Phone Frustration: FTC Files Suit against AT&T for Deliberately Slowing Phone Speeds of “Unlimited” Plan Users

Author: Ashley Clever, Contributing Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Frustration with technology often causes one to wonder if there is an electronic conspiracy raging war against technology users. Usually these thoughts are ridiculous, fabricated only by an overly-unreliable copy machine that seems to always jam minutes before an important deadline or by an iPhone that works perfectly until the day the newest version is released and then mysteriously begins to freeze, making the owner want to upgrade. But some worries about an elaborate electronic conspiracy might actually be well-founded, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently filed a complaint against AT&T Mobility Company (AT&T) for reducing the data speeds of users who had an “unlimited” phone plan.[1]

Continue reading “Phone Frustration: FTC Files Suit against AT&T for Deliberately Slowing Phone Speeds of “Unlimited” Plan Users”

City of Indianapolis v. Annex Books: Has Renton’s “Reasonable Belief” Standard Become Unreasonable?

Author: Rebecca Dussich, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Among the petitions reviewed during the Supreme Court’s September conference was a request[1] to reverse a Seventh Circuit decision, City of Indianapolis v. Annex Books, in which the court invalidated an Indianapolis ordinance that restricted the permissible hours of operation for “adult entertainment businesses.”[2] The Supreme Court denied certiorari.[3] In that case, the Seventh Circuit held that the Indianapolis ordinance was unsupported by evidence of a justifiable government interest to restrict First Amendment rights. The Seventh Circuit’s decision employed a foundational standard of free speech jurisprudence originally set forth in Renton v. Playtime Theaters[4] and the denial of certiorari confirms the interpretation of this standard by lower courts. The Supreme Court was correct to allow the Seventh Circuit’s holding to stand. Had the Court granted certiorari and reversed the Seventh Circuit’s decision, this case would have signaled the first major shift in time, place, manner jurisprudence in almost three decades.

Continue reading “City of Indianapolis v. Annex Books: Has Renton’s “Reasonable Belief” Standard Become Unreasonable?”

Protecting Attorneys and Jeopardizing Creditors: In re Thelen LLP and Rejection of the “Unfinished Business Rule”

Author: A.J. Webb, Articles Editor, University of Cincinnati Law Review

In recent years, numerous multinational law firms have declared bankruptcy amidst dwindling demand for legal services. Generally, the bankruptcy of a law firm is similar to that of any other debtor: a trustee must carefully scrutinize the debtor’s assets, ensuring their availability for distribution to outstanding creditors. These assets are essential in repaying the partnership’s previous debts.

The New York Court of Appeals, however, holds a different view of how a bankrupt law firm should be treated, at least with respect to legal fees generated after the law firm declares bankruptcy. In a decision this past July, the Court of Appeals held that the “unfinished business” rule of partnership law, which provides that any “profits arising from work begun by former partners of dissolved law firms are a partnership asset that must be finished for the benefit of the dissolved partnership,” is inapplicable to pending hourly fee matters.[1] Fees generated after the declaration of bankruptcy concerning pending matters prior to the firm’s bankruptcy belong to the attorney, not the bankruptcy estate.[2] This single decision by the Court of Appeals will have major ramifications in bankruptcy law. While rejecting the unfinished business rule increases attorney and client independence, it seriously harms a creditor’s chance of recovery from the firm in bankruptcy.

Continue reading “Protecting Attorneys and Jeopardizing Creditors: In re Thelen LLP and Rejection of the “Unfinished Business Rule””

Secure Currency or Security? The SEC and Bitcoin Regulation

Author: Dan Stroh, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took a bold step in the regulation of virtual currencies on July 23, 2013, when it charged Trendon Shavers and his company, Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BTCST), with defrauding customers in a Ponzi scheme.[1] The defense offered by Shavers in the motions leading up to the judgment was that bitcoin[2] is not a real currency or money recognized by the U.S. government.[3] Because securities fraud law requires an “investment of money”[4] to form an investment contract, Shavers argued that because the SEC could not show this investment, the statutes did not apply to Bitcoin and the SEC’s prosecution must be dismissed.[5] However, on September 18, 2014, a Texas court granted the SEC’s motion for summary judgment on the violations of anti-fraud and registration provisions of several securities laws and imposed fines of over $40 million on Shavers and BTCST. Because Shavers admitted most of the factual basis of the SEC’s argument, once the court held that an investment contract existed, he had no defense to the charges.[6] This ruling was one of the first to determine the status of bitcoin as a security in a United States court. Although Bitcoin may be a newcomer to the securities industry, defining bitcoin as a security gives regulators at the SEC significant and necessary power to combat fraud in this developing area of finance.

Continue reading “Secure Currency or Security? The SEC and Bitcoin Regulation”

What’s in a Name? A Look into the Washington Redskins Trademark Dispute

Author: Ashley Clever, Contributing Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Many currently debate whether or not the Washington Redskins name and logo should be changed for disparaging Native Americans, but a closer look into trademark protection raises questions about the role of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and where this push for change should ultimately come from. A quick search on the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) reveals 130 records of trademarks containing the f-word (26 of which are currently being used in commerce). Live trademarks include “F—k You,” “F—k It,” “F—k Yeah,” and, quite possibly the most original, “All You F—n’ Hillbillies Shut the F—k Up,” which claims to be a brand of t-shirts.[1] Numerous comedy shows have poked fun at the trademark controversy, such as the South Park episode “Go Fund Yourself,” in which the characters begin a start-up company using the trademark “the Washington Redskins.”[2] While the controversy is being parodied in the news, it raises very relevant questions of why trademarks exist, what can be trademarked, and when a trademark should be canceled. The USPTO may have had good intentions in cancelling the trademark, but all they succeeded in accomplishing was potentially harming consumers by making it more difficult for the Washington Redskins to prevent companies from producing counterfeiting goods bearing the Redskins logo.

Continue reading “What’s in a Name? A Look into the Washington Redskins Trademark Dispute”

Follow Up: “The Davis Good Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule”

On September 24, 2014, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral argument in the case of State of Ohio v. Sudinia Johnson, 2013-1973. At issue was “whether, in the absence of binding appellate precedent, the Davis good faith exception to the exclusionary rule can apply to prevent the suppression of evidence when the officer who committed the Fourth Amendment violation reasonably believed the search was legal.” (from LegallySpeakingOhio)

Blog editor Cameron Downer wrote about Davis for the UC Law Review Blog here. Cameron has since covered the Johnson case for LegallySpeakingOhio, both previewing oral argument and assessing its aftermath. Both articles are worth a read in an important follow up to the Davis case.