SSA. Name. Court. Plan.


SSA. Name.

SSA. Social Security Administration.

Thank God for my willingness to plan and not wait until the last minute to do things that need to be done. I have friends who laugh at the fact that I am such a long term planner.  Yes I plan, and it works for me. Why? I discovered the hard way if I wait until my back is up against a deadline, I have very little wiggle room in the event an unforeseen problem arises.  If I plan for the contingency, and it occurs, at least I have Plan B and room to fix the problem, often with time to spare.

Those skills came in handy recently. As some of you know, I have been getting notices about Medicare and steps to take as I approach my 65th Birthday. Last week I went onto the social security administration website to look up my information only to discover I couldn’t get into to the system. I tried to access my account, until it locked me out, which was after about 5 or 6 tries.  I then attempt to call. But, due to wait times in excess of 45-minutes, I found myself calling back several times.  Finally, I got someone who was able to assist me. This was only the beginning of the nightmare.

The third agent I spoke with informed me that my name was not the name in the system.  That in fact, my name was not my name.  As you can imagine, this came as a surprise to me, because for 64 years I have used my name.  She said, “In our system your name is Francine Ward Lipfield.” I told her she was incorrect. She said, “Sorry, but this is what we have.”  I told her when I got married in 1998 for about 30-days, I changed my name, but then reclaimed it. I changed it everywhere e.g., my passport, drivers license, NY bar license (the only one applicable at that time), credit cards, IRS, CA Franchise Tax Board, Deeds of trust, and assumed (albeit incorrectly), that when my federal passport and the taxes were changed, anything I might have unknowingly missed was put on notice.  Boy was I wrong!  Then getting into solution, I asked what was I to do.  She said, “Take your passport and other ID to the nearest SSA office and they will fix it.” Wrong again!

Wanting to take care of this immediately,  I gathered my documents and the next morning went to the SSA office. I was there 45 minutes early to make sure I could get in and out before the crowd. Wrong again! There was a long line of folks, who seemingly had been there since the wee hours of the morning.  One person actually had a little tent. After being there for over two hours, I got to the agent’s counter only to be told I needed a court decree.  I told him the woman on the phone said,…..  he said, in his most haughty angry tone, “I’m here and she’s not; she was wrong and you need to listen to me.” I shut up knowing that in that moment, he had the power and I didn’t. So, I said thank you and left frustrated.  I get that civil servants deal with a lot of different types of folks, but my God, it was only 10am in the morning; he had been there for only 90-minutes. I could not imagine his mood by the end of the day.  What most frustrated me was the contradictory messages from folks who  work at the same place.  What is the average person to do?

Fortunately for me, I was willing to stay the course.

I quickly went back to my office and prepared the five documents I needed to file with the court to get the name I had been using for 64 years.  Kind of funny, for 30 days out of 64 years, 19 years ago, I used my married name. Every other agency got the memo, and yet, after all these years SSA did not.

Not only was it a hassle, but it was costly. I paid $435 for the court filing to use my own name, plus $150 to have my name published in a local newspaper for four weeks. Now I must go to court to get the name I have used for 64 years.

Frustrating as this experience has been, there is much to be grateful for:

  1. I did not wait to the last minute to find out there was a problem;
  2. I had the money to pay for the filings and I had a check and credit card on me;
  3. I knew which documents to file and where to find them;
  4. I knew how to prepare the documents and when in doubt, I was willing to ask for help;
  5. I knew where the courthouse was and how to get there;
  6. I knew how to file the documents, and
  7. That I was able to change my schedule to accommodate this situation.

Further, I write this post as a cautionary tale, particularly for those who wait for the last minute and don’t plan ahead.

Here is what you need to do if you are approaching Medicare age, and even if you are several years away, it’s still a good idea to check.

  1. Go into the SSA website ( and sign up for an account.
  2. If you have trouble call SSA for help immediately.
  3. Depending on what the problem is, ask what you need to do to correct it. If your situation is like mine, where your name does not match the name on your existing social security card, you will need to file a petition with the county where you live. You can attempt to do this yourself, hire a lawyer, ask a knowledgeable friend, or go to the self-help center at your local court building. The key is to get knowledge help. I was able to prepare my own documents because I am a lawyer, and for the most part I knew what I was doing. Even so, I made a mistake, but because I was nice to the county clerk on the day I filed, she helped me out.
  4. If you do it yourself, which I really do not advise, go to your county’s website and look up Name Change. The rules will be different in different states and counties, so make sure you read and understand state rules, as well as any local rules that may apply.
  5. If you reside in Marin county, CA, you will need five documents: petition, (with instructions), Info sheet., consent decree, cover sheet,
  6. You will need an original and two copies when filing with the county clerk in room 113 (check to make sure the room number has not changed)
  7. You will then need to schedule a court date at least 6-weeks into the future.
  8. You then need to select a newspaper where the legal notice will appear for four weeks.
  9. Show up for court.

All of this, in my case, to use a name I have used since 1953, with the exception of one month in 1999.

Bottom line is, if you are the type of person who waits until the last minute to do things, I say, do so at your peril. The choice is yours.

Hope this was helpful.

KickassTorrents. Copyright.


 Torrent Files. Peer-to-peer file sharing.



KickassTorrents (KAT) was a peer-to-peer file sharing website founded in 2008. The site was a directory for torrent files and magnet links, which are essentially used to download data, including video and music. The founder and owner of the now closed-down site is 30-year-old Ukrainian national, Artem Vaulin.

Last year Untied States government charged Mr. Vaulin with running a website (KAT) that facilitated the illegal downloading movies, television shows, music and video games. Vaulin is charged with two counts of criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one count of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Authorities estimate that he brought in between $12.5 to $22 million annually.

Vaulin was detained in Poland and is being held in jail. His attorneys are fighting his extradition to the United States and challenged the validity of his indictment, arguing in part, that their client never stepped foot on American soil.

On August 4th, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that the U.S. government properly indicted Vaulin. Judge John Z. Lee agreed that “as a general matter, the Copyright Act does not apply extraterritorially to reach acts of infringement that occur entirely abroad.” However, he went on to state thatbut the core theory underlying the indictment is that Vaulin aided, abetted, and conspired with users of his network to commit criminal copyright infringement in the United States.”

The judge also went out to say that the indictment alleges that Vaulin made available and caused others to make available copyrighted content without any authorization, and that at least one of the numerous servers the website used was in Chicago, Illinois. The indictment alleges that Vaulin had servers in multiple countries and frequently moved his domain to avoid seizures and civil lawsuits.

Copyright Holders.

Big copyright holders in the United States lauded the judge’s decision, hoping that at the very least this case may make foreign-based copyright infringers think twice about feeling safe from criminal charges. The illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material has been a long-standing problem for copyright holders since the advent of the internet.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts page, Twitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Native Advertising. Content Marketing. Branded Content.

Native Advertising

Native Advertising

There was a time when advertising was easy to identify. On television, before a commercial you often heard, “and now a word from our sponsors.” In magazines and on billboards, you could easily recognize an ad. But now, things have changed. With the advent of native advertising it gets tricky. And the FTC is on the lookout for offenders.

What is native advertising?

Sometimes known as content marketing or branded content, it’s when an advertiser provides its messaging through a celebrity, expert, or social media influencer, or through material that looks like an article, news story, or videos that don’t look like ads, but in fact are.  While an excellent way to market, this increasingly popular form of advertising has created problems for consumers.  Why? Because most often native advertising captures the attention of consumers in seemingly unbiased and independent ways, when in fact, it simply misleads and deceives. The unwary consumer thinks it’s one thing when in fact it’s another.

In 2013, the federal trade commission facilitated a workshop in D.C. titled, Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content. Here is a link to the presentation in case you were unable to attend. (

As a result of information received during the series of workshops, the FTC devised the Native Advertising Guide (

If you currently employ native advertising as part of your marketing plan, or are considering it as an option, I encourage you to read this guide. The Native Adv guide in conjunction with the Endorsement guide and related FAQ address not only when an advertiser needs to disclose its involvement, but specific ways to disclose its involvement.

The guides come down to three rules:

  1. Unless ads are clearly recognizable as ads, it must be identified as an ad.
  2. Only ads that promote a product or service needs to be identified as an ad.
  3. If the content does not mention the features or benefits of the product or service, no ad disclosure is needed.
  1. But wait, there’s more. These three rules seem easy to interpret, but understanding how they show up in practice is more complicated than one initially imagines, especially non-lawyers.  What you can do now: read the FTC guides, understand the specific application, and abide by them.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward.

Contractors. Passwords. Paid subscriber. Data.


Data Protection.

Data Protection.

You have access to a database of information that you have paid for, or even a database that belongs to your employer or a client you work for. The owners of the data supply you with a password to access the database. What happens if you give another person or company the password and they access the data, perhaps they even use the data to commit fraud for their own financial benefit?

What are the possible legal ramifications of such a scenario?

This past May a federal jury in Palm Beach County, Florida ruled on such a case involving contractors, paid subscribers and passwords.

The plaintiff, eVestment Alliance, LLC, a company that provides a variety of cloud-based solutions and data to the investment community, filed a lawsuit against a contractor it had hired, Compass iTech LLC.  As part of its contract, the contractor was given upload-only login credentials to perform tasks on the extensive database.

The suit claimed the defendant used a password it obtained from a “paid subscriber” to their services, and even hired a third party to download the data, which was then used to market and sell its own services. According to the lawsuit, this went on from 2011 through 2014.

When eVestment discovered what was going on, they immediately terminated the contractor’s login credentials. Oddly enough, Compass, the contractor brought a lawsuit against eVestment before the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida for tortious interference and defamation. The suit alleged that eVestment defamed them via derogatory correspondence with their clients.

Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

It was at this point that eVestment took their own legal action and filed a counterclaim alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and violation of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

During the first stage of the lawsuit, a District Court Judge entered a summary judgement in favor of eVestment. The court ruled the actions they took against Compass were lawful and the defamation claim was unfounded.

Then in May of 2017 a jury heard the counterclaim filed by eVestment. Their deliberations found that Compass acted willfully and maliciously and with an intent to defraud, awarding eVestment $3.7 million, which included $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.

The paid subscriber from whom the password was obtained was not included in either of the lawsuits.

A 2016 ruling from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (USA v. Nosal II) caused much controversy and confusion when it comes to sharing of passwords.

The case centered on David Nosal, who worked as a headhunter for executive search firm Korn-Ferry. After leaving Korn-Ferry and starting his own company, he accessed his former employer’s database using the password of a former co-worker who was still employed by Korn-Ferry. The Ninth Circuit upheld lower court rulings that Mr. Nosal was in violation of the CFAA.

Critics of the ruling, including the dissenting judge in the case, say the ruling makes it easier for employers to prosecute both current and former employees for unauthorized use of passwords, but warn that it now makes consumer password sharing a criminal offense under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Numerous articles in the media appeared after the ruling asking, “is sharing your Netflix password now a federal crime?” Calls for congress to amend the CFAA also grew louder, saying the current legislation, which was enacted in 1986, is too ambiguous in the age of the internet.

Krusty Krab. Restaurant. Trademark Infringement.


Sponge Bob SquarePants. Lawsuit.


Trademark Infringement. Krusty Krab.

Almost everyone with young children knows about the animated TV series, Sponge Bob SquarePants. The show is based in the fictional underwater city, Bikini Bottom. And of course, within this city is a restaurant called The Krusty Krab, run by a grouchy crab called Mr. Krabs.

In January of 2016, this fictional restaurant became the center of a trademark lawsuit.

Viacom. Nickelodeon.

Viacom, who owns Nickelodeon, the network which airs Sponge Bob SquarePants, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a Texas based company, IJR Capital Investments, who attempted to open a seafood restaurant called…The Krusty Krab.

Although the name of the fictional restaurant was never registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Viacom contended that its common law trademark rights were violated. A common law trademark is established through continued “use” and not through statute. Attorneys for Viacom argued that the Krusty Krab animated restaurant has been in continuous use since 1999 and appeared in over 160 episodes of the TV series.

Secondary Meaning.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Gray Miller ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Viacom. The judge cited precedent and continued use in his decision, noting that the name “Krusty Krab” had acquired “secondary meaning” and was thus, distinctive. He went on to say that the potential for confusion was very high.

Judge Miller stopped short of awarding Viacom on their claim of trademark dilution, noting that the defendant, IJR Capital Investments, never actually opened the proposed restaurant, thus never used the trademark in commerce, a requirement for both federal and state trademark dilution law.

In the past, Viacom has allowed restaurants to use its trademarks via licensing agreements, the most notable example being a restaurant chain called Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. which originated from the 1994 box office hit “Forrest Gump.”

This case is far from the first of its kind. Other common law marks such as “Daily Planet” and “Kryptonite” were the subject of lawsuits involving Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Once again, this case highlights the importance of “use” when there is no registration. Consistent use over a prolonged period, as well as “secondary meaning” are two of the key elements of common law trademark lawsuits.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward, and what do you think? Join the conversation on my Facebook Law Fan Page, my Twitter Law Page, my Google+ Page, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups.