Stephen L. Miles back in the TV game

Say the name Stephen L. Miles around someone who lived in the Baltimore area in the ’80s or ’90s and the likely response you’ll get is, “Let’s talk about it.”

The lawyer as well-known for his legal work as he is for his commercials and his catch phrase is back on the airwaves with a new commercial.

According to the release heralding his return to TV, Miles broke the barrier in the 1970s that said lawyers shouldn’t hawk their services on the boob tube.

After his initial success with local spots, Miles took his advertising dollars to a New York media firm and had them put together even stronger television pieces.

His heavy advertising made him the fifth-largest legal advertiser in the country in the 1980s. His ads were always straightforward and simple, the complete opposite of ads from this local lawyer, who begs insurance companies not to urinate on his leg and tell him it’s raining.

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A lawsuit to relish

We don’t normally blog about Associated Press stories that appear on our website, but when a judge is quoted as saying, “Let the wiener wars begin,” we must spring into action.

It seems the parent companies of Oscar Meyer (Kraft) and Ball Park (Sara Lee) are in court over claims of breaking false-advertising laws. It began with Sara Lee challenging Kraft’s claim in 2009 that Oscar Meyer beat Ball Park in a taste test. Kraft responded the same year with a lawsuit alleging Sara Lee ran false ads calling Ball Park “America’s Best Franks.”

As a fan of another brand of hot dogs, I’m not quite sure who to side with here. Oscar Meyer has, of course, the Wienermobile. Enough said.

Ball Park counters with childhood memories of commercials that featured the tagline,  “Ball Park franks: They plump when you cook them.” Isn’t that all you can ask of your hot dog? And didn’t everyone want to be like Mike?

Guess we’ll just have to see which side’s claims pass mustard.

Legal disptach from the Consumer Electronics Show

Frank Gorman of Gorman & Williams is in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. It’s Gorman’s first time at CES since 2007, although he attended for most of the Aughts.

The Baltimore lawyer says he goes “to see and keep up with technology,” which helps in his intellectual property practice. He is also an enthusiastic advocate of courtroom technology.

Gorman has graciously offered to write a few dispatches from Vegas. Today is an overview of CES; Monday he’ll have a look at some of the cool gadgets that are the hallmark of the event.

Gadgets aside, the big-picture story at CES 2011 is the increasing competition among the major players in the industry as they use existing technologies to create new products and services.

CES 2011 is big and sprawling, as in previous years. There are more than 2,700 exhibitors with booths in the Las Vegas Convention Center touting an incredible variety of consumer electronic products and services. There is a full array of conferences, presentations, and keynote speakers. There are thousands of registered attendees. Lots of deals will be made. In short, the excitement in Las Vegas this week is the event itself.

CES this year, however, is not a showcase for breakthrough technologies that permit consumers to do things they could not do before. In previous years, the excitement came from dramatic changes: broadband replaces dial-up; streaming digital content from its source eliminates the need for CDs and DVDs; Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) ends the monopoly of keyboarding and permits consumers to communicate over the Internet by voice; wireless frees consumers from cords.

Instead, CES 2011 is the arena for the competing products that have resulted from high-level market competition in the industry. Software giants Google, Microsoft, Apple are each innovating and maneuvering to gain dominance in markets previously dominated by the others.

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Is there a ribbon for lawsuit awareness?

The Huffington Post reported last month that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure has filed trademark infringement lawsuits against other charities that use “for the cure” in their names. The story alleges Komen spends a $1 million a year in donor funds on such litigation.

The foundation has more than 200 registered trademarks, and I didn’t even know you could protect a phrase like “for the cure,” hon.

Even though the HuffPost story was published in December, I first heard about it Monday night from Stephen Colbert. Enjoy his take here.

Hon Inc. and ‘pulling a Danny’

Judging by the reader responses to news that the word “Hon” has been trademarked, some Baltimoreans might have a new name for Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting: Atilla.

The great John McIntyre explains why this touches a nerve:

What leads to the raised voices is the question of ownership of language. And with that question come all the overtones of social class, local history and culture, and personal likes and dislikes that crowd in on discussions of language and ensure that such discussions will never be neutral or unemotional.

Coincidentally, The New York Times had a story yesterday about athletes trademarking their catchphrases. I did not know that Nike owns the right to the name “LeBron.”

The lesson? I better call a lawyer now about the legal rights for “pulling a Danny.”

Judicial election spurs family feud in the press

I’ve been working on a story about contested judicial elections and coincidentally came across a story about such a race in Oklahoma. (Shameless self-promotion: my story is slated for our Aug. 9 Maryland Lawyer.)

John Mantooth was running for a seat in on Oklahoma’s District Court in Tuesday’s primary election. (No word on whether he is related to Wes.) Mantooth’s adult daughter took out an ad in a local paper with the following headline: “Do Not Vote For My Dad!” There’s also a website of the same name.

The ad claims Mantooth is neither a good dad nor a good grandfather. The daughter, Jan Schill, said she’s never had a good relationship with her father, who divorced her mother in 1981. Mantooth said he was “saddened” and “hurt” by the ad but still loves his daughter.

Mantooth also suspected politics had something to do with the ad. Schill’s husband was once a law partner of Greg Dixon, one of Mantooth’s opponents.

“For a person to believe that Greg Dixon had nothing to do with this is like trying to believe that cows give chocolate milk,” Mantooth said.

Dixon and Mantooth, incidentally, were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary and will face off in the general election in November.

Law blog round-up

Uh oh, sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!!! Hopefully our law links provide the antidote. (Note: Loyal readers recall Caryn Tamber writing last week that Danielle Ulman would take over the blog round-up. Danielle will, but today she is getting situated in her new business-of-law chair, so you’re stuck with me.)

“Is there a legal angle to the WikiLeaks story?” The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog asks — and answers that it’s unlikely the government can successfully prosecute anyone connected to the leak.

  • Who knew pomegranate juice had so much bite? A D.C. judge prevents the National Law Journal from publishing details from documents it legally obtained in a lawsuit involving Hogan Lovells and POM Wonderful.  (HT: ABA Law Journal)
  • Above the Law wishes good luck to everyone taking the Bar Exam this week. (As do we. But really, shouldn’t you be studying?)
  • Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to recruit clients, and here’s a study that proves it. (HT: LawMarketing Blog)
  • First Mel Gibson. Now Oliver Stone? Oy!

For you, Subway, The Daily Record’s just $1

The other day, I found in my office mailbox a photocopied Subway coupon sheet addressed to “Daily Record Newspaper Employees” and touting “great offers.” As a longtime Subway customer, I read on, expecting to find a deal that would save me a few bucks. Instead, I met with an insult to my intelligence.

“Daily Record Newspaper Employees,” one coupon advertised, could get a FOOTLONG sub, chips and a drink for $7.

Thanks for the personal invitation, Subway, but spare me the disingenuous implication of exclusivity. As any regular patron of the sandwich chain knows, that’s what everybody pays when they make a $5 FOOTLONG into a combo meal.

I don’t know whether the other coupons offer similarly misleading deals. Maybe somebody at another downtown Baltimore employer who eats six-inch subs and has little tolerance for “one for $1, two for $2″ bargains cares to chime in.

Monday law blog round-up

Happy Monday! Here are a few law links to start your week:

  • Jessamy challenger Gregg Bernstein tells Investigative Voice that his opponent doesn’t have a good relationship with police and hasn’t insisted that her prosecutors come to court prepared for trial. Bernstein also criticizes Jessamy’s practice of barring prosecutors from calling certain officers as witnesses because of perceived integrity issues.
  • “Obviously, he wants to be LeBron James’ father,” Ron Miller writes of the Washington lawyer who is claiming paternity of LeBron James. “Let’s say he is the father. Is it worth admitting you committed statutory rape and that you were basically a deadbeat dad until your kid became an NBA mega star?”
  • Why are college graduates applying to and choosing to attend law school in such great numbers, even as the legal sector shrinks?
  • John Stossel is ridiculously out of touch on products liability issues, writes The Pop Tort.
  • “Pill mills,” in which “drug dealer[s] with… white coat[s] on” prescribe pain meds to addicts and dealers with abandon, are a scourge in South Florida.
  • Please do yourself a favor and watch this collection of the worst lawyer ads out there. Watch this one too, which Walter Olson at Overlawyered feels was wrongly left out.

Law school buys naming rights to stadium

In a very unusual promotional deal, a law school in Michigan has bought the naming rights to a minor league ballpark. The Lansing Lugnuts (goofiest-sounding team name ever) will now play at Cooley Law School Stadium.

Quoting Cooley President Don LeDuc, The National Law Journal writes:

“It’s a little bit unique, but this is just one example of how we do marketing to get our name out there,” LeDuc said.

Cooley has long taken a different approach to marketing than do most law schools — it has advertised on billboards and sponsored television and radio programs, for example.

“People like to pretend that education isn’t competitive, but it is,” LeDuc said. “You’ll probably see more things like this in the future.”

With 3,600 students at campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor, Mich., Cooley is the largest law school in the country and attracts a large number of part-time students. Cooley has been expanding steadily, but just keeping the student body at its present level requires getting its name out into the public, LeDuc said.

Can you see anything like this ever happening with either of the two law schools in Maryland? I’m thinking no. However, if UB Law ever does decide it wants Oriole Park at Camden Yards to be known as “University of Baltimore School of Law Oriole Park at Camden Yards” (or something like that), perhaps its most prominent alumnus can float a discount.