iPhone customer lock-in class action

On 5 October 2007 a small two partner New York law firm, Folkenflik & McGerity, filed a class action Complaint in a court in California against Apple, Inc and AT&T Mobility, LCC.

The Complaint seeks direct, consequential and punitive damages totalling US$1.2 billion.

On 10 October a press release announced the action's website. This is all in keeping with the firm's statement on its main website that "The firm makes extensive use of new technologies to leverage its manpower and to develop cost-effective approaches to its cases."

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A whirlpool of legal risk

We’ve blogged about the dangers of loose lips in online forums before. For example,  a woman who made an anomymous post or comment in an online forum was tracked down by Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith. He regarded the post as defamatory and extracted an apology plus a significant portion of his legal fees.

From a recent case of forum comment litigation, perhaps the most notable takeaway is the plaintiff's realisation of the awesome power of the court. We don't have in mind the Supreme Court of Queensland where the case was instituted; rather, the court of public opinion.

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Advertising is not the only game online

If you were to believe the loose talk about advertiser-supported online business models you'd think it was the only game in town. The loose talk oversimplifies the undeniable fact that advertising is both increasingly creative and dominant online, but it's a long way from being the only game online. To quote Albert Einstein: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."

At the July 2007 Future of Media conference in Sydney someone on stage (who should have known better) said "only porn or financial data works on a user-paid basis". Err, wrong.

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Drafting IT contracts with foresight

Lessons lie buried in IT history for improving IT contracts, especially software contracts.

The key for discovering the lessons is to look for patterns of change. We argue a three stage pattern emerges from IT history. The pattern repeats over and over in IT history in the last six decades. Awareness of the pattern helps to improve contract strategy and draft more effective IT contracts.

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Strategy's strategist

What is strategy and do you do it well? Useful pointers can be found in the McKinsey Quarterly (2007 Number 4) in the article, Strategy's Strategist: An Interview With Richard Rumelt.

Richard Rumelt is a professor of strategy at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. The Quarterly observes that in 1972 Rumelt discovered (the now accepted rule) that moderately diversified companies outperform more diversified ones.

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Four billion subscribers

No business can ignore the change taking place due to the global telecoms revolution. Every business in the world is involved in contract negotiation and formation and increasingly this takes place using phones and other telecommunications devices. This affects business models, operations, value chains and law.

The latest global data is recorded in the 8th edition of "Trends in Telecommunication Reform: the Road to NGN". This September 2007 publication is from the telecommunications specialist authority of the United Nations, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Mobile devices are at the head. They are disruptive developments for the traditional business models of telcos and content publishers. They are an opportunity for our clients and others who capitalise on the change they make to business operations and the value chain linking suppliers and customers.

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Showing restraint: non-competition law and former employees

When a valued employee leaves, it can be a difficult time for a business. As if to rub salt in the wound, sometimes the same employee surfaces in a rival organisation or starts a business in direct competition. As the realisation sinks in that this person knows some or all of your business methods, practices and even secrets, all of a sudden you’re calling your lawyer to demand immediate legal action.

Unfortunately, this is often the wrong time to ask a lawyer to take action to restrain unlawful competition by a former employee. It can be too late. Most of the necessary action should have been taken before the former employee was recruited. That is, much will depend on the employment contract, organisational policies and procedures and related HR documents being in place before and enforced during the time the (now) ex-employee worked for you.

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Dazzle the competition with records

A major survey of professionals in HR, published today by the Australian Human Resources Institute Ltd, confirms that the years 2005 to 2007 mark a period of significant change in the level of record keeping required by Australian employment law.

The highest percentage of those surveyed, 54.5%, rated the "level of record keeping" as the most significant change in those years.

Compliance by employers with employment law is simply no longer feasible with oral or mediocre records. The increased mandatory legal requirements for written records, consents and notices also mean that virtually no company or management team can rely on employment law templates and record keeping practices which pre-date Work Choices.

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Remove fuss and fuzz from employment leave entitlements

Australian employment law is a complex matrix, even for lawyers specialising in the area. Core employment law concepts, such as "leave entitlements" have been given new meanings since 2005 by Work Choices legislation.

While this is a difficult and dry topic, it has first rank practical implications for workplace morale and the long term financial wellbeing of employers and employees.

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Report finds 5.6 million reasons for doing a patent search

"Patents granted worldwide have increased at an average annual rate of 3.6% to about 600,000 in 2005. At the end of 2005, there were approximately 5.6 million patents in force worldwide. ... However, the use of the patent system remains highly concentrated with only five patent offices (China, Japan, the European Patent Office, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America) accounting for 77% of all patents filed and 74% of all patents granted."

These are highlights in a report by the UN body, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Its assessment is in its "WIPO Patent Report: Statistics on Worldwide Patent Activity (2007 Edition)".

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"On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog"

This was the caption of Peter Steiner's brilliant cartoon in the New Yorker in 1993. Roughly speaking that was the first year of the commercialisation of the Internet.

Fourteen years later, the caption resonates with every new report on risks associated with use of the Internet.

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"On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog"

This was the caption of Peter Steiner's brilliant cartoon in the New Yorker in 1993. Roughly speaking that was the first year of the commercialisation of the Internet.

Fourteen years later, the caption resonates with every new report on risks associated with use of the Internet.

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Top 10 questions on how to hire a writer

Joint authorship is the technical term to describe the topic of this post. The questions in this post will help you hire a writer with a legally binding contract, while also protecting you against a host of risks.

Joint authorship affects every person in business. Whether it is co-writing a report with someone else, commissioning a person to edit your work for your company, or even writing a great book with a ghost writer that you hope will sell like Fox in Socks or The Da Vinci Code - you will be writing jointly.

Joint authorship is very common for the production of books for children or young readers. It is rare to find a good writer and a good illustrator in the same person. When you do, you have great creators such as Dr Seuss. You also have The Magic Pudding, a classic loved by millions of Australians.

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What every business should know about common law employment contracts

The signal to noise ratio in Australian employment law is currently poor. Useful information is being lost in under-informed, false or irrelevant data. There are also too few messages about how to maintain good employment relationships.

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Brand destruction writ large

At Lightbulb we use the term "brand destruction" to describe avoidable business brand blunders. These incidents recall the Japanese ritual suicide known as hara-kiri (切腹).

Rarely do we come across brand destruction as clear as the July 2007 letter from Angus & Robertson bookshops (A&R) to its book suppliers who A&R says provide "unacceptable profitability". The key paragraph in A&R's letter states: "As a consequence we would invite you to pay the attached invoice by Aug 17th 2007. The payment represents the gap for your business, and it moves it from an unacceptable level of profitability, to above our minimum threshold."

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