many businesses that interact with the global economy.
In Massachusetts and all over the country, litigious patent holders (commonly known as "trolls") have been filing baseless patent violation lawsuits aimed at companies that would find it cheaper to pay out than to fight them in court. One man who became a billionaire from selling his startup to Google and whose new company was served with such a suit decided to fight back against such a troll with business litigation, a decision that he said was based on emotional satisfaction rather than financial sense.
Boston-based John Hancock Financial Services Inc. recently settled a case brought by the government that alleged that the company was not paying life insurance benefits in a timely manner. Now, the insurance giant is facing another business litigation case; this one is a lawsuit filed by a man who claims his mother's benefits were not paid on time.The lawsuit alleges that the insurance company used a database to stop payments immediately on annuity holders who had died but did not use the same information to make timely payouts of insurance benefits to survivors. Several life insurance companies have been accused of the same types of practices. John Hancock settled with the government for $13.3 million in November.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard a rare business litigation case brought by a rival to Nike, Inc.. The case concerned a trademark issue with one of the competitor's models of sneakers. The court decided unanimously that Nike's decision to waive its possible rights in an infringement suit meant that the challenger, Already LLC, could not pursue a reciprocal case.The case, Already LLC v. Nike Inc., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-982, stemmed from a 2009 disagreement when Nike sued Already for trademark infringement for its use of stitching patterns and other features used on the Sugar and Soulja Boy models of sneakers. Nike claimed that these features were too much like those on its own Air Force 1 brand launched in 1982.
Two important computer companies, Viacom and Google, are facing lawsuits that allege violation of children's privacy. The lawsuits concern Nick.com as well as NickJr.com, children's websites with many videos available for viewing. The suits state that Viacom and Google used cookies to track children's video selections and allege violations of the Video Privacy Protection Act as well as federal wiretap laws. The contract dispute cases were brought on behalf of users under the age of 13.The lawsuits are all based on the use of tracking software, known as "cookies," that can potentially identify users. In this case, Viacom is accused of using a specific software furnished by Google called DoubleClick. DoubleClick keeps records of the videos watched and delivers advertisements to users based on those choices.
Civil court cases in two states that involve Bank of New York Mellon being sued for allegedly overcharged clients for currency trades are getting bogged down in the morass of the court system.Many of these business litigation suits filed under the False Claims Act have been dismissed in partially or completely due to lack of evidence. The plaintiffs have been unable to convince judges that there were fraudulent events that constitute violations of this law. They may soon re-file their cases, however.