Lawsuits filed in California on May 6 allege that two of the nation's largest tax preparation companies defrauded low-income filers by using deceptive and misleading practices. The companies supposedly made it difficult for taxpayers to access the Internal Revenue Service's Free File program. In the lawsuits, the Los Angeles City Attorney accuses H&R Block and Inuit of violating California's unfair competition law. The litigation asks for injunctions to put an end to the alleged deceptive practices and seeks restitution for filers who paid for tax preparation services even though they qualified for the Free File program.
While diet products are popular in California for people seeking to lose weight, many supplements and other items are backed by little to no meaningful evidence. Now, one advertising agency has settled a joint complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Maine state government for deceptive advertising. The firm, Marketing Architects, agreed to pay $2 million to the plaintiffs, representing the largest fine imposed on an ad agency. The plaintiffs had accused the company of using false and misleading claims to promote dubious weight-loss regimens.
California-born celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the investors in a diamond company that recently received a warning letter from the Federal Trade Commission over advertising practices. Diamond Foundry, which counts the actor among its backers, is a purveyor of laboratory-created diamonds. These man-made diamonds have chemical properties equivalent to those of natural, or mined, diamonds. However, rather than being mined from the earth, these diamonds are grown entirely inside a laboratory, typically through the use of a small plasma reactor that allows chemical elements to form a final stone.
One of California's largest tech companies is asking the Supreme Court to intervene in a copyright dispute. Google and Oracle have been locked for years in a battle over 37 APIs, or application programming interfaces, for the Java language. These APIs are used by software programmers to allow different pieces of code to communicate with one another. It is fairly common for programmers to copy other developers' APIs when writing new software, something that Google did with Java APIs when developing code for its Android mobile operating system.
A patent dispute is moving forward in the Southern District of California between two major technology corporations. The litigation between Apple and Qualcomm hinges on whether the latter's alleged monopoly on chipset technologies for mobile phones led to overpayments by Apple and other equipment manufacturers. Qualcomm has previously faced investigations by the European Union and Korean regulators as well as the Federal Trade Commission, paying billions of dollars in antitrust fines over its licensing process for its patents for mobile chipsets.
Some art aficionados in California may have heard about a dispute between companies owned by two prominent art collectors involving a mixed-media work by Frank Stella that has resulted in a lawsuit against another gallery. The lawsuit was filed by Artemus in July in the New York Supreme Court against the Paul Kasmin Gallery. It alleges that the gallery falsified documents related to the Stella work.
Some California residents may be aware that Fujifilm and Xerox were in talks about a merger. On June 18, Fujifilm filed a lawsuit against Xerox for reneging on the deal. Fujifilm is asking for more than $1 billion and punitive damages since Xerox walked away from the $6.1 billion transaction.
California residents who follow business news may be aware that Adidas and Skechers have been embroiled in disputes over sneaker designs for more than two decades. Adidas filed a lawsuit in September 2015 alleging that the Onix sneaker made by Skechers was a virtual copy of its iconic Stan Smith shoe, and the German company's arguments were convincing enough to persuade a judge to prohibit Skechers from selling athletic footwear featuring a three-stripe design or the Supernova name.
Unfortunately, unfair competitions can hurt many consumers and businesses in California. Practices that are deemed to be unfair include trademark infringement, false advertising and misappropriation of trade secrets. Both state and federal laws aim to protect consumers and businesses from being hurt by such illegal acts. Consumer protection laws are generally distinct from those that protect companies from such activities.
Californians who are planning to launch new websites should take care to avoid several common pitfalls involving intellectual property. If business owners are not careful with their website launches, they may be sued in court. It is important for businesses to conduct due diligence before they launch their websites.