LA Times: Time for City Leaders to “Be Straight” with Angelenos

Today’s Op-Ed by the Los Angeles Times editorial board makes it clear: The City of Los Angeles has duped citizens by promising recycling benefits but failing to disclosed forced price increases of 100, 200, 300 percent and more. Still worse, the City’s plan increases burdens on elderly property owners, small business owners and HOA owners. In its op-ed, the Times notes that the City spent years preparing this system, while at the same time hiding its failure to negotiate the reduced rates it promised. These higher rates are expected not only to impact up to 80,000 businesses, but will hit tenants hard.

On behalf of lead plaintiff the Apartment Owners Association of California, the Shining Law Firm has championed the rights of Angelenos to vote on tax increases negotiated and made in secret.

To read the LA Times op-ed, click here:

Shining Firm Represents Commercial Properties Owners Against Excessive Waste Hauling Hikes by City of LA

On July 1, 2017, the City of Los Angeles implemented massive rate hikes on owners of commercial property and apartment owners.  The Shining Law Firm is fighting these rate hikes arguing that they violate Proposition 218, the “Right To Vote on Taxes Act”.  The Right to Vote on Taxes Act was passed by California voters in 1996 as a follow-up to close loopholes in Proposition 13.  In attempts to get around Proposition 13’s bans on illegal tax increases without a vote, Proposition 218 calls out so-called “fees” and “assessments” used to circumvent Prop 13.

The specific City program  that requires these higher rates is called “Zero Waste” or “recyLA”. The program is supposedly designed to increase rates of recyling by consumers.  However, these charges are being forced disproportionately on the impacted owners, in particular smaller owners who are constricted by rent control.  The program forces commercial property and apartment owners to use one of seven selected waste haulers in seven pre-determined “zones”.  These haulers are called the “Franchisees”.  In addition to these increased rates, the City will receive an extra 2% of the gross receipts from each hauler, up from 10% previously.   Many impacted property owners are also having to pay extra fees such as pull-outs, locking charges and other fees that were not previously before in Los Angeles under free competition.  The Shining Law Firm’s complaint also alleges that these extra burdens are a cost to owners, and thus also part of the illegal tax grab.

The Apartment Owners Association of California is leading the charge as one of the lead plaintiffs of this case.  The case is currently a class action seeking an injunction, but notice has been given to the City that a class action for damages may be brought as necessary.

If you are a commercial property owner in Los Angeles and you believe you have been impacted, you may be a ‘putative’ class member.  Please call our offices at 310-490-4383 to see if you qualify today.

For more information, see the following recent articles from the Los Angeles Times:

Sky no longer falling: the word “sky” is once again safe to use in Great Britain

The much anticipated release of the game “No Man’s Sky” can proceed now without further delay as British Sky TV owners have settled their trademark lawsuit against the game company.

Could this happen in the United States?  Just like everything else in business, trademark law is becoming globalized.  Of course, lawyers can’t just say “globalization” – they need their own fancy term which is called “harmonization”.  The International Trademark Association has posted a nice overview of what is supposed to happen to “generic” words.  Simply put, they are not supposed to be given trademark value.  But as is often in legal areas stemming from British common law, there are exceptions to exceptions to exceptions.

It is always recommended that business owners consult with an experienced trademark attorney before really investing in any brand name, service name or trademark.  A few thousand dollars can save months and years of legal aggravation over what should be “free” as the “sky” above.

Name Your Price? The New Proposed No-fault Patent License

The creator of Priceline, Jay Walker, has become fascinated by patents and patent licensing it seems.  He has bought and merged several patent holding (some say patent troll) companies and proposed creation of a new agency called the “United States Patent Utility”.  It would act as ASCAP works for copyright protection, charging license fees, negotiating with potential users and presumably sending cease and desist letters to potential infringers. 

Will this work because patents have become as narrow as copyrights, and their value is as low?  Are patent attorneys or licensing attorneys now irrelevant to patent licensing?  Or is the specialization of licensing becoming even more narrow and parochial?

Go to:

Press Release: May 14, 2014, “Board Members Announced for Patent Licensing Entity

[PLI Patent Law Center News, “Jay Walker Licensing Plan Takes Shape”

Posner Pronounces Promega Pilfered Patented Process

Click here to read Posner opinion in Promega v. Life Technologies, 2013

While sitting as a judge in the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Posner has ruled in a 15-page Markman opinion that Promega’s DNA fingerprint kit infringes on a patented process licensed by Applied Bioscience from Caltech. In the brief opinion, Posner rejects Promega’s efforts to narrow the patent’s claims beyond those regularly understood by expert scientists. Unfortunately for those watching SCOTUS and its rulings with regard to the Myriad case, Posner very clearly does not comment on the validity of the claims. We’ll have to stay tuned for that one.

The latter portion of the opinion is a veritable collection of USPTO Patent Bar test answers. Posner rejected arguments that the Caltech patent did not try to improperly “recapture reissue” by improperly broadening its claims in reissue. Next, he explained away Promega’s arguments that there was laches/equitable estoppel in the prosecution of the claims. He deals a coup de grace to arguments with regard to priority based on waiver and abandonment of a prior continuation application as the proper extension of time was sought and used. Lastly, he shuts the door on any admission that might be contained in a cross-license.

Posner’s job at the lower court may have been made easier by agreements in the cross-license that the patent claims were valid. Of course, Posner stays far away from any implication that this might have impacted his views on infringement. Of course, we know that Posner would never allow such a collateral issue to color his views while examining claims.

This is not the last word regarding these much litigated Caltech patents. So stay tuned for more soon.

“Sea change” coming for cancer treatments

With the human genome project over, and new details of cancer oncogenes and tumor suppressors coming daily, where are the new treatments for cancer? A new article discusses how the FDA is working with researchers to expedite or ‘fast track’ certain kinds of therapeutic drugs to locate individualized breakthroughs faster and sooner.

This is the promise of gene sequencing finally coming to fruition. While real complexity still exists, the promise of customized cancer treatments is becoming a reality. Tumors are being sequenced in the hundreds if not thousands, and their differences and similarities charted, picked apart and compared.

For example, in September of 2012, a group of researchers called the Cancer Genome Atlas Network further dissected the types and subtypes of breast cancer. Using genomic analysis, four distinct sub-types exist with vastly different genetic profiles in terms of what proteins will turn their internal switches ‘off’ or ‘on’.

These types of discoveries will help us finally unravel the complexities of cancer. Once a sequence is known, along with its epigentics, protogenomics and metabiolomics together new powerful therapies can be readily created.

Yet, even as these new technologies flourish, the Supreme Court stands ready to exclude them from patent protection as “unpatentable abstract ideas.” The ACLU has successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue of “whether human genes can be patented” in the case of Association of Advanced Pathology vs. Myriad. Unfortunately, this is not an issue that needs to be decided. The work that has been performed by doctors, researchers, laboratories and companies on each and every diagnostic tool and therapy is not a “human gene” and has taken thousands of person-hours to develop. A patent also is not forever, and without some expectation of recouping research costs, who will bother with small subsets of cancers when huge drug conglomerates will swoop in and steal their work as soon as it is published?

As first world countries agonize over how to eliminate carcinogens from our world, the medical world may beat us to the punch with cures for many if not most cancers. It is an idealist’s wish, but science has created hope for some of that idealism to come true. Let’s hope that the work, creativity and unique nature of these discoveries is given the credit and protection it is due.

Can Mattel and MGM play nice if ordered to by the court?

The carousel of verdicts that is the “Barbie vs. Bratz” case has gone around one more time. Now, MGM appears to have the upper hand, at least for now. The jury’s 2011 verdict for MGM has been slashed in half by the Ninth Circuit, and MGM’s trade secret claim has been thrown out, albeit without prejudice. Specifically, on January 25, 2013, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski issued a terse, two-page order overturning half of the approximately $175 million jury award. 2013 DJDAR 1040 (January 25, 2013).

To put this seemingly innocuous ruling in perspective, let’s recap a bit:

The case dates back to its original filing in 2004 in Los Angeles’ federal court. See

In 2008, during the first trial, a jury awarded Mattel $100 million in damages for copyright violations it alleged and trade secret theft by one of its employees who left Mattel to create the Bratz dolls at MGM.

In 2010, the Ninth Circuit reversed the jury verdict (see Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entm’t, Inc., 616 F.3d 904, 918. MGA went on the offensive, filing a claim against Mattel for trade secret misappropriation.

Then in April of 2011, during the retrial, the new jury went completely the opposite way, ruling that Mattel was entitled to $10,000, but that MGM was entitled to approximately $80 million for trade secret theft and a staggering $137 million in attorneys’ fees for having to endure the legal battle with Mattel (who was now on the losing side). (see accessed on 2/5/2013). What firm was able to bill $137 million in seven years? None other than Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

So back to the latest ruling in which Chief Judge Alex Kozinski has issued another succinct yet weighty proclaimation. First, Judge Kozinski zigged for Mattel, as the $80 million awarded by the jury to the Bratz owners for trade secret theft was tossed alongside with Mattel’s trade secret theft claims. MGM’s claims for trade secret theft should “not have reached this jury” according to the Chief Judge.

But just as one hand giveth, the other taketh away: Next, Kozinski approved the stunning $137 million award to MGM in the cost of its attorney’s fees. In five brusque paragraphs, with very little discussion, the opinion is a stinging rebuke of one of the countries’ leading law firms, Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. One of the most telling quotes was an affirmation that Mattel’s scorched earth strategy was simply “stunning in scope and unreasonable in the relief it requested.'”

Finally, Judge Kozinski, who always enjoys the last word, ended the opinion by writing “While this may not be the last word on the subject, perhaps Mattel and MGA can take a lesson from their target demographic: Play nice.” We’ll wait for the last word on that one, but we won’t be holding our breath.

History of Science Blogs (already?!)

As science on the internet matures, an actual history of science on the internet necessarily is spawning.  Scientific American columnist Bora Zivkovic has written an in-depth article going back into our recent memories: take a walk back in time to the days of usenets, html perl scripts and plain old flame wars.

See also: (evolution and history of science) (medicine)

Pandas’ Thumb: (evolution)