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Invasion of Privacy Claims

Right of Publicity & Invasion of Privacy Claims

Invasion of Privacy Claims

Right of publicity & invasion of privacy claims often intersect and overlap, depending on the circumstances of the particular case. California’s privacy laws apply broadly to everyone. When someone else uses your name, image, voice, or other aspect of your identity without permission, they may be violating your right to privacy. Although celebrities do relinquish some of their privacy rights by virtue of being in the public eye, they do not surrender their publicity rights under either California or federal law. Whether you are a celebrity or a non-celebrity, you have the right to keep others from exploiting your image or likeness for commercial purposes.

To learn more about the differences between right of publicity claims and invasion of privacy claims, keep reading this blog.

Publicity Rights vs. Privacy Rights in California

The right of publicity falls into the category of “intellectual property rights” that are protected by both state and federal law. Rights of publicity are similar to something known as an invasion of privacy claim, which is a legal claim that seeks to prevent anyone from interfering with your private affairs or disclosing personal information about you to others.

There are important differences between publicity rights and privacy rights. For instance, an individual’s publicity rights include their image, photo, name, voice, and likeness, while an individual’s privacy rights typically extend to their name or likeness. Additionally, publicity rights are usually limited to uses that involve advertisements or sales from which the defendant derives a commercial benefit.

Statute of Limitations

There is also an extended statutory time period for right of publicity claims in California, with plaintiffs having a post-mortem right under Cal. Civ. Code Section 3344.1 to bring a claim on behalf of a deceased person’s likeness for another 70 years after their death.

Damages

While the damages in a right of publicity case necessarily concern commercial losses suffered by the plaintiff when their likeness is used without authorization, the right of privacy typically concerns emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff when their private affairs or information are shared without permission.

Defamation Claims and the Right of Publicity

A related law that is often cited in these cases is the law against defamation, which prohibits anyone from making disparaging or otherwise defamatory statements about you in certain circumstances.

Defamation claims differ from right of publicity claims primarily when it comes to the truthfulness of the information that is disclosed to the public. When the information about the plaintiff is true, the appropriate legal action is probably a lawsuit for right of publicity misappropriation since the defendant is essentially stealing the plaintiff’s identity. By contrast, when the information about the plaintiff is false, then a claim for defamation of character may be appropriate since the defendant is possibly causing harm by lying about the plaintiff.

California Right of Publicity Claims

What about more traditional right of publicity claims that don’t involve privacy rights? A right of publicity gives you legal control over how certain personal aspects are used by others to promote their goods or services. These aspects that qualify for protection under the law include your name, image, voice, and likeness.

California’s publicity rights law recognizes the inherent commercial value in the average person’s likeness. Once that value has been exploited for a financial benefit, then the person to whom it belongs may have a cause of action to take legal action when someone infringes on their likeness. This means that the plaintiff in a California right of publicity lawsuit needs to establish that they have attempted to benefit financially from their likeness at some point before the defendant tried to do the same.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Right of Publicity Lawyer

In an invasion of privacy case that involves the right of publicity, you are going to want to be represented by a lawyer who has a firm grasp of both intellectual property law and internet law. The Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have extensive experience litigating cases involving right of publicity law, privacy law, and trademark claims. We can help you decide the most appropriate next step in your case.

Call us at 310-590-3927 or email us today.

Trade Secret Defenses

Best Defenses to Trade Secret Claims

Trade Secret Defenses

California and federal trade secret laws are supposed to protect businesses against the unlawful acquisition, use, or disclosure of their proprietary information. But these legal protections can also open the door for the filing of bad faith claims by business owners who may have a grudge against a former employee or a competing company. If you are being sued for trade secret misappropriation, it is important that you speak with an attorney who understands both state and federal intellectual property law and who can advise you on the best defenses to trade secret claims.

To learn about the best defenses that may be available in your California trade secret case, keep reading.

What Defenses Are Available in California Trade Secret Cases?

One of the main ideas behind trade secret laws is that businesses should have a way to prevent others from disclosing and/or using their confidential information. In fact, these laws are so robust and plaintiff-friendly that plaintiffs are often able to win and collect substantial monetary damages. This is one reason why any defendant in a trade secret action should be represented by an experienced California trade secret lawyer who can raise strong defenses on their behalf.

These are just a few of the possible defenses in a California trade secret case:

  1. The information was not a “trade secret.”
  2. The information was not misappropriated.
  3. The defendant had whistleblower immunity.
  4. The statute of limitations expired.

The Information Was Not a “Trade Secret”

The federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) defines a trade secret as information that is valuable because it cannot be readily ascertained through proper means. A potential defense available in federal trade secret claims filed under the DTSA is that the information was “readily ascertainable” through lawful means. For example, the defendant may be able to show that they acquired the data in material that was published online or in books. This would mean that the information was not confidential since it was, by definition, generally available to others. This exact defense is not available in claims filed under the California trade secrets statute because the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA) defines a trade secret more broadly. But it is still possible for a defendant in a CUTSA action to argue that the information does not qualify as a trade secret because it was “generally known to the public.”

A related defense that may be an option in some California trade secret cases is that the plaintiff failed to take sufficient steps to protect their proprietary information. Both the DTSA and the CUTSA require plaintiffs to make reasonable efforts to ensure that their information remains confidential. When the business owner fails to do at least the bare minimum to maintain the secrecy of the information (e.g., imposing restrictions on which employees can potentially access it), then it may not qualify as a “trade secret” under the law.

The Information Was Not Misappropriated

Even if the plaintiff establishes that the information at issue in the case qualifies as a trade secret, the defendant may be able to argue that there was no misappropriation because the information was lawfully acquired. Under both the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA) and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), a person or entity is liable for trade secret misappropriation only if the information was acquired through “improper means.” This typically means actions such as theft, espionage, misrepresentation, bribery, or breach of a duty to maintain the secrecy of the information. By contrast, a good example of a lawful action to acquire trade secrets is reverse engineering of a formula or recipe by a rival company. Since this information would have been discovered through publicly available means, it does not violate trade secret law.

The Defendant Had Whistleblower Immunity

When Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), they included provisions that explicitly protect individuals who reveal trade secrets in certain situations. For example, a whistleblower who discloses confidential information to a government official while reporting illegal activity by their employer would be immune from prosecution and from civil liability in a trade secret lawsuit. The same is true for a whistleblower who discloses proprietary information to an attorney in the context of reporting unlawful actions by their employer.

The Statute of Limitations Expired

Defendants in some trade secret cases may be able to raise a defense that the statute of limitations for filing a trade secret claim has expired. In California trade secret actions, the plaintiff has just three (3) years to bring a lawsuit, and the clock starts as soon as the plaintiff has either actual notice of the misappropriation or constructive notice of the misappropriation. (“Constructive notice” means that the plaintiff had reason to investigate and should have discovered the trade secret theft or use.)

Contact the Los Angeles Trade Secret Litigation Attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP

If you have been accused of misappropriating a company’s trade secrets by disclosing information to a competitor or using information without permission, you are going to want a skilled attorney assisting you. The Los Angeles trade secret attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP have extensive experience representing defendants in California trade secret lawsuits, and we are prepared to help you raise strong defenses to win at trial or get the claim dismissed before trial.

Call us at 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free consultation.

Trade Secret Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations for Trade Secret Claims

Trade Secret Statute of Limitations

The legal system has many complexities, such as a requirement that plaintiffs not wait too long to file lawsuits in either California courts or federal court. This is one reason why it’s so important for any business owner with valuable intellectual property to have a solid understanding of California IP laws, including the statute of limitations for trade secret claims. The reality is that an individual’s failure to file their civil suit within a time period set forth by the applicable statute could bar them from ever getting compensation, even if their claim is valid. The best way to ensure that you do not miss the statute of limitations and lose you right to bring a lawsuit is to speak with a knowledgeable California trade secret lawyer as soon as possible.

To learn more about the statute of limitations for California trade secret claims, keep reading.

How Long Do You Have to File a Trade Secret Claim in California?

Under California law, anyone who wants to bring a trade secret claim must do so within three (3) years. Failure to take prompt action could permanently bar your claim and prevent you from getting any of the remedies available in trade secret litigation.

The critical factor here is determining exactly when that three-year period begins. The law requires plaintiffs to file their claims no later than three years after either of the following has occurred:

  1. When the plaintiff actually learns about the defendant’s misappropriation of trade secrets.
  2. When the plaintiff should have learned about the defendant’s misappropriation of trade secrets.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start in California Trade Secret Lawsuits?

Most obviously, the clock starts ticking on the trade secret statute of limitations when the misappropriation is first discovered. Once the plaintiff has actual notice of trade secret misappropriation, they must bring a legal claim within three (3) years.

But what happens when the plaintiff does not have notice of trade secret misappropriation? There is another way for the clock to start: when the misappropriation should have been discovered. This potentially gives defendants in trade secret actions some possible defenses because courts will typically apply a looser standard of proof in circumstances where the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable diligence to discover the trade secret infringement. If a business owner suspects or otherwise believes that their trade secret was stolen or disclosed to competitors, then the business owner may have a legal obligation to investigate. Moreover, that investigation should occur in a timely fashion. Failure to take prompt action to investigate could open the door for the defendant in a later trade secret action to seek dismissal of the case, particularly if the claim was filed more than three (3) years after the misappropriation began.

Courts will use a “reasonable person standard” in these cases to determine whether the plaintiff should have taken faster action to investigate the possible trade secret use. This means that the court will ask whether a reasonable person would have acted as the plaintiff did, or whether a reasonable person would have investigated their suspicions about trade secret theft.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations in California Trade Secret Cases

The three-year statute of limitations for trade secret claims filed under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA) doesn’t necessarily run continuously. That’s because the statute of limitations can be tolled (temporarily stopped) in certain circumstances where the defendant leaves the state. This applies when a defendant is a California resident and then temporarily goes to another state with the expectation of returning later. It also applies when a defendant is a resident of a different state and has not yet entered the state of California. The idea behind this exception to the statute of limitations is that defendants should not be able to avoid communications or being served notice in a case where the plaintiff has limited time in which to file.

Importantly, the clock does not stop when there is more than one instance of a defendant misappropriating the trade secret. In a lot of trade secret cases, the defendant commits multiple violations by continuing to use or disclose the confidential information. Under California law, this does not affect the statute of limitations. The clock does not restart in trade secret claims each time the defendant commits another infringement. That’s because California courts have held that only the initial misappropriation triggers the statute of limitations, and each subsequent misappropriation is viewed as a related violation.

Free Consultation with Los Angeles Trade Secret Lawyers

Tauler Smith LLP is a California law firm that focuses on intellectual property law. We represent both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving trade secret claims, and we regularly appear in federal and state courtrooms. One of our experienced Los Angeles trade secret attorneys will speak with you about your case and help you determine the appropriate steps to take. Call 310-590-3927 or email us to schedule a free initial consultation.

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Texas has strong consumer protection laws that safeguard residents against scams, deceptive sales calls, and other illegal practices. Chief among these laws is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), which gives plaintiffs the ability to recover additional damages when they have been defrauded by false, misleading, or deceptive business practices. When state lawmakers passed the DTPA, the intent behind the bill was that companies should think twice before committing any kind of fraud against consumers. Texas consumer protection lawyers know just how effective the DTPA can be at holding fraudsters accountable for their unethical actions.

To learn more about the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, keep reading this blog.

What Is the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act?

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, or DTPA, is a consumer protection law that prohibits businesses from making false or misleading statements in advertisements, contracts, and any transactions involving consumers. The DTPA gives consumers a cause of action for a civil suit when they have been misled by a business. The text of the statute casts a wide net by explicitly forbidding businesses from knowingly deceiving customers in advertisements, marketing materials, and sales transactions. This includes “false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty.”

The DTPA applies to several different types of consumer transactions, including the sale or lease of commercial goods, products, services, or property. The Texas DTPA law has a lengthy list of examples of deceptive business acts, including the following:

  • Passing off goods or services as those of another.
  • Confusing consumers about the true source of goods or services.
  • Lying about the certification status of a product or service.
  • Misrepresenting whether a product or service has received sponsorship or approval.
  • Lying about the geographic origin of goods or services.
  • Misrepresenting the ingredients of goods such as food products or nutritional supplements.
  • Selling an item as “new” when the product is used or reconditioned.
  • Lying about the quality or grade of a product.
  • Using misleading statements to disparage a competitor’s goods or services.
  • Advertising items as available for sale when they are unavailable or there is only a limited supply.
  • Lying about the reasons for a price reduction.
  • Misrepresenting the need for additional parts, replacement, or repairs.
  • Falsely presenting a salesperson as having the authority to negotiate final terms of a transaction.
  • Secretly resetting the odometer on a motor vehicle for sale.
  • Lying about a “going out of business” sale when the store is not going out of business.
  • Using “corporation” or “incorporated” in the name of a business when it has not been incorporated.
  • Falsely representing that a solicitation has been sent on behalf of a governmental entity.
  • Price gouging during a natural disaster.

Additional Damages Available Under the DTPA

The damages and compensation that may be available to plaintiffs filing lawsuits under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act include actual damages (i.e., economic damages), mental anguish damages, and attorney’s fees. The actual damages could involve things like the money spent on the purchase, as well as repair or replacement costs after the transaction.

Additionally, when a plaintiff in a DTPA case wins their claim, they may be eligible for up to three (3) times the usual damages awarded in a Texas civil suit.

Mental Anguish Damages

If the judge or jury finds that the defendant knowingly deceived the plaintiff, then it may be possible for the plaintiff to receive an award for mental anguish damages. The ability to recover damages for mental anguish is unique in DTPA claims because business transactions typically don’t involve the same kinds of mental or emotional harms as personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Treble Damages

The DTPA also allows for the recovery of treble damages, which means that the judge may impose a multiplier on the judgment or ruling and award up to three times the damages amount. When a defendant’s conduct is deemed egregious, it is not uncommon for plaintiffs to be awarded significantly higher damages as a way of sending a message and discouraging unethical behavior by other businesses in the future.

DTPA Waiting Period & Deadlines

Texas law requires victims of business fraud to wait at least 60 days before filing a DTPA lawsuit. The statute specifically requires plaintiffs to send a demand letter to the business owner or individual so that they have an opportunity to address the alleged fraud and potentially resolve the matter before a legal claim is necessary. Once 60 days have passed since the demand letter was sent to the defendant, then the plaintiff may choose to formally file their lawsuit in a Texas court.

Just as there is a waiting period on the front end of any DTPA claim, there is also a time limit for the plaintiff to take legal action. The deadline for a consumer to file a DTPA lawsuit is two (2) years from the date on which the false or deceptive business practice occurred. This statute of limitations is half the time that a plaintiff typically has available to file a breach of contract lawsuit in Texas.

Contact the Texas Consumer Fraud Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

The Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) gives Texas consumers the right to file a lawsuit and pursue damages when they have been victimized by a scammer or fraudulent business. If you have been misled or deceived in a commercial transaction, the Texas consumer fraud attorneys at Tauler Smith LLP can help you file a DTPA claim. Call or email us today to go over your options.

CLRA Consumer Protection

What Is the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

CLRA Consumer Protection

California consumer fraud lawyers know that the state has been at the forefront of the consumer rights movement for a long time. In 1970, the California State Legislature passed the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) to safeguard customers against deception by businesses. The CLRA makes it unlawful to engage in unfair or misleading acts when selling goods or services to consumers. The CLRA is often applicable in cases involving false advertising claims and/or consumer fraud. For example, when a company uses a misleading advertisement to persuade someone to purchase a product or service, the misrepresentation may constitute a violation of the statute. The same is true when a deceptive or intentionally confusing ad causes a customer to trigger an automatic renewal policy.

To learn more about the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, keep reading this blog.

What Deceptive Business Practices Does the CLRA Prohibit?

The California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, or CLRA, is a consumer statute that’s codified in Cal. Civil Code §§ 1750. The law allows plaintiffs to bring private civil actions against companies that use “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in a transaction.”

The CLRA explicitly prohibits certain deceptive business practices, including the following acts:

  • Selling counterfeit goods.
  • Misrepresenting the source of a good or service.
  • Lying about a professional affiliation, certification, or endorsement.
  • Lying about the geographic origin of a product.
  • Selling a used or reconditioned item as new.
  • Misrepresenting the quality of a good or service.
  • Making false statements that disparage another business’ products.
  • Advertising items as being available for sale when they won’t be.
  • Advertising furniture as available for sale without disclosing that it is unassembled.
  • Telling a customer that a repair or replacement is necessary when it isn’t.
  • Offering a rebate or discount with hidden conditions.
  • Falsely presenting a salesperson’s authority to negotiate and finalize a transaction.
  • “Robo-calling” individuals who are not already customers.

One of the advantages of the CLRA is that victims of business fraud in California are not limited to filing lawsuits under the statute. This means that a consumer could bring multiple claims citing both the CLRA and other state or federal laws.

What Remedies Are Available to California Consumers in CLRA Cases?

The CLRA gives California consumers a powerful tool to hold businesses accountable for deceptive practices because the statute allows plaintiffs to recover different kinds of damages. The law is often interpreted broadly by courts to provide strong protections against consumer fraud, false advertising, and unfair business practices. When a consumer has been defrauded, they can file a lawsuit in a California Superior Court.

Consumers who bring a claim under the CLRA may pursue several remedies for any harm they suffered, including:

  • Actual monetary damages.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Restitution of property to the plaintiff.
  • An injunction against the defendant.
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.
  • Any other relief the court deems proper.

Actual Damages & Attorney’s Fees

The first remedy available under the CLRA – actual damages – has a statutory minimum of $1,000 for each deceptive act or practice. The last remedy – “any other relief the court deems proper” – is a catch-all provision that gives courts wide latitude when determining what kind of monetary relief should be available to plaintiffs in CLRA actions.

In addition to getting damages for fraud, a plaintiff filing a claim under the CLRA may also be able to get attorney’s fees from a defendant who is found to have violated the Act. This can make it financially feasible for a plaintiff to bring a CLRA claim – since the defendant would have to pay the legal costs for both sides if they lose the case.

Additional Damages for Senior Citizens & Disabled Persons

A couple of special categories of consumers may be eligible for additional damages: senior citizens and disabled persons. As set forth by the CLRA, a “senior citizen” is defined as anyone over the age of 65. (In California, a senior citizen is usually defined as anyone over the age of 62, with the age threshold being lowered to 55 years old when the person lives in a senior citizen housing development.) California law defines “disabled person” quite broadly to include just about anyone who has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits at least one major life activity. For both seniors and disabled persons, the CLRA allows an award of up to $5,000 in damages to be tacked on by the court.

Proving a CLRA Violation

Although the Consumers Legal Remedies Act gives plaintiffs many options when seeking damages for consumer fraud, there are still ways for defendants to avoid paying maximum compensation. For example, if the defendant did not intentionally violate the CLRA, and they subsequently made a good faith attempt to correct the mistake, then the court might not award damages to the plaintiff. The complexities of the statute are one reason why it’s so important for you to have a knowledgeable California business fraud attorney handling your case.

Who Is Allowed to Bring a Lawsuit Under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act?

Private Civil Actions & Class Actions

The CLRA may serve as the basis for a civil suit in any consumer transaction where goods changed hands or services were provided. Anyone who can show damages having been caused by one of the acts prohibited by the CLRA can file a lawsuit, either individually by the consumer or in a class action involving other consumers who were deceived or defrauded. For class action litigation, the cases must be substantially similar. An experienced California consumer protection lawyer can assist you with a CLRA class action lawsuit and help get your class certified.

Exclusions from the CLRA

Certain types of transactions and business owners are excluded from the Consumers Legal Remedies Act: (1) real estate transactions, and (2) newspapers and other advertisers. Although the CLRA applies to most commercial transactions, the statute cannot be used as the basis for a legal claim when the transaction involved the sale of either a residential property or a commercial property. Additionally, the CLRA cannot be used to bring a lawsuit against the owner of a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or any other advertising medium unless the plaintiff can prove that the business owner knew that the ads were deceptive before disseminating them.

How Long Do You Have to Bring a CLRA Claim?

Three-Year Statute of Limitations

It is important for you to speak with a qualified CLRA attorney as soon as possible because you do not want the statute of limitations to expire before you attempt to bring a claim. The general rule is that a consumer has three (3) years from the date on which the unfair business practice occurred to file a lawsuit under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. If you miss this deadline, you may be barred from bringing a legal action.

Business Owner’s Opportunity to Cure

In addition to making sure you file within the statute of limitations, an experienced attorney can also ensure that you meet any other important deadlines and filing requirements. For example, before the CLRA suit can proceed in court, the consumer must notify the defendant in writing about the alleged violation. This must happen at least 30 days before the lawsuit is filed, and the business owner will then have an opportunity to take appropriate action to fix or otherwise “cure” the harm. (E.g., repairing or replacing a damaged item that was sold to the consumer.)

Contact the California CLRA Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP

Tauler Smith LLP is a Los Angeles law firm that focuses on consumer fraud litigation. Our attorneys are extremely familiar with the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and we have filed both private civil actions and class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers. If you were a victim of business fraud or false advertising in California, we can help you take legal action and get you the financial compensation to which you are entitled. Call or email us to discuss your eligibility to file a CLRA claim.