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San Diego Legal Blog

9th Circuit dismisses lawsuit in Steinbeck royalty dispute

For generations, the literary works of John Steinbeck have been appreciated by readers in California, but the rights to the author's legacy have been a source of dispute among his heirs for decades. In the most recent legal action, the author's grandchildren lost an appeal against his stepdaughter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the ruling of a lower court that dismissed the complaint regarding royalties on the basis of a 1983 settlement agreement.

The grandchildren's assertion that the stepdaughter had cut them out of royalties failed because the courts ruled that the existing settlement had already decided the issue. The disputes among Steinbeck's heirs appear to have arisen because hedivided his estate among his heirs. He bequeathed the rights and income of some works to his third wife and granted the rights to other works to two sons from a previous marriage. The settlement in 1983 gave the sons higher royalty payments in exchange for shifting full control of Steinbeck's works to his widow.

A song from "Frozen" becomes a subject of litigation

California fans of the movie Frozen may be interested to learn about a legal dispute that has arisen over the hit song "Let It Go." A Spanish recording artist is suing the company, claiming its melody was taken from his song "Volar."

"Volar" was a 2008 song recorded in Spanish that sold millions of copies worldwide. However, the artist now claims that there are too many similarities in the songs, including note patterns, structure, melody and lyrics, according to court documents.

Common causes of franchise disputes

Starting a franchise is a great way for people to make a living. There are various steps for entrepreneurs to take to start a franchise, but it is important to remember that while a franchise owner may oversee the day-to-day operations of the business, he or she is still accountable to the franchisor. 

Franchise disputes are shockingly common. Occasionally, the two parties can resolve these disputes internally. On other occasions, legal counsel becomes necessary. Either way, both parties should be cognizant of the most common sources of these disputes to adequately circumvent them. 

AM General files complaint against Activision

California residents may play Call of Duty or have heard of the popular video game that features vehicles such as the Humvee. On Nov. 7, AM General filed suit against Activision Blizzard Inc. claiming that it used trademarks in the game without permission. AM General, which makes the Humvee, says that consumers may assume that the company is somehow connected with the game.

It is asking for compensatory and punitive damages from Activision as well as triple damages in the case that was filed in the U.S District Court in Manhattan. AM General claims that it spent a year trying to resolve the matter out of court with no success. According to Activision, the Call of Duty franchise was the world's largest in 2016 and has been the largest in North America for eight years in a row as of that same year. The company claims that the game generated $15 billion in revenue in 2016.

Lawsuit targets web services that aid copyright infringement

California is known for its robust internet technology sector, and the rise of online content has created new venues where copyright infringement can take place. The case of the American Chemical Society against Sci-Hub illustrates the challenges of stopping infringement from international sources and holding third-party internet services accountable.

A court ruled in favor of the society's lawsuit against Sci-Hub, which stood accused of distributing freely scientific papers that people must normally pay to read. The court approved a $4.8 million award to the ACS, but Sci-Hub is unlikely to pay. The site operates beyond the court's jurisdiction in Russia. The founder of the site has made public statements about his intention to ignore the outcomes of U.S. lawsuits.

Morgan Stanley fined for trade secret violation

The core to any business is its clients. In the investment industry, client lists are a hot commodity and most firms treat them as proprietary information, as trade secrets. Last week Morgan Stanley was found guilty of poaching a customer list when it hired a broker away from Schwab. The breach will cost $1.2 million dollars.

When and why you should update your will

Probate litigation and disputes between family members after a loved one dies and their estate is administered are two of the worst heart-wrenching and time-consuming things that can happen in the area of estate planning and probate law. When beneficiaries and family members squabble over another person's assets because the grantor had an incomplete will, a will that wasn't current, or was influenced by outside source in an undue fashion, the litigation can be painful, costly, and stressful.

One way to cut down on the possibility of this happening is to diligently track your will and to update it often. By doing this, you cut down on the chances that the will doesn't reflect your current wishes, and that the beneficiaries you select receive the inheritance that you want them to.

A Tech World Breach Of Contract

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sued software developer Saama Technologies over claims that the developer failed to create anything of value while running nearly a year behind schedule. Saama had billed the Foundation $2.8 million dollars, and had been using the Foundation's name in advertising materials, which violated the terms of their contract. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is seeking damages, reimbursement for the useless software developed by Saama, as well as an injunction to prevent Saama from using the Foundation's name in future advertising materials.

Sometimes a breach is okay

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