Cybersquatting. GoDaddy. Domain Registration. Domain Search.

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AMPAS v. GoDaddy

Cybersqatting. Trademark infringement.

Cybersquatting. Trademark infringement.

The culmination of a protracted lawsuit filed back in 2010 is set to begin on August 4th in a California District Court. The suit involves The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), best known for its annual Academy Awards presentations, also known as The Oscars, is seeking damages from Internet domain registrar giant GoDaddy. The two have been entangled in court going on five years in a landmark “cybersquatting” case.

So what is cybersquatting?

According to Dictionary.com, cybersquatting is defined as follows: “the registration of a commercially valuable Internet domain name, as a trademark, with the intention of selling it or profiting from its use.”

GoDaddy is accused of cybersquatting by allowing the registration of domains that AMPAS say are “confusingly similar” to their brands, such as “Oscar” and “Academy Awards.” So far, the Academy has had success in court against the majority of the nearly 300 domains in question. The upcoming trial will rule on a remaining 57 domain names.

AMPAS is claiming that GoDaddy generated at least $100 million in revenue from the domains in question and that the sites diverted traffic away from their official websites, Oscar.org and Oscar.com. GoDaddy contends that parts of the suit are frivolous, citing that “Oscar” has numerous meanings, including first names. The domain company, who reported earnings of over a billion dollars in 2014, contends that it implemented a “filter” in response to trademark concerns back in 2013.

Legal parameters of cybersquatting fall under the The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), enacted in 1999.

Cybersquatting Cases

Other high-profile cybersquatting cases include actress Julia Roberts who sued over the domain name juliaroberts.com, telecommunications giant Verizon who sued over the domains myverizonwireless.com, iphoneverizonplans.com and verizon-cellular.com, and iconic British football club Manchester United over the domain name manchesterunitedfc.com, which was purchased by an opposing fan.

Cybersquatting has also gained notoriety in the political arena over the past several years with people setting up domains using the names of likely presidential candidates, either for political purposes or for potential financial gain. Critics of cybersquatting laws contend that if taken too far they can suppress free speech.

What do you think?

Feel free to join my conversation on Facebook, Facebook 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.

Scandal. Ethics. Dennis Hastert. Family Values.

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Scandal. Ethics. Values. Scandal ABC.

Scandal.

Scandal. Ethics.

I am always amazed at how folks hold themselves out as living one way (living with ethics), but in truth, live very different lives. There are people who do horrible things and proclaim themselves to be the good guys–the wearers of the white hats. We see it everywhere from drug dealers who claim they sell drugs to children in order support their families, to pedophiles that assert that they have sex with children because they really love and cherish them, to Dennis Hastert yet another politician who TALKS about family values, to any number of American role models.  Is it any wonder why our real life role model’s behave as they do? Why would they not, when we let them know who we love on TV. We love the scandal. We love the politicians, the actors, the wall streeters who engage in scandal. In fact we celebrate them. The more scandal and debauchery, the better.

This type of hypocrisy has me thinking about the character Olivia Pope and her band of merry gladiators from the political drama series, Scandal.

During its first season I enjoyed watching Scandal, despite that I never liked the basic premise of a woman disrespecting another woman by openly sleeping with her husband. While some would see Olivia Pope as beautiful, smart, clever, and successful; I see her as a woman who can be disingenuous and makes poor choices in her life.  I, in fact, see her as a women with very low self esteem. Why else would she settle for seconds in life?

I hoped in the second season Olivia would repent and at a minimum, be made to pay for her scandalous behavior. Instead, she was made to be, even more of the heroine; the wearing of the “white hat.” And all along as she brazenly had an affair with a married man, she chastised her clients for not knowing the difference between right and wrong.

As a result, I found myself tuning in to watch the drama series less and less. And while the values and beliefs her character portrays go against mine, I must admit I LOVE Shonda Rhimes.  She totally rocks! She is an amazing and brilliant storyteller who knows how to keep you interested.  And, she always gives me something to talk about in my blogs. I only wish I could craft a story as well as she.

This past weekend while I was resting and nursing a cold, I did however get caught up with the last 3 months of Scandal, which I did not see.  That tells you how far removed from the series I had become. Three months of episodes. When the series first started, I waited with baited breath for the next episode. Anyway, while watching the episodes I had hoped to see Olivia’s character change for the better–at least a tad bit. Instead, I was reminded of the hypocrisy that Olivia Pope lives by. Her merry band of degenerates (murderers, torturers, sleazeballs, and herself at the helm) are quick to talk about what’s right, as they kill and torture anyone who gets in their way. Interestingly, when Olivia encourages Huck, who is a member of her crisis management team, to kill and torture, it’s okay, because they are the “white hats.” Yet, because Olivia hates her father, when he kills, in her eyes he is an evil person.

Then the series continues with Fitz kicking Mellie, his wife and the mother of his children, out of the White House. His reasoning: she did a bad thing. Although unbeknownst to her at the time, she accepted money from Olivia’s father for her campaign and inadvertently contributed to the death of a bus load of people. How quickly Fitz has forgotten that he shot down a plane full of civilians, murdered (smothered) a Supreme Court Justice, and continues to openly and notoriously have an affair disrespecting his wife and the Oval Office. Yet, all along he and Olivia talk about what’s right and what’s wrong. And lest we forget that the President of the Scandal United States caused a war in order to save his mistress. Hello, is something wrong with this picture?

As I watched the series, I began to think am I the only one who sees the hypocrisies of these characters?

Do you watch Scandal? What do you think? 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 pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Data Breach. Privacy.

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Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Data Breach. Privacy.

Anyone who closely follows the news has heard the term “data breach” all too often in recent months. A violation of ones privacy rights.  There is little doubt that these “breaches” of consumer’s personally identifiable information (PII) via the nation’s retailers are becoming a serious threat to consumers.

This problem has hit California particularly hard over the past year, so much so that some have begun referring to 2014 as “the year of the data breach.” California legislators have taken notice. In the wake of this epidemic, the State has proposed two bills designed to educate consumers and keep retailers accountable for safeguarding personal information.

One bill proposed by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, of California’s 19th district, is SB-570. The bill seeks to simplify and standardize the manner in which consumers are informed of any data breach. The bill requires notification of a data breach to be detailed, in a simple to read one-page document headlined “Notice of Data Breach,” with a predefined format containing the following information:

  • What Happened
  • What Information Was Involved
  • What Are We (retailer) Doing
  • What You Can Do
  • For More Information

A second bill dealing with this issue is AB 964, sponsored by Assembly Member Ed Chau, of California’s 49th Assembly District. Among other things, this bill seeks to define the term “encryption” when used by businesses. The bill defines encryption as “rendered unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable through a security technology or methodology generally accepted in the field of information security.”

At the present time data breach statutes in the state of California fall under the umbrella of the Customer Records Act, which specifies that companies “must implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices,” in regards to customer’s Personally Identifiable Information, and notify the customer of breaches without “unreasonable delay.”

Will these pending Senate and Assembly bills do anything to stem the tide of personal data breaches? While these proposed bills may tighten up procedures and language concerning how businesses handle notification of data breaches, they don’t specifically create a solution to the crime itself. Sadly, with hackers becoming more sophisticated, companies becoming less careful in how they handle our PII and our privacy, and consumers becoming more careless with their own private information, eradicating these crimes altogether may be a long and tedious battle.

So what can consumers do?

Right or wrong, the brunt of the responsibility falls on you, as usual. Shopping with credit and debit cards, while very convenient, opens you up to some risk. You must take proactive steps to protect yourself and you must be vigilant when it comes to your finances. Read here for some simple common sense tips to avoid data breaches: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/21/5-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-data-breaches/15953321/

Remember, the first line of protection is always you. Stay involved, stay alert and stay informed. ‘

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Law Facebook, Esteemable Acts Facebook Fan Page,  Law Twitter, Esteemableacts Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

Trust. Will. Estate Plan.

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Will. Trust. Estate Plan

Will. Trust.

Will. Trust.

How prepared are you for your future and the future of your loved ones – truly prepared, a little prepared, or not so much? Believe it or not, most people are not. Many people believe they don’t really need to get their estate plan in order. Some feel as long as they have just a Will, they are protecting their assets and their family’s future. However, true protection goes further than a simple Will.

Yes, it is very wise for any adult with any valuable assets to have a well drafted will. However, true protection goes a lot further. The complete estate plan includes a valid Will, the Trust, the Power of Attorney, the Healthcare Directive, and the Assignment of Assets document.

The Trust.
When planning for your estate in California, if you have assets, your first document should be the Trust. You cannot overlook the importance of setting up a Trust. If you reside in the state of California, there is no excuse not to have one. While your taxes may not be eliminated, they may be reduced. And with a valid and fully-funded Trust, you can potentially avoid probate and the extra expense and time that goes along with administering the estate through probate. Trusts can give you greater control over your estate, how it is divided, and how and when assets are distributed. Then there is the matter of privacy. Unlike probate, trusts are not a matter of public record. There are various ways to set up a trust so that it specifically suits your needs now and after you have passed. You can even set up special trusts for the care and maintenance of disabled relatives, pets, and other loved ones.

The Will.
When a Trust is part of the entire estate plan, we call the Will a Pour-over will, because it catches anything accidentally not included in the Trust. At a bare minimum, your estate plan should include a Will. However, as earlier mentioned, if you have valuable assets, consider having a trust prepared. It is important to know that if you have a Will but no Trust, your estate will go through Probate.

The Power of Attorney.
Let’s not forget about the all-important Power of Attorney. Suppose you become terminally ill and/or incapacitated to the degree you cannot manage your affairs, who will look out for your financial interests? Who will pay your bills? Who will watch over your investments? Who will make bank deposits or withdrawals for you? Who will handle issues regarding insurance and government benefits? Without proper agency documents, such as the Power of Attorney, your family members may wind up in a nasty and protracted court battle to determine who will handle these things on your behalf. If you are not bothered by your family “duking it out” on your behalf, then ignore my warning. If you care, make sure your desires are clearly, explicitly, and expressly understood.

The Healthcare Directive.
Then there is the all-important issue of the Healthcare Directive. This document informs your family, and any medical professionals who might be attending to your needs, of your wishes when it comes to your healthcare. It also enables you to name a person called, the Agent or the Attorney-in-Fact to make your healthcare decisions for you, based on your desires. How many times do people become very ill and their family is left thinking, or fighting over, what medical procedures or lack thereof should be performed? Unfortunately, this happens all too often. The Healthcare Directive allows you to choose a primary physician, where and if you will be buried, and a number of other items.

Even if you have been proactive in regards to your estate planning and have all of your documents in order, it is extremely important to know exactly what is in those documents and know exactly what you are agreeing to before signing on the dotted line. I can’t stress this point enough! Proper planning and precise legal documentation are the keys to protecting yourself, your estate and your family.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

Security Breach. Target. Identity Theft.

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Security Breach. Target.

Security Breach. Identity Theft.

Security Breach. Identity Theft.

During the holiday shopping season of 2013, giant retailer, Target, suffered a security breach that exposed the private information of 110 million Target shoppers via a data theft of credit and debit card information. A class-action lawsuit against Target was filed shortly thereafter. Identity theft is a major consequence of a security breach.

Target has now agreed to pay $10 million in damages suffered from the security breach. The money will be deposited into an escrow account from where people whose information was exposed will collect payouts of up to $10,000. The court also decreed that Target manage these payouts via an online website. Further directives from the court stipulated that Target hire a “Chief Information Security Officer.”

Before the settlement was reached, Target argued that customers had “no standing” in establishing any injuries.

Data Breach has Far-Reaching Security Implications.

According to consumer-advocate organizations, this data breach has far-reaching security implications due to the fact that Target is an industry leader in data mining. This is the practice of using and analyzing the shopping habits and purchasing preferences of shoppers.  Once again, identity theft is a far-reaching implication of a security breach.

Security breaches at large retailers are not uncommon in the digital age. In 2014, The Home Depot suffered a breach when hackers installed malware on self-checkout registers. The company said the breach affected 56 million debit and credit cards in the United States and Canada.

As we can see, data breaches such as the ones mentioned above can wreak havoc on people’s lives. Keeping your debit and credit card information from getting into the wrong hands can be a challenge, but there are certain things you can do.

In a 2014 Time.com article, author Martha C. White, who writes about consumer debit, credit and retail banking suggests 6 things you can do the help prevent data theft.

  1. Use a Credit Card if you can: credit cards have more protections than debit cards and your bank account is not at risk.
  2. Sign instead of keying in your PIN: inputting your PIN gives thieves the opportunity to create a fake debit card and withdrawing your money from an ATM.
  3. Keep watching your statement: you never know when a thief will begin to use your compromised information. Often there is a time lapse between breach and use.
  4. Disable automatic transfers linked to accounts: thieves can empty out both accounts if your information is stolen.
  5. Use more, and better, passwords: 55% of all consumers use the same username and passwords for all their online accounts. If criminals breach one account, they can breach all of them.
  6. Set up account alerts: most banks let customers sign up for alerts that tell them if certain types of transactions are made.

Yes, using your debit and credit cards for shopping can be very convenient, but we all need to take responsibility in protecting our finances and personal information from thieves who are becoming better and better at stealing this data.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.