Microsoft v. Baker

By: Adam Mohamed Without the class action, many consumers would have no practical remedy for damages suffered no matter how good a claim they may have. For instance, when a consumer believes he is sold a faulty Xbox 360 that damages his $30 videogame disc, it makes no sense for him to pay the $400 filing fee to go to federal court—let alone hire a lawyer. As a result, without the class action, many consumers would not bother going to court, and giant companies that mass-produce products would be left with potentially millions in undeserved profits. Once a class action lawsuit is filed, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the court to grant or deny class certification of the potential class. Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Microsoft v. Baker. In January 2016, the Court granted certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision. The issue in the case is “Whether a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction under both Article III and 28 U.S.C. § 1291 to review an order denying class certification after the named plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss their claims…” Baker v. Microsoft, 797 F.3d 607 (9 th  Cir. 2015). The district court denied the plaintiffs’ [read more]

523(a)(8): The Elusive Student Loan Debt Discharge

By Sam Gamer   This past summer, the total student loan debt owed by Americans crested up to $1.2 trillion. For those staring down their own slices of that staggering sum, the options available to pay it off can seem daunting. A lucky few of these former students might be able to find high-paying jobs that enable them to easily handle their debts. For most, however, the path likely includes some combination of sacrifice, payment plans, multiple jobs, and refinancing. And for those who have an appetite for uphill battles, an additional tool might make sense: bankruptcy. The discharge of one’s debts is a hallmark of the consumer bankruptcy system. Whether filing for chapter 7 or chapter 13, the debtor emerges from the process with his debts forgiven. Well, most of them. Contained within section 523 of the federal bankruptcy code is a list of certain debts that, even in a bankruptcy context, a borrower can’t escape from. Student loans are on this forbidden list. Specifically, the law says that, unless the former student can prove that keeping the loans will impose an “undue hardship” on him or her, the loans will not be discharged even after a bankruptcy filing. [read more]

The Converse Shoe Case: Why We Should “Chuck” the Aesthetic Functionality Doctrine

By Max Scharf Converse is currently in the midst of litigation which seems to completely depend on the status of the aesthetic functionality doctrine. When consumers think of Converse, they often think of their Converse All Star sneakers (as seen below), also known as “Chuck Taylors.” In October 2014, Converse filed suit against Wal-Mart (and dozens of other companies) claiming these companies were selling knock-off Chuck Taylors. For the sake of brevity, this post will mainly focus on Converse’s claims against Wal-Mart. Converse is claiming trade dress infringement on the grounds that Wal-Mart’s “Stinson Oxford” shoes are likely to cause consumer confusion.     Converse claims Wal-Mart is unlawfully reproducing its “midsole trademark” which consists of a particular design, including stripes, a toe cap, and a toe bumper. Indeed, in 2013, Converse registered this design with the Patent and Trademark Office.   Background on Trade Dress Protection In Two Pesos, the Supreme Court held that the Lanham Act protects trade dress, which includes the “shape, color or color combinations, texture, [and] graphics” of a product. Trade dress, in the form of a product design, can only be registered and protected, under the Lanham Act, if it acquires secondary meaning. Secondary [read more]