Wednesday, June 09, 2021

An Antitrust Framework for False Advertising, out now

Michael A. Carrier & Rebecca Tushnet, An Antitrust Framework for False Advertising, 106 Iowa L. Rev. 1841 (2021)

From the introduction:

 

Federal law presumes that false advertising harms competition. Federal law also presumes that false advertising is harmless or even helpful to competition. Contradiction is not unknown to the law, of course. This contradiction, though, is acute. For not only are both the regimes at issue designed to protect competition, but they are both enforced by the same agency: the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), which targets “unfair competition” through antitrust and consumer protection enforcement.

Anticompetitive conduct, the focus of antitrust law, increases price and reduces quality. False advertising, the focus of much consumer protection law, deceives consumers and distorts markets. Both types of conduct harm consumers. Despite this overlap, nearly all courts have dismissed private antitrust claims based on false advertising. They have concluded that the conduct cannot violate antitrust law. Or they have presumed that the harm is de minimis. This makes no sense. As the Supreme Court has long established, “false or misleading advertising has an anticompetitive effect.”

Courts’ concerns stem from the reasonable notion that not every instance of false advertising violates antitrust law. And (usually implicitly) they have worried about applying antitrust’s robust remedies of treble damages and attorneys’ fees. These courts fear that antitrust liability will disincentivize companies from engaging in advertising that is merely questionable and that might provide useful information to some consumers. But false advertising law preserves a robust space for puffery and debatable opinions; overdeterrence concerns don’t justify analysis that is inconsistent with both the economics and psychology of advertising and that, at a minimum, essentially makes it impossible to bring a successful antitrust case based on false advertising. Nor do the Lanham Act’s remedies for false advertising fully address harms to competition. Reasoning that conduct that is already illegal on other grounds need not concern antitrust law ignores the multiple other contexts in which breaches of non-antitrust laws are considered to be potential antitrust violations.

We begin by introducing the laws of antitrust and false advertising, explaining the regimes’ objectives and methods. We then survey the antitrust caselaw, critiquing three approaches courts considering false advertising claims have taken. Finally, we introduce our antitrust framework for false advertising claims. At the heart of the framework is a presumption that monopolists engaging in false advertising violate antitrust law, with that presumption rebuttable if the defendant can show that the false advertising was ineffective. The framework also applies to cases of attempted monopolization by incorporating factors (falsity, materiality, and harm) inherent in false advertising law, along with competition-centered issues on targeting new market entrants and entrenching barriers to entry. To illustrate how our framework should work, we apply it to an important area: advertising for biosimilars, which are pharmaceutical products with a substantial and growing role in treating numerous diseases.

False advertising that exacerbates monopoly power has been dismissed by antitrust law for too long. This Essay seeks to resolve the contradiction in the law by showing how false advertising threatens the proper functioning of markets.


Friday, June 04, 2021

Reading list: Discrimination is Unfair: Interpreting UDA(A)P to Prohibit Discrimination

Stephen Hayes & Kali Schellenberg, Discrimination is "Unfair": Interpreting UDA(A)P to Prohibit Discrimination

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3832022

This Article explores a theory that discrimination is a type of “unfair” practice covered by federal and state laws prohibiting unfair, deceptive (and sometimes abusive) acts and practices (“UDA(A)Ps”). An “unfair” practice is defined by statute as something “(1) likely to cause substantial injury to consumers; (2) which is not reasonably avoidable; and (3) that is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition.” Discrimination fits neatly within this statutory language, and its incorporation as an unfair practice is consistent with the purposes and traditional guardrails around application of UDA(A)P law, as well as general principles in civil rights jurisprudence

 

Applying the “unfairness-discrimination” theory would fill important gaps in the existing patchwork of antidiscrimination laws, which currently leave large swaths of the economy unregulated and unprotected from a variety of discriminatory practices, including those with a disparate impact. By taking seriously the plain language of UDA(A)P law, federal entities like the CFPB and FTC, state attorneys general and agencies, and in some cases private individuals, could make great strides towards ensuring that entire markets and industries are not free to discriminate.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Reading list: The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance: Unfair and Deceptive Advertising in Children’s Apps

 Mary Kate Fernandez,  The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance: Unfair and Deceptive Advertising in Children’s Apps, 66 Loy. L. Rev. 211 (2020)

Intro: 

The University of Michigan released a startling study (“the Michigan Study”) in October 2018 which unveiled that “manipulative and disruptive” advertisements are deceptively built into phone applications (“apps”) designed for children. The results of this study led members of the United States Senate and several public interest groups to petition the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to investigate apps marketed specifically to children. The current federal administrative regime for regulating deceptive advertising targeted at children, however, falls far short of what is necessary to enable the FTC or any other federal agency to respond to the revelations in the Michigan Study with meaningful protections for children.

A striking passage on host selling:

This advertising practice, illegal during children’s television programming, is fundamentally unfair to child consumers. Yet, multiple apps designed for children heavily employ host-selling.

 For example, in PAW Patrol: Air and Sea Adventures, the commercial characters are not only the object of gameplay but also have interactions with the user. Characters make faces indicating feelings of disappointment when the user does not click on locked items that require payment. App characters also show disapproval when the player is unable to accomplish a certain mission because he did not make a required purchase. The Michigan Study stated that such tactics “could be characterized as social pressure or validation” and “may also lead children to feel an emotionally charged need to make purchases.” In Doctor Kids, the main character bursts into tears if the player does not make an inapp  purchase. In Barbie Magical Fashion, Barbie narrates and specifically encourages users to use “locked” items that require making a purchase. 

Most problematic of the host-selling examples was Strawberry Shortcake Puppy Palace. In this app, Strawberry Shortcake instructs users to choose a puppy to play with, but only one out of eight puppies can be played with for free. Every other puppy is locked. If the child selects a locked puppy, Strawberry Shortcake says, “Oops. To play with [name of puppy], you’ll need to get the puppy pack. Or you can unlock everything and get the best deal.” Throughout the game, Strawberry Shortcake has thought bubbles. Some tell the user that the puppy is sad, and the user should give the puppy what it wants. But oftentimes the item that the puppy “wants” is locked, and when the child selects it, Strawberry Shortcake tells the child to buy “the activities pack to keep the puppy happy.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Media Literacy in a Less-Centralized Social Media Universe

Knight First Amendment Institute, Reimagine the Internet 

Great panel today; more to come the rest of the week and they will shortly post the video. 

Francesca Tripodi (UNC) shared her amazing research about how conservatives use textual interpretation techniques to interpret information and reject journalistic interventions. Conservatives then use and trust Google’s top results, believing that Google top results reflect reality, which seems a bit contradictory to me. The problem is that our keywords are ideological, so Google searches confirm one’s worldview: searching for “illegal aliens” gets you right-wing sites that confirm what they already believe, while “undocumented workers” produces very different results. And it’s not just Google—DuckDuckGo is better for your privacy but returns the same type of results based on ideological keywords. Google suggestions create the possibility of parallel internets that are invisible to outsiders. “Data void”: limited/no content is available, so it’s easy to coordinate around keywords to guarantee that future searches are directed to content that includes these terms—this is what happened to “crisis actor.” Search engines are not designed to guide us through existential crises or challenge our beliefs—the notion of relevance is subjective and idiosyncratic as well as unstable and exploitable. Knowing/understanding audience concerns and amplifying key phrases allows conservative media to drive users to search where their beliefs will be reinforced. Like Council of Conservative Citizens reaching Dylann Root in his searches for black on white crime. They encourage viewers to “do the research” while highlighting phrases that lead to the preferred sources. So Google started autofilling “Russian collusion” with “delusion,” a phrase promoted by Roger Stone. In impeachment proceedings, Rep. Nunes used his opening remarks to repeat a few names/phrases and tell us that we should be paying attention to those—which, when searched in Google, linked to Fox, Daily Caller, and even more right-wing sources. Urged constituents to do their own research. Nelly Ohr: a perfect data void/litmus test. She used to work for Fusion GPS and is part of a conspiracy theory about Russia investigation—the search exists in a vacuum and was curated by conservatives as a dogwhistle about election fraud.

What can we do? How can Google fix this? It’s important to stop thinking about a fix and focusing on Google. Misinformation is not a bug in the code but a sociological issue. The only way to circumvent misinformation traps is knowing the kinds of Qs people seek answers to, knowing how they interpret information, and knowing how political actors exploit those things. [Easy-peasy!]

Barbara Fister, Gustavus Adolphus College: In practice, students are treated as information consumers who need to be educated to examine claims. At universities, they are often treated as needing help finding information in the walled garden of the library, focusing on information that will help them satisfy professors. Libraries have felt compelled to emulate Google and create single-search boxes. But the results don’t help you navigate the results, so it’s no wonder that students come up with workarounds. Students have trouble getting themselves situated. They adopt a strategy and stick to it; look for “safe” sources; often don’t really care about the topic because it’s been assigned. Follow the news, but don’t trust it; don’t think college does much to prepare them to ask questions of their own. Feel both indignation and resignation about algorithmic systems invading their privacy. Students feel that they’re in a very different place than professors; they’re used to different sources. “We grew up with untrustworthy sources and it’s drilled into us you need to do the research because it can’t be trusted.” Students are already being taught “media literacy” but more of the same won’t necessarily help, because people who believe misinformation are actually quite “media literate” in that they understand how these systems work and are good at manipulating them. Qanons understand how media/info systems work; they interpret media messages critically; they feel passion for discovery and enjoy the research b/c they feel like they’re saving the world. Alternate authority structure: trust yourself and trust Trump/“the Plan.”

What is to be done? Deep-seated epistemological differences: if we can’t agree on how we know what’s true, hard to see common ground. So what’s next? Recognize the importance of learning to trust, not just to be skeptical; get at why to trust rather than what to trust—saying “peer-reviewed research” doesn’t help; explore underlying values of knowledge systems, institutions, and practices such as journalism’s values; frame learning about info systems as education for democracy: you have a role to play; you should have an ethics of what it is that you will share. Peer-to-peer learning: students are learning from each other how to protect privacy etc. Students are concerned about their grandparents and about their younger siblings—interested in helping other age groups understand information.

Ethan Zuckerman, moderator.

Fister: Further reading: Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms—what students are interested in that doesn’t come up in class: knowing that Google works by using the words we use rather than as a neutral broker would be very important! Alison J. Head (January 5, 2016), Staying smart: How today’s graduates continue to learn once they complete college; Project Information Literacy Research Institute, Alison J. Head, John Wihbey, P. Takis Metaxas, Margy MacMillan, and Dan Cohen (October 16, 2018), How Students Engage with News: Five Takeaways for Educators, Journalists, and Librarians, Project Information Literacy Research Institute.

Tripodi: People would say “I don’t trust the news” and she’d ask where they got candidate info; they say “Google,” without acknowledging that Google is an aggregator of news/taking content directly from Wikipedia. We’re not in a new time of epistemological fissures or polarization—we have always been in a place of big differences in how we seek truth, what are sources of knowledge, how we validate knowledge. What’s changed: we can connect from further away and we have an immediate ability to determine what we think is right. Focus on keywords is something that work on filter bubbles hasn’t yet considered—it’s not the tech that keeps us in the filter bubbles; we are the starting point for that closure.

Zuckerman: the people who find hate speech on YouTube are the people with hateful racial attitudes—so the polarization argument may not work the way we thought.

Fister: the power to amplify and segment market messages is way more pronounced now. But it was deliberate fissure with the rise of Fox News, talk radio. Amplified by platforms that like this content b/c controversy drives attention. Far right white supremacists have always been good at tech—used film early, used radio; they are persuasion machines designed to sell stuff. They are earning money while using the platforms, which has changed the velocity/amplitude of the most hateful speech.

Tripodi: There may be ways to figure out the keywords that resonate with people’s deep stories, to find the data voids, by doing more ethnographic work. The narrative that conservatism is being silenced: trying to reshape objectivity as “equal balance.” Rebranding of objective to mean “both sides.” If your return doesn’t show equal weight, it’s somehow flawed/biased/manipulated [at least if your side isn’t dominant]—that’s leveraged in the rightwing media ecosystem to say “don’t use these platforms, use these curated platforms that won’t ‘suppress’ you.” That’s complicating notions of media literacy, which sometimes uses “look for both sides” as an indicator of bias. Propaganda campaigns are now leveraging the idea of “lateral reading”—looking for relevant phrases around the target of interest in a new window—these systems are being deliberately exploited. Thinking about keyword curation may help: you could put a bunch of “Nelly Ohr” all over mainstream coverage of the impeachment. Old fashioned SEO manipulation in a new light.

Fister: discussion of the tautology underneath this: you trust the sources you trust b/c you trust them. People create self-reinforcing webs of trust by consulting multiple sources of the same bent. Students are also interested in talking about how algorithms work, including for sentencing people to prison; tie that to traditional values/understanding of how we make knowledge.

Tripodi: in response to comment on similar dynamic on doctor/patient relations: when people search “autism treatment” they are more likely to see non-evidence-based treatments, because doctors with evidence-based treatments are not using YouTube. Has a student who is trying to create a lexicon for doctors to tell people “research these treatments”—you can’t tell them not to search, but you can give them phrases that will return good quality content. Also important to make good quality content for evidence-based treatments. People are looking on YT; have to be there.

Zuckerman: that requires auditing the platform; YT is not that hard to audit, but FB is when it directs you to content.

 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Today's IP artifact: Cuervo bottle with dripping red wax seal

 This decision remains one of my least favorite, but perhaps I will nonetheless get a bottle of Maker's Mark to pose beside it.


Monday, May 03, 2021

Tootsie Pups

 Acquired from a seller before the inevitable shutoff. The rare occasion where I see the harm story, since Tootsie Pops theoretically contain chocolate, which one would not want to give a dog.



Does Gordon v. Drape really mean what it says about explicit misleadingness?

Testing Gordon v. Drape with the paintings of Tom Sachs, some of which reproduce famous product labels in their entirety (or nearly so). The introduction to the coffee table book I just bought says,

From Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers bars to images of American flags and Air Force One, Sachs takes familiar brands, symbols, and commodities as his subjects. He represents these iconic images in his deliberately imperfect and conspicuously handmade aesthetic, wanting us to see the uneven brushstrokes and roughly hewn surfaces that distinguish his “handmade paintings.” By drawing attention to how his objects are made, he deconstructs the formidable and complex systems that powerful logos and brands represent. In Tom’s words, “When I look at these paintings, to me they all speak about power. There is power in logos and there is power in good advertising.”

On Artsy, the description says:

Critiquing the speed and regularity with which a materialistic society replaces commodities, Sachs uses both a profusion of commercial icons in his work and builds his own functioning versions of consumer goods using re-purposed items, such as the glossy, black Prada Toilet (1997), a workable toilet constructed out of Prada’s up-market packaging, with the company’s logo prominently displayed on the sculpture. Sachs’s works are emphatically process-oriented, an expression of the artist’s DIY spirit, divulging even the flaws of his complex and labor-intensive projects.

So, are his works explicitly misleading? See below for some examples:

 

Note the detail on this painting:

If you think the "Tom Sachs" signature on the side helps, what about this one?



Reading list: race and GIs

Reading list:

Mathilde Cohen, The Whiteness of French Food: Law, Race, and Eating Culture in France (forthcoming in French Politics, Culture, and Society, 2021)

English Abstract:

Food is fundamental to French identity. So too is the denial of structural racism and racial identity. Both tenets are central to the nation’s self-definition, making them difficult, yet all the more important to think about together. This article purports to identify a form of French food Whiteness (blanchit√© alimentaire), that is, the use of food and eating practices to reify and reinforce Whiteness as the dominant racial identity. To do so, it develops four case studies of how law elevates a fiction of homogeneous French/White food as superior and normative at the expense of alternative ways of eating and their eaters—the law of geographical indications, school lunches, citizenship, and cultural heritage.

Really interesting perspective on GIs; if you believe that they were born in sin (racism/colonialism), do you think that they can be redeemed?

Friday, April 30, 2021

Amicus brief in rehearing petition for Warhol v. Goldsmith

 With Christine Farley and Pam Samuelson: our brief addresses the effect of Google v. Oracle, which the Second Circuit has explicitly asked for more briefing about. I would expect other amicus interest, including on Goldsmith's side, given the stakes of whether Gv.O is a software case or a fair use case at heart.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Nominative fair use (maybe) and Amazon

 I've recently seen two examples of the following phenomenon: off of Amazon, an advertiser uses images of its product with another well-known product, and they do go together, but on Amazon, the advertising is different. Anyone know if there's an Amazon policy driving this? For those circuits that require the advertiser to have a good reason to refer to the trademark owner in order to justify nominative fair use, the Amazon ads would seem to show it's possible to advertise without using the other mark. Special kudos to the Angelus paint for using an all-red shoe on Amazon, which isn’t a “use” of the Louboutin mark according to the 2d Circuit. Clever!

Angelus shoe paint off Amazon (and from some third party sellers on Amazon): 


Amazon product image:

Ka'Chava off Amazon (note Ball jars used to display product): 
Ka'Chava on Amazon:


Thursday, April 22, 2021

DoorDash invites users to get their grub on

Screenshot of mobile search results for "Grubhub." Note also "Great Grubs" in the DoorDash blurb. I don't think it's unlawful, but it's kind of tacky:



Monday, April 19, 2021

2020-2021 Georgetown Law Technology Review Student Writing Competition

 From the site:

2020-2021 TOPIC

Students are invited to submit papers addressing a legal or public policy question relating to emerging and sustained challenges to legal and political structures created by online platforms, digital services, and other emerging technologies. 

Example topics include: questions relating to the adequacy of federal and state agency regulatory and adjudication structures to address current and emerging technologies; the scope of current agency jurisdiction over digital technologies and practices; whether current legal structures effectively protect consumers and vulnerable populations. Students are invited to submit papers that examine proposed or newly-enacted laws related to these questions, or to propose novel legal structures to engage with current gaps. 

Preference will be given to papers that are relevant to current legal and public policy debates around technology or present an original perspective.

PRIZE

Up to three winners will be selected, with a First Prize of $4,000, a Second Prize of $2,000, and a Third Prize of $1,000.

Winning papers may be selected for publication in The Georgetown Law Technology Review.

COMPETITION RULES

Papers will be accepted from students enrolled at any ABA-accredited law school in the United States during the 2020-2021 academic year. The paper must be the author’s own work, although students may incorporate feedback received as part of an academic course or supervised writing project.

The paper must not have been published or committed for publication in another journal; The Georgetown Law Technology Review must have the first right of publication for any winning essay.

Papers will be evaluated based on thoroughness of research and analysis, relevance to the competition topic, relevance to current legal and/ or public policy debates, originality of thought, and clarity of expression.

Papers must be 4,000-7,500 words (not including footnotes) and be submitted in Times New Roman Size 12 font, double spaced. Footnotes must conform to the 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Papers must be in English.

COMPETITION DEADLINE

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. EST on May 31, 2021.

Papers must be submitted via email to TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu with the email subject line “Writing Competition”.

The file must be submitted in Word format, with the file named in the format “LastName_FirstName_WritingCompetition”.

Papers must be preceded by a cover page (included in the same Word file) containing the following information:

  • Full Name of Author

  • Name of ABA-accredited Law School

  • Graduation Year

  • Email Address

  • Phone Number

  • Word Count

  • The following affirmation: “I affirm that this paper is an original work of scholarship authored by me. The paper (or any variation thereof authored by me) has not been published, or committed for publication, in any other publication. If this paper is selected as a winner, I grant The Georgetown Law Technology Review the right of first publication of the paper. I have read and agree to the Competition Rules set forth at www.georgetowntech.org/writingcompetition.”

Entrant’s name and law school shall only appear on the cover page. Papers shall contain no identifying information.

NOTIFICATION OF WINNER

The winner will be notified by phone or email on or before August 31, 2021.

FINE PRINT

The judges’ decisions are final.

Winners will be required to submit a completed W-9, affidavit of eligibility, tax acknowledgment and liability release for tax purposes as a condition to receiving the cash prize. All forms must be completed and returned via email within 14 days of receipt, or prizes will be considered forfeited and another winner may be named.

The authors of papers that are selected for publication will be required to sign an agreement warranting the entry’s originality and granting the GLTR first publication rights.

If a potential winner does not respond within 14 days of the first attempt to contact him or her, or if the contact is returned as non-deliverable, the potential winner forfeits all rights to be named as a winner or receive a prize, and an alternate winner may be chosen.

Entrants may submit multiple entries per year. Jointly authored papers are eligible, provided all authors meet the eligibility requirements for the competition. If a winning paper has more than one author, the prize will be split equally among the co-authors.

Winners will be solely responsible for all federal, state, local or other taxes, if any such taxes apply. Cash prizes will only be paid in US Dollars by way of check or bank transfer. Any fees that may be charged from time to time by the relevant bank will be deducted from the prize money.

Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, the Georgetown Technology Law Review and BSA | The Software Alliance (together “the Organizers”) are not responsible for incorrect or inaccurate entry information, late, lost or misdirected entries, or for computer errors or technical failures, including by reason of any bug, computer virus or other failure.

In the unlikely event that no entries are of sufficient quality to merit an award, the Organizers reserve the right not to award any prizes.

The Writing Competition is governed by U.S. law and all relevant federal, state and local rules and regulations apply. By entering, all entrants agree that the competition shall be governed by the laws of the District of Columbia and that the courts of the District of Columbia shall have exclusive jurisdiction for any dispute or litigation relating to or arising from the competition. Void where prohibited by law.

By participating, each entrant agrees to the rules of the Writing Competition and the decisions of the Organizers and releases, discharges and holds harmless the Organizers and each of their respective officers, directors, members, employees, independent contractors, agents, representatives, successors and assigns from any and all liability whatsoever in connection with the Writing Competition, including without limitation legal claims, costs, injuries, loss or damages, demands or actions of any kind.

This Writing Competition may be cancelled, modified or terminated for any reason.


Questions?

Email TechInstitute@law.georgetown.edu

Friday, April 16, 2021

The 4th Circuit makes trademark use more contextual

Combe Inc. v. Dr. August Wolff Gmbh & Co. Kg Arzneimittel, No. 19-1674 (4th Cir. Apr. 13, 2021)

Not only is this case a good demonstration that courts are willing to give broad rights to marks based on similarities in descriptive elements (here the VAGI- formative in VAGISIL for preparations for use in the vagina), it also has relevance for the current discussion of “use as a mark.” As Grace McLaughlin argues in her recent Fanciful Failures, there are situations where putting something in the trademark “spot” for a product doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers will understand it as a mark. Perhaps surprisingly, the district court and the court of appeals endorse precisely that view here:


Further, the district court appropriately gave little weight to generic Vagicaine products sold by big-box retailers because consumers do not associate them “as a source-identifying brand,” but instead recognize them as the “generic product seek[ing] to imitate VAGISIL’s anti-itch cream.”





Wednesday, April 14, 2021

ICANN working group report on TM rights protection mechanisms in all gTLDs now open for comment

Link to report and comment mechanisms. The Working Group did not recommend expanding trademark claimants' preemptive/pre-registration notice rights to include broad matching or algorithmically generated close variants (misses a match by one letter, for example), but I expect that's still on the agenda for some proponents. One of the things that we found out in the process was that the most-searched-for "trademarks," of the set entered into the database maintained for the purpose of simplifying rights claims, were, in descending order: smart, forex, hotel, one, love, cloud, nyc, london, abc, luxury. That doesn't make the database all junk, but it does highlight that new rights protection mechanisms are always also new pathways to abusive claims, and those tradeoffs should be confronted head-on rather than assumed not to exist. The fact that the database is secret doesn't help (though much of its content could be inferred from registration attempts that receive claims notices).

Michael Jordan's ROP claims against ads in the SI special issue on him

 I just heard this discussed on a GALA (Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance, recommended for international updates) event, and fortuitously I'd decided to get my hands on a copy of the actual special issue. One thing I hadn't realized from the cases is that there were only three ads in the entire special issue. The carmaker must feel good about its choices, but I have to say that if I were the other advertisers I might feel betrayed by SI and the supposed special sponsorship opportunity offered. It must be a percentage-of-ads-triggering-lawsuits record!

cover
ad #1, inside front cover

ad #2, opposite table of contents

ad #3, inside back cover

Substantiation issues?

 This poster in a local dry cleaner's, produced by a larger association, gave me pause: I believe that dry cleaning likely destroys most viruses present ... but how many viruses are likely to be present? Does the claim of "effective, easier and safer" imply that this is a good way to decrease risks, especially covid-related risks now that we understand that most spread is aerosol-based?



Monday, April 12, 2021

Recent reading: on brands and sumptuary codes

Inspired by Kali Murray’s great comments at this past week’s Race and IP conference, some notes from recent reading:

Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America

Relevant to TM and sumptuary laws (addressed in Barton Beebe's excellent work), Anderson recounts how in some places Native people were barred from marking their own livestock, but punished if they killed a marked animal. In other places/times, both Indians and colonists were required to use their own brands to identify animals, but who got away with violating the rules was unsurprisingly racialized.

Relevant quotes (footnotes omitted):

In the Chesapeake, as in England, livestock owners could protect their rights to mobile property by marking their animals. A few seventeenth-century planters branded cattle on the horn, but most colonists preferred to clip animals’ ears. Virtually every family had its own earmark, involving some combination of slits, holes, half-circles, forks, “fleur-de-lis,” or cropping. They registered their marks at the county court, where the information was recorded to help in identifying strays. Colonists regarded earmarks as a form of personal property to be handed down through the generations. In 1658 when Thomas Gerard neglected to register his earmark and William Evans then used it himself, an angry Gerard took the case to Maryland’s Provincial Court. Gerard protested that his mark was “of a long standing, although not heretofore recorded” and had been “injuriously taken” from him. Since Evans had not yet used it, Gerard argued, the earmark ought to be restored to its rightful, if negligent, owner. Far from finding this a frivolous proceeding, Maryland’s governor not only heard the case but, in an unusual move, polled the councillors for their individual opinions. Four of the five officials sided with Evans, noting his compliance with the law. The governor, however, found merit in Gerard’s emotional plea and asked Evans to relinquish his claim. Evans did so, and a chastened Gerard promptly recorded the mark in his own name….

The Bay Colony legislature tried to minimize contention with a 1634 measure stipulating that trespassing swine would be dealt with according to the rules of the town in which the animals had been found, but this did not help aggrieved parties discover where the beasts actually belonged. Thus in 1647 the General Court required owners to paint a symbol with pitch on the flanks of livestock designating the town where they lived. Just as earmarks labeled livestock as private property, these town marks, or in some cases brands, identified them as animal members of a community. Yet town marks also symbolized the attenuated control of each community over its animals’ whereabouts….

Natick’s herds had grown sufficiently numerous by 1670 that its inhabitants [“praying Indians”] petitioned the Massachusetts General Court to assign them a town brand to distinguish their animals from those belonging to neighboring settlements. Although some form of the initial letter of a town’s name customarily served as a brand mark for English communities, magistrates designated a bow and arrow for Natick—an ambiguous symbol at best, suggesting that no amount of acculturation would fully erase from English minds the sense that Indians remained fundamentally different from colonists….

Indians knew that colonists identified their animals by earmarks; whether native owners would be allowed to do the same remained an open question for several decades. A story that probably originated in Virginia and later circulated in England suggested that by the 1650s earmarks had at least become a topic of conversation between Indians and colonists. Informed by irate Englishmen that his followers had been stealing hogs, a sachem reportedly countered that colonists had been just as busy killing the Indians’ deer. The English reminded him that earmarks identified the hogs as private property but deer displayed no comparable sign of ownership. “Tis true indeed, none of my deer are marked,” the Indian coolly replied, “and by that [you] may know them to be mine: and when you meet with any that are marked, you may do with them what you please; for they are none of mine.” Possibly apocryphal, the anecdote nevertheless fairly represented Indian wit and addressed a topic of current interest to both parties….

Once Chesapeake-area Indians owned swine, the virtues of marking them became self-evident. Unmarked hogs offered tempting targets for colonial thieves, who needed only to clip the ears of such creatures to claim them as their own. Given the propensity of colonists to steal livestock from one another, this was no idle threat. Earmarks also distinguished Indian hogs from feral swine. Native owners could have marked their beasts at any time, but these marks would not provide genuine protection until colonial authorities recognized them as legitimate symbols of private property. Virginia’s legislature did not make such a concession until 1674 when, in a measure aimed at curbing Indian theft of English animals, it ordered county courts to designate “a perticuler marke” for inhabitants of each native town to use on their swine. Assigning a mark to towns instead of individuals may have indicated that Indians regarded swine as common property, or simply that the burgesses failed to make distinctions among native owners. Whether earmarks actually enabled Indians to defend their animal property is unclear.

Oddly enough, when faced with the same circumstances, New England magistrates adopted precisely the opposite tactic. Although there is evidence to suggest that some Indians in Rhode Island took the initiative to begin marking their swine, one by one New England legislatures moved to prohibit the practice. Between 1666 and 1672, Rhode Island, Plymouth, and Massachusetts all ordered that “noe Indian shall give any eare marke to his swine upon the penalty of the forfeiture of such swine.” Indian hogs brought to market had to have uncut ears; native sellers of pork likewise had to produce intact ears to prove ownership. The ostensible reason for this policy was to prevent Indians from profiting from stolen English swine, but its more obvious effects were to complicate Indians’ market activity and to render Indian animals vulnerable to unscrupulous colonists who merely had to mark the creatures’ uncut ears and claim possession. There was also no way for Indians to distinguish their swine from feral beasts that, if less numerous in New England than in the Chesapeake, still roamed the woods and were regarded by colonists as fair game. If Christian Indians in Natick, allowed to have a town brand for their animals, were exempted from the earmark prohibition in recognition of their efforts at acculturation, they would have been the exception that proved the rule. New England magistrates otherwise denied Indians use of the acknowledged symbol of legitimate ownership, as if it ought to signify their progress toward civility rather than their hogs’ status as private property.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment law seeking submissions

 The Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law (JSEL) is accepting submissions for Volume 13, set to publish during AY21-22. Submissions for Issue 1 will be reviewed and accepted through August 2021. JSEL is looking for articles on topics related to sports and entertainment law, and especially encourages law professors to send in articles. We want to err on the side of encouraging submissions, so if you have a nearly completed draft that just needs to be fleshed out a bit more, we would prefer to be able to review it.

Submissions should not exceed 25,000 words, including footnotes. All manuscripts should be submitted in English with both text and footnotes typed and double-spaced. Footnotes must conform with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (21st ed.), and authors should be prepared to supply any cited sources upon request. All manuscripts submitted become the property of the JSEL and will not be returned to the author. In addition to the manuscript, authors must include an abstract of not more than 250 words, as well as a cover letter and resume or CV. Authors also must ensure that their submissions include a direct email address and phone number at which they can be reached throughout the review period. The journal strongly prefers electronic submissions through the Scholastica online submission system (or ExpressO if available). Submissions may also be sent via email to jselsubmissions@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Reading list: native ad disclosures that work?

Eyal Peer & Dalia Shilian, Improving Consumers’ Ability To Detect Native AdvertisingUsing Identified Disclosure:

Native advertising of online content, such as articles embedded within news websites, is a covert attempt by marketers to affect consumer attitudes and behavior. Because such marketing can have detrimental consequences for consumers, regulators worldwide have begun mandating that disclosures accompany marketing content. Despite these mandated disclosures, studies repeatedly find that consumers still fail to detect native ads even when they include various disclosure labels. We argue that the failure of these and other such disclosures, (e.g., software licensing), results from consumers becoming so habituated to these notices that they fail to recognize or use them effectively. We propose an improved form of disclosure for native ads requiring explicit identification of the name of the company or marketing agent paying for the non-original content. Identified disclosure can be more effective because it is more salient and can vary between ads and platforms. In two studies, we show how adding identified disclosures to native advertising increases detection rates significantly and consistently. We also discuss important implications arising from using smart disclosures for consumer protection.

Payoff: at the end of the article, the authors note that Israel’s consumer protection authority has adopted its recommendations as a native advertising disclosure standard.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

a handful of Google v. Oracle thoughts: categories, microworks, and market circularity

A couple of small Google v. Oracle thoughts: The majority clearly says that, as with other categories of protected works, distinctions can be made within the categories, drawing lines “among” computer programs, books, and films. Not all literary works are the same; Infinite Jest gets a different kind of copyright protection than my emails do. Likewise, while the recent Warhol case at times seems to imply that the derivative works right overrides fair use, the same GvO passage says that copyright provides both reproduction and derivative works rights, but also subjects all works to fair use. 

One of my minor obsessions is “courts that reproduce the entire works in suit in the opinion”—whether they find for the plaintiff or the defendant, and whether they rule on substantial similarity or fair use, they never even consider whether it’s ok to do so. It’s obviously a good idea for purposes of understanding what the law is—a description of a song or picture will never allow a subsequent reader to understand what the protectable expression in the song or picture was—and I think obviously fair, but it’s amusing to me that it happens without anyone pointing out that this must be in reliance on fair use. 

Anyway, in GvO, Justice Breyer instead reproduces an entire short story, which was just minding its own business and had nothing to do with the case, in two different languages no less. And he does so in the course of suggesting that the scope of fair use would be more limited with respect to that short story than to a sentence of the same length in a longer novel. I think that’s a troubling conclusion—Justin Hughes has written very well about the problem of “microworks” and the right result would probably be to say that the book of stories from which that story comes should be the proper unit of analysis for factor three. Update: based on the statutory language, any claim against the US could not be brought under the CASE Act but would have to proceed in the Court of Claims. But now I ask: Can casebook authors use this portion of the case without fear? 

On factor four, it was nice to see acknowledgement that (1) the licensing package Oracle offered was very different from what Google ultimately copied, and thus didn’t show market harm from what Google actually copied and (2) this was a circularity problem, which should be avoided. Also, relevant to the “mixed question of law and fact” issue, the majority says: “the jury’s fair use determination means that neither Sun’s effort to obtain a license nor Oracle’s conflicting evidence can overcome evidence indicating that, at a minimum, it would have been difficult for Sun to enter the smartphone market, even had Google not used portions of the Sun Java API.” I think that means that the jury verdict must be interpreted to have favored Google on factor four, resolving the factual part of factor four in its favor. I am not sure what that means for summary judgment in future cases, especially if factor one remains more of a legal question.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Fanciful Failures: Keeping Nonsense Marks off the Trademark Register

 I'm excited to announce the publication of this Note by my former student Grace McLaughlin, which addresses the fascinating topic of marks optimized to get into Amazon's system rather than to function as indications of source for humans. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance (GALA) Webinar – “Hot Topics in Advertising Law in North America”

I always enjoy these and recommend the free GALA webinars to those interested in advertising law; I joined in progress due to some technical difficulties on my end.

Joseph Lewczak: FTC v. Teami ($15 million settlement, all but $1 million suspended), where there were other bad things like fighting cancer claims and also nondisclosure by influencers like Cardi B. FTC does not want disclosure below the “more” expansion link, if any; it has to be above so anyone will see it even if they don’t seek out more info.

Kelly Harris: In Canada, Competition Bureau brought enforcement action against FB for misleading privacy representations even though it’s a free service. New bill: regulating online programmers like Netflix, though UGC will be excluded (but might be included if commissioned for or developed by the service). Regulator will impose “conditions of service,” though not quite traditional broadcaster licensing.

Jose Antonio Arochi: Mexico doesn’t have specific regulations. Twitter reviews for Sephora where consumers were demanding money for allegedly expired products and saying they couldn’t get refunds from Sephora. Apparently Consumer protection agency called Sephora to clarify the situation—there was no litigation.

Melissa Steinman: Shop Safe Act introduced trying to stop fakes in ecommerce; didn’t go through (attempt to create contributory liability for platforms) but will be reintroduced, so keep an eye out. Theme for this year: platform liability.

Reviews: Vitamins Online v. Heartwise: Manipulation of reviews actionable under Lanham Act, including manipulating “helpful” votes and giving people free stuff for positive reviews.

Maryland: First ever digital advertising tax, on gross receipts. Vetoed by governor but overridden; lawsuit brought by platforms like FB and Google—wait and see. NY, DC, WA are considering similar taxes so it’s a trend to watch.

Harris: In Canada, the provinces regulate consumer agreements online. Certain procedural requirements: must be able to see & save a copy of the disclosures/contract w/in 15 days, via email receipt for example. Certain practices are limited: unilateral changes of material elements like price. Failure to comply: right to rescind; damages, including on class basis and class actions in Canada are rising, especially Quebec and B.C. Competition Bureau is very interested in digital economy. Drip pricing (adding fees after initial disclosure) is an area of significant interest: StubHub, TicketMaster, car rental companies that charge “environmental” fees. Substantiation of “regular” price claims is also a big issue.

Arochi: Again, Mexico has nothing specific to online shopping, just consumer protection and COFEPRIS (Mexican FDA), which does regulate advertising. Suspended 34,000 webpages during pandemic of people trying to publicize products that are health-related or make health claims. Permits for certain products are required in advance: health related, supplements, food/beverage, pesticides, alcohol/tobacco. Also new disclosures for high-fat etc. foods with big labels on the front of the package.

Jeff Greenbaum: Don’t assume that online disclosures are clear and conspicuous, even if “everyone is using them.”

Harris: Canada: disclosures can clarify but can’t correct a misleading main claim or contradict the main claim. One click away is likely low risk of regulatory enforcement, but ensure disclosures travel across platforms and ensure consistency in disclosures in multiple places and/or media: that was at issue in recent self-regulatory competitor challenges. This is an issue of coordinating teams that might be in charge of different media.

Arochi: Mexico enforcement is more likely to target different products that become a problem. There aren’t as many cases day by day and that lack of emphasis from the authorities affects behavior.

Lewczak: consider that disclosures need to be fit to medium and consumer’s consumption thereof: disclosure in YT video description may not be enough. Not a lot of US action on sweepstakes. Covid concerns: don’t be tone deaf; giving away cruises, event tickets, and other in person prizes can be risky and generate bad PR. Don’t require physical presence for entry or award of prizes. Do your rules have a force majeure type limit that allows covid-related flexibility? Avoid unintended sweepstakes with attempted charitable giveaways to doctors, restaurant workers, etc.; may require disclosures and charitable registration: Draper James teachers giveaway. Loot boxes are on the horizon.

Harris: Winner of contest must complete test of skill; cases vary on what’s enough, but 4-part, multi function math question with a time limit. You can do it on entry or just for the winner; depends on structure of promotion. Also: no forcing purchase to enter, but can say, “submit an original essay.” Quebec: registration requirements (doesn’t apply below a certain monetary threshold, and to non-advertising promotions like a contest for employees) + French language availability. A minimum disclosure is required in all advertising, adequate and fair disclosure: number and value of prizes and other material facts—entry dates, eligibility requirements, geog. distribution of prizes if any. Can be difficult depending on how contest structured.

Arochi: Interior Ministry and Consumer Protection Agency require permits for some sweepstakes/contests. TV contest for example requires a specific agency permit. Chance-based contests may not need a permit. Division of authority may not be clear so may have to ask both agencies and then pick one to apply to.

Steinman: Lots of US action on country of origin. NPRM, July 2020 on Made in USA claims, codifying current enforcement policy and adding ability to seek civil penalties: need all or virtually all of manufacture, or component parts/ingredients, to make Made in USA and related claims. This can include use of flags, eagles. But can use qualifiers like “made in USA of domestic and foreign components.” “Designed in US” can also work. California has a 5% foreign content requirement. FTC also challenged “Danish cookies” that weren’t made in Denmark.

FTC v. Williams-Sonoma: $1 million penalty and prohibition on unqualified US origin claims without being able to substantiate them. FTC v. Chemence, Feb. 2021: $1.2 million for violation of existing order, highest monetary judgment ever for Made in USA case. Made in US: final assembly/processing and all significant processing in the US, and all or virtually all ingredients/components are made/sourced in the US. Assembled in US: product is last substantially transformed in the US, its principal assembly takes place in the US, and US assembly operations are substantial.

Harris: Made in Canada standards are similar: last substantial transformation in Canada; at least 51% of total direct costs of producing/manufacturing occurred in Canada, and accompanied with appropriate qualifying statement (e.g. made in Canada with imported parts). Moose Knuckles parka, 2016, lacked qualifying statement (made with Canadian and imported components); settled for $750,000 donation. Product of Canada: like made in Canada, but all or virtually all of the total direct costs (98%) must be Canadian.

Arochi: Mexico has one of the highest numbers of Appellations of Origin; more than 8 processes for obtaining certification for GIs. Hecho in Mexico is a certification; must be (majority) produced in Mexico, not precisely corresponding to AOs or GIs, but permit coming from Mexican government.

Greenbaum: Environmental marketing: Little FTC enforcement but some states have enacted more stringent requirements or made Green Guides into enforceable rules. Mattero v. Costco: class action over Costco’s “environmentally responsible” claims for detergent: were claims sufficiently qualified/were other benefits communicated: court denied motion to dismiss. New administration and revision of Green Guides may be an opportunity for FTC to change its approach.

Harris: Canada is similar; no specific green marketing laws, just Competition Act/provincial statutes. Federal guidance on green claims like recyclable exists, and self-regulatory code/guidance specific to environmental claims. Ongoing consumer class actions regarding pesticide in supposedly “organic” medical cannabis. All 2020 self-regulatory consumer complaints were upheld, including against a joke about benefits of saving water, because water scarcity is a serious issue and implication that product could help was found misleading—humor, puffery defenses rejected. Also home fragrance claimed to have “natural” ingredients—some ingredients were natural, but no evidence that all scent components were. Exaggeration of environmental benefits also were challenged. Grain Farmers of Ontario: depicted farms and farmers under stress, food supply shortages, empty grocery stores: condemned as inappropriate fearmongering.

Arochi: Also enforced by consumer protection agency (PROFECO) and COFEPRIS. CONAR is the self-regulatory body.

Taste and cultural concerns:

Lewczak: BLM and #MeToo—but not clear that any regulator or self-regulator will do anything. Major TV networks have their own guidelines against violence, antisocial behavior, oversexualization, stereotyping. Third party organizations also complain: PETA for animals, MADD for alcohol, other rights groups. Frida Mom’s ads showing reality of postpartum recovery rejected from 2020 Oscars for being too graphic—at least get some PR benefit from that.

Harris: significant Canadian regional differences. Claims likely understood more literally by regulators. Supreme Court of Canada uses the “credulous, hurried and inexperienced” standard. Can’t demean, denigrate, disparage: one complaint can bring you before Ad Standards. Canadianisms to watch out for: mostly metric except for height and weight of people; Celsius for weather. French exists outside Quebec. Spelling is different: colour, behaviour, honour, centre, etc.

Arochi: Spanish is the official language. Regional differences are significant; a federation with 31 states and Mexico City. 10th most populated country in world, most Spanish speakers. Measurements are always metric/Celsius for weather. Can start claims before consumer protection agency without disclosing identity, which allows competitors to bring claims strategically.

Covid enforcement

Steinman: FTC recorded more than 130,000 complaints in first half of 2020; issued more than 300 warning letters with 95% compliance rate; has brought some cases against covid treatments. Even Purell received a warning letter. Also price gouging cases. Quality King raised prices for Clorox etc several times and was forced to disgorge profits + penalty; 3M has also been active against mask resellers (or counterfeiters). Privacy is also a hot topic: CCPA in California is now effective [or as Eric Goldman might say, it’s in effect]. First class action under this has been filed, against Ring (plaintiffs include people who were hacked which they found out when someone talked to their daughter).

Harris: Canada is seeing new rights, Consumer Privacy Protection Act—against automated decisionmaking, deidentified data; data portability/erasure; Quebec is also updating his regime.

Arochi: New food labeling law in Mexico, against use of cartoons on foods with excess fat etc. Black stamps on products that qualify; also new guidelines on medical marijuana.