[firm] blog logo

New Year’s Resolutions to Ensure Proper ERISA Fiduciary and HIPAA Privacy Training

With the start of the new year, a good New Year’s resolution for employers that sponsor ERISA retirement and/or health and welfare benefit plans is to ensure that all current ERISA plan fiduciaries—including any new members of plan administrative and investment committees—have received up-to-date ERISA fiduciary training. ERISA litigation brought against individual plan fiduciaries has significantly increased in recent years. Plan fiduciaries assume responsibilities and make decisions that could potentially subject them to substantial personal liability. To mitigate this risk exposure, each committee member (or other ERISA plan fiduciary) should receive fiduciary training initially upon becoming a plan fiduciary and at least annually thereafter. Plan fiduciaries need to understand (i) when they are acting on behalf of the plan’s participants in a fiduciary capacity, (ii) the different fiduciary roles under a plan and how fiduciary liability can attach in different ways, (iii) the difference between fiduciary decisions and non-fiduciary (“settlor”)… Continue Reading

DOL Clarifies Position Regarding COBRA Notice Requirement

As we discussed in our prior blog post here, there has been a recent significant increase in class action litigation challenging the sufficiency of COBRA election notices. These cases typically allege that a deficient or misleading COBRA notice caused a former employee (or other COBRA qualified beneficiary) to lose group health plan coverage because the notice lacked certain required information or was not written in an understandable manner. One claim that is often raised in these cases is that the COBRA notice fails to provide the name, address, and telephone number of the plan administrator. However, the DOL recently clarified its position on this matter in an amicus brief filed in Carter v. Southwest Airlines Co. Board of Trustees, which is a proposed COBRA class action lawsuit. In its brief, the DOL stated that a COBRA election notice is not required to contain contact information for the plan administrator if… Continue Reading

Cases Highlight Importance of Governing Law Clauses in ERISA Plan Documents

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently held that the choice of law provision contained in a long-term disability insurance policy (the “LTD Policy”) controlled when determining which state law applied to the case. The LTD Policy, which was subject to regulation under ERISA as an employee benefit plan, stated that it was governed by the law of Pennsylvania, where Comcast (the employer) was incorporated and had its principal place of business. The employee argued that Colorado law controlled, because Colorado is where the employee worked for Comcast and filed the lawsuit. This was important because Colorado insurance law prohibited granting discretion to the plan administrator to interpret the LTD Policy, whereas Pennsylvania law did not prohibit this deferential standard. Generally, a plan administrator’s denial of benefits under an ERISA plan is reviewed by a court de novo (i.e., without deference being paid to the plan administrator’s… Continue Reading

Yahoo! v. Facebook: Clicking Through the Blogosphere Bias

Originally posted March 13.  Updated March 28, 2012. On March 12th, Yahoo! filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California alleging that Facebook infringes ten Yahoo! patents.  Immediate reaction has been widely critical of Yahoo!, from interpreting statements made in the filing as a claim by Yahoo! that it “patented the whole idea of Facebook” to characterizing Yahoo! as “relentlessly stagnating as Facebook innovated.”  Such is to be expected from the blogosphere with regard to the party asserting software or Internet-related patents.  However, if one really wants to weigh the merits of this lawsuit and the claims being made about it, there really is no substitute for digging into the subject matter of the patents that Yahoo! claims cover various aspects of how Facebook operates: Yahoo!’s “Advertising Patents” Yahoo! claims protection in systems and methods for advertising, placing advertisements on a web page in a manner according… Continue Reading

>Gibson Brings Another Defendant On-stage

>Gibson has filed suit against another defendant alleging infringement of its concert simulation patent. This time, it involves Seven45 Studios’ new video game Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. Gibson lost its first suit involving the same patent against Activision in 2009. In June of 2010, Gibson settled with Harmonix, Viacom, and EA in a similar suit.

>Tip: IP Indemnification

>As patent and other intellectual property lawsuits continue to litter the video game landscape, it makes a mind wander to one of everyone’s favorite clauses in developer and publisher agreements: indemnification (which we have discussed before). This is one of those clauses that gets buried at the end of the agreement, often on the hope that it never gets discussed. And, certainly neither party ever hopes to have to invoke the indemnity clause. The problem arises that, while the clause generally does not see the light of day, should the clause ever become necessary — the dollars and stakes are bigger than ever anticipated.A publisher will generally try to seek a broad indemnity from a developer, so that, if a patent owner sues the publisher alleging that the developer’s game infringes the patent (or other intellectual property), the publisher will be protected. The indemnity clause will be used to shield… Continue Reading

>Trademark Clearance and Mafia Wars

>As a reminder to us all of the reason for a good trademark clearance search, game developer Digital Chocolate, Inc., has filed a trademark infringement suit in the Northern District of California against Zynga Game Network, Inc., creator of popular Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. The complaint alleges that Zynga, which released Mafia Wars in 2008, has “hijacked” the Mafia Wars name from Digital Chocolate. Although Digital Chocolate never registered the Mafia Wars mark in the U.S., it claims Zynga is violating the common law trademark rights it has had since it started selling its own Mafia Wars game in 2004. For the careful entrepreneur, this case highlights the importance of an adequate pre-launch trademark clearance search to minimize the risk of problems in the future.A pre-launch trademark clearance search might encompass, for example, federal and state trademark registrations and applications, common law rights, web searches, and domain… Continue Reading

>Boomshine v. ChainRxn update

>As we covered back in March, casual game designed Daniel Miller filed a complaint in the Northern District of California, accusing the creator of a copycat game, known as ChainRxn, Yao Wei Yeo, and Facebook, of copyright infringement. The federal judge hearing the case has recently issued a ruling refusing to dismiss the suit, shooting down a argument by Facebook that Miller didn’t properly allege infringement based solely on how the two games “look and feel.” Miller’s complaint accused Yeo of direct copyright infringement, claiming he improperly accessed the source code for Miller’s game Boomshine to create ChainRxn. Facebook had argued that Miller didn’t adequately plead direct infringement by Yeo, because Miller’s bare complaint that ChainRxn “looks and feels” identical to Boomshine is insufficient to allege that Yeo had copied the game source code. The Judge disagreed with Facebook, noting that a plaintiff can rarely examine a defendant’s source code… Continue Reading

>Casual Games and Casual Copying

>Imagine releasing a new flash game on the net and then finding out that someone else made your game into a Facebook/iPhone application without your knowledge. The designer of a certain casual game, Boomshine, Daniel Miller, doesn’t have to imagine. His story illustrates why it’s important to understand and consider the range of intellectual property protections available for your next game. Miller has filed a complaint in the Northern District of California, accusing the creator of a copycat game, known as ChainRxn, Yao Wei Yeo, and Facebook of copyright infringement, and improperly allowing the game to remain posted even after being notified of the alleged infringement. In both Boomshine and ChainRxn, the game begins with a set of multicolored dots bouncing around a black background. The player’s only interaction with the game is a single click to create an initial white circle, which causes any of the dots that collide… Continue Reading

>False Marking Suit Targets Activision

>A couple of weeks ago, Patent Compliance Group filed a qui tam action against Activision, alleging that Activision falsely marked Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero, DJ Hero and Guitar Hero Smash Hits with inapplicable patent numbers or improperly as “patent pending.” This suit is one of a still-swelling movement of false patent marking suits following closely on the heels of the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., which held that damages for false patent marking should be calculated on a per article basis. This result has been that technology companies that sell large numbers of articles to consumers (e.g. video game companies) are at a high-risk of being targeted by one of these suits. A qui tam suit is actually brought on behalf of the U.S. government and provides for a fine of up to $500 for each improperly marked article. However, courts may… Continue Reading

April 2021
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Archives