Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Here are some news items to get the week started.

Boston Tea Party– Is the first person appropriate before the Supreme Court?

– Ikea faces wrenching allegations.

– Employers should take stock of this case.

– This lawsuit has lasted longer than many marriages.

If it’s Straw Hat Day, can seersucker be far behind?

A gloomy day like today feels closer to winter than summer. But warmer days are ahead and, as Frederick Rasmussen points out in his always-entertaining Sunday Sun column, we’re days away from Straw Hat Day.

It seems Baltimore men of a bygone era took out their straw hats May 15, unofficially marking the start of summer the way a Memorial Day weekend traffic jam on the Bay Bridge does today.

“In those days it was the mandatory finishing touch for a man when dressing,” said Eddie Jacobs of the eponymous men’s clothing store. (As far as I know we are not related.)

Jacobs also noted that “June 1 to Sept. 1 was seersucker and cotton season.”

Rasmussen has more:

After an eight-month slumber, out from hat boxes and darkened closets emerged jaunty straw boaters, sometimes called butcher’s, sailor’s or skimmers, and Panamas, with their center crease and thin black band that circled the hat’s crown.

In turn, they became the crowning touch for the lightweight Palm Beach, linen and seersucker suits that men wore in an attempt to deal with Baltimore’s infernal heat.

Loyal readers know exactly where I’m going with this. Be on the lookout!

Linebacker sacked by memorabilia co.

Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher’s football season ended in the first quarter of the first game of the year after he dislocated his wrist. Despite early rumors the injury was career-ending, various hand specialists say Urlacher should be able to play again next season.

His memorabilia company, however, is not so sure, which is why it terminated his $1.2 million contract in the days after Urlacher underwent surgery.

Now Urlacher is suing Dreams Inc. for breach of contract, seeking the remaining $600,000 on his four-year deal and any related damages.

The contract, signed in October 2007, was part of the court filings. Dreams ended its relationship with Urlacher based on a clause allowing the company to terminate the contract if he is out “for sixteen or more consecutive weeks” — a full season or more.

The contract is chock full of interesting items, including how much Urlacher’s signature is worth if he meets various on-field performance goals. If he is named Super Bowl MVP, for example, his price per autograph goes up to $100 (up $25 from his regular price) for the first 3,200 signatures and $80 a signature thereafter.

Urlacher was contractually obligated to sign thousands of items every year. I’m kind of surprised he injured his wrist on the field before he suffered carpal tunnel syndrome off it.

(HT to my colleague Steve Lash for telling me about the lawsuit.)

It’s no secret: ‘Tarnished’ Victoria wins trademark suit

The name was changed eight years ago, and even a Supreme Court victory in 2003 didn’t bring it back. Now, a federal judge has ordered “Victor’s Little Secret” to remain under wraps forever.

To recap: Victor’s Little Secret was an adult novelty and lingerie store operated by Cathy and Victor Moseley in Elizabethtown, Ky., not far from Louisville. Mega-retailer Victoria’s Secret learned of the store and, in true Victorian fashion, was not amused. It went to court and obtained an order blocking the Moseleys from operating under Victor’s name.

The Moseleys changed the name to Cathy’s Little Secret. But they also fought all the way to Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor and remanded the case to the 6th Circuit, with instructions to send it back to the federal court in Louisville for a new ruling.

A funny thing happened on the way to the remand, though. For reasons that aren’t specified, the 6th Circuit sat on the case for awhile. For FOUR YEARS, in fact — until July 2007.

Meanwhile, due in large part to the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision, Congress rewrote the law in a way more to Victoria Secret’s liking. The Trademark Dilution Revision Act took effect in 2006.

Thus, by the time the 6th Circuit sent the case back to the trial court, the rules had changed. While the Moseleys cried foul, U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson [PDF] applied the new standard and ruled in favor of Victoria’s Secret.

“The use of the remarkably similar ‘Victor’s Secret’ or ‘Victor’s Little Secret’ in connection with the sale of intimate lingerie along with sex toys and adult videos tarnishes the reputation of the Victoria’s Secret mark,” Simpson wrote.

No word yet on whether the Moseleys will continue their fight.

BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law

Outsourcing love

flowers_edit.jpgHow about this: last weekend, I saw a feature story about up-and-coming grooms-to-be hiring a proposal planner to craft an elaborate marriage proposal.

Those in the wedding business are psyched about this extension of the almost $50 billion-dollar industry. (Except for maybe this party pooper).

With Valentine’s Day on Thursday, I wonder if people in the proposal-planning profession are swamped with swooning suitors? Or are most men turned off by the idea of another (admittedly unnecessary) nuptial expense?

If I were a wedding planner, I might seriously consider switching to proposals, given the option. Having a nervous male client seems like it’d be a lot easier than dealing with the “Bridezillas” of Baltimore.

For men desiring a simple V-Day solution that’s a bit… cheaper, one of our sister blogs has an idea: BokayMe.com, an offshoot of 1-800-FLOWERS that will send “animated, scent-less bouquets to that special, but not completely special, someone, for way less than a dozen long-stemmed roses.” (By “way less,” they do mean waaay less: most of the bouquets are 2-3 credits, which I can only assume are interchangeable with dollars.)

If anyone sends an animated bouquet to their sweetie on Thursday, I’d love to know how it was received.

JACKIE SAUTER, Web Editor