December 19, 2007
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We’re always warning our standards setting clients that U.S. antitrust laws are about more than just money – you can go to jail. After a while, it feels like these warnings lose their force. This recent press release from DOJ is a reminder that a violation of the antitrust laws is both a criminal and a civil violation: An independent consultant and two executives of Dunlop Oil & Marine Ltd., a manufacturer of marine hose located in Grimsby, United Kingdom, pleaded guilty today and have agreed to serve record-setting prison sentences for participating in a conspiracy to rig bids, fix prices, and allocate market shares of marine hose sold in the United States, . . . . . . Under the terms of their plea agreements, Whittle has agreed to serve 30 months in jail, Allison has agreed to serve 24 months in jail and Brammar has agreed to serve 20 months in jail. These are the longest prison sentences that foreign national defendants charged with antitrust offenses have agreed to serve in the Division’s history. ‘Nuff said. This is serious stuff. You have to wonder if these guys knew that they were playing with fire until it was too late.
December 18, 2007
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The First Circuit has published a complex decision involving copyright preemption of a state law claim for an accounting of profits between co-authors of a copyrighted work. The case, Cambridge Literary Properties, Ltd. v.W. GoebelPorzellanfabrik G.m.b.H & Co. KG (1st Cir. Dec. 13, 2007), has a tortured procedural history. In fact, the First Circuit issued an earlier decision in the case as far back as 2002. The case is quite complex, and involves the chain of copyright ownership in the famous Hummel figurines designed in Germany in 1931 The fundamental holding is that the federal Copyright statute bars a state law action for an accounting of profits between co-owners (co-owners of a copyright work are have a duty to account to each other for profits) because the condition precedent for that claim — co-authorship status — is premised on copyright law, which has a three year statute of limitations. Here the co-ownership claim was barred by this statute of limitations. First Circuit Judge Conrad K, Cyr, who recently assumed senior status on the First Circuit, wrote a strong dissent, calling the majority’s decision “unprecedented and potentially pernicious,” and arguing that the majority improperly interposed federal law to frustrate what was properly a state law issue. This case addresses some very thorny issues involving the intersection of federal copyright law and state law claims, and will bear close scrutiny by litigants…