Gibbons Law Alert Blog

Section 230: What Is It and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“Section 230”), 47 U.S.C. § 230(c), has garnered significant attention in the media in recent months. But what is Section 230 and why are both President Trump and President-Elect Biden talking about its repeal? Section 230 is commonly referred to as the 26 words that created the internet. It ensures that an online platform can host and transmit third-party content without the liability that attaches to a publisher or speaker under defamation law, and encourages self-regulation by allowing online platforms to remove offensive content in good faith from their platforms. 47 U.S.C. §§ 230(c)(1)-(2). Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia have flourished in part because of the simultaneous protection from liability for defamatory statements posted by third-party users and from the removal of harmful or discriminatory content. Some believe that repealing Section 230 is long overdue, because what started out as a law meant to reward online platforms that remove harmful content in good faith has transformed into a broad liability shield. In one circumstance, that protection extended even to an online platform that recommended terrorist content to a user based on that user’s preferences. See Force v. Facebook, Inc., 934 F.3d 53 (2d Cir. 2019). Others argue that the repeal of Section 230 would have many...

New Jersey’s Patent Filings Place It Fifth in the Nation for Innovation

NJBIZ recently reported on a study from CommericalCafe that named New Jersey the fifth most innovative state based on the number of patents filed and granted in New Jersey from 1975 through 2019. Of those patents, New Jersey’s top sections were: (1) Chemistry and Metallurgy, (2) Electricity, (3) Human Necessities, (4) Physics, and (5) Emerging Cross-Sectional Technologies. New Jersey’s standing is not limited to the acquisition of patent rights, but includes the enforcement and protection of those rights as well. This year, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts reported that the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ranks seventh in the nation for the number of intellectual property cases filed in the 12-month period ending on March 31, 2020. Given the importance of development and enforcement of intellectual property rights in New Jersey, Gibbons P.C.’s Intellectual Property Department, headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, is routinely called on to represent its New Jersey clients in handling both patent prosecution and litigation across a vast number of industries.

More Than $750,000 Awarded in TAR Fees Serves as Both Warning and Guidance to E-Discovery Practitioners

Last month, we discussed a recent decision from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, Lawson v. Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.,  in which the court granted defendant’s motion to shift costs for electronically stored information (ESI) related to expenses incurred undertaking Technology Assisted Review (TAR) for approximately 322,000 documents, at plaintiff’s insistence. The court reasoned that there was good cause warranting cost-shifting because plaintiff insisted on pursuing TAR after it became disproportionate to the needs of the case. Recently, the court entertained defendant’s fee application, in which defendant sought $791,700.21 in expenses incurred in connection with TAR and $83,000 in costs and fees incurred conferring with plaintiff and related motion practice. Plaintiff objected to the amount sought, arguing that reasonable TAR expenses did not exceed $330,000. The court ultimately awarded defendant $754,029.46 in TAR-related expenses and a yet-to-be determined amount of expenses in connection with the fee application. In reviewing the fee application, the court noted that its finding of disproportionality was only reinforced by the parties’ intervening cross-motions for summary judgment, in which only one of the almost 100 exhibits submitted by plaintiff originated from defendant’s TAR production. This lone exhibit was submitted “to support an unremarkable factual contention.” In determining the amount of expenses to allocate to plaintiff, the court examined...

Northern District of California Relies on the Safe Harbor Defense of Section 271(e)(1) to Resolve Infringement Cases Early

Two recent decisions from the Northern District of California show courts’ willingness to dispose of cases early in litigation through the safe harbor defense. The safe harbor of Section 271(e)(1) allows competitors, before the expiration of a patent, to engage in otherwise infringing activities if the use is “reasonably related to” obtaining regulatory approval. These two decisions provide pre-litigation and litigation guidance for life science companies that manufacture regulated products such as drugs and medical devices. The Supreme Court has construed the safe harbor to apply to drugs as well as medical devices and other products subject to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Section 271(e)(1) of the Patent Act provides that: “It shall not be an act of infringement to make, use, offer to sell, or sell within the United States or import into the United States a patented invention … solely for uses reasonably related to the development and submission of information under a Federal law which regulates the manufacture, use, or sale of drugs or veterinary biological products.” In Carl Zeiss Meditec v. Topcon Medical Systems, the N.D. Cal. granted with prejudice a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s patent infringement claim based on product testing as barred by the safe harbor of § 271(e)(1). Carl Zeiss alleged that software testing by Topcon...

Court Dismisses Complaint and Sanctions Plaintiff for Fabricating ESI

The Southern District of New York recently issued significant sanctions in a case with a background story fit for Hollywood. In Carrington v. Graden, plaintiff brought claims against entertainment giants Paramount Pictures and Viacom, Inc. for sexual misconduct, unfair competition, fraud, misappropriation, federal antitrust violations, and New York State and City labor violations. Plaintiff attached various exhibits to his complaint that contained emails purportedly between defendants and non-parties. After it was discovered, through an arduous cat-and-mouse game between defendants and plaintiff, that plaintiff completely fabricated the emails that were presented in support of his claim, the court dismissed plaintiff’s claims with prejudice against all defendants and granted defendants’ application for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with their work regarding the authenticity of the emails. At the onset of the litigation, defendants sent plaintiff’s counsel a preservation notice for electronically stored information (ESI) and documents, after noting that the documents plaintiff referenced and attached as exhibits to his complaint “appeared highly questionable and inaccurate.” Significantly, the emails were not produced as native-format email communications, rather, they were all produced as email forwards from plaintiff to his attorney. Defendants, as part of a pre-motion submission to the court in connection with their anticipated motion to dismiss, submitted affidavits from the individuals who were represented as...

David J. Freeman to Co-Chair N.Y. State Bar Superfund and Brownfields Update Webinar

David J. Freeman, a Director in the Gibbons Environmental Department, will serve as Program Co-Chair for “Superfund/Brownfield Update 2020: Federal and State Environmental Law and Policy.” The program is sponsored by the Section of Environmental & Energy Law of the New York State Bar Association and will be presented as a webinar on December 2 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The program will feature presentations by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and private bar and expert consultants regarding recent developments in the federal Superfund and New York State Brownfield programs. There will also be panels discussing the proposed new ASTM standards for the conduct of Phase I environmental site assessments and the operation of New York State’s land banks. The keynote speaker will be Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters and New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. Her timely topic will be “How the 2020 Election Will Affect the Environmental Agenda at the Federal and State Levels.” A full description of the program, and instructions on how to register, can be found here.

The Destruction of a “Startling Amount of Discovery”: District Court Imposes Severe, Case-Ending Sanctions Pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington recently entered a default judgment order of terminating sanctions against defendants pursuant to Rule 37(e)(2), as a result of defendants’ wholesale destruction of a “startling amount of discovery” as part of defendants’ adoption of a document disposition program during the course of the litigation. The district court found that the defendants “purposefully destroyed” relevant electronically stored information (ESI) “to avoid their litigation obligations.” This decision highlights the importance of extreme caution in the adoption of a document disposition or information governance program, which necessarily eliminates typically large quantities of ESI, during the time period when the duty to preserve relevant ESI has been triggered. In Moreno v. Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc., plaintiffs filed constitutional claims against defendants–providers of healthcare services to inmates–after plaintiffs’ eighteen-year-old son died while in defendants’ custody. In January 2018, prior to filing the lawsuit, plaintiffs sent a letter to defendants notifying defendants of their plan to file a lawsuit and advising defendants to “preserve all paper and electronic records that may be relevant to our clients’ claims” including “all e-mails and other electronic and paper records regardless of where they are maintained.” Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in October 2018 and, in December 2018, served discovery requests on defendants, seeking certain categories...

IRS Allows Use of Pass-Through Business Alternative Taxes to Bypass 2017 Tax Act’s Limitation on SALT Deductions – Effectively Blessing New Jersey Statutory Work-Around

On Monday, November 9th, the IRS issued Notice 2020-75 stating that it intended to issue proposed regulations to clarify that state and local income taxes imposed on and paid by a partnership or an S corporation would be deductible by such entity regardless of whether the liability for such taxes is the result of an election by the entity or whether the partners or S shareholders receive a partial or full state or local deduction, exclusion, credit, or other tax benefit that is based on their share of the amount of such taxes paid by the entity. Taxpayers will not need to take such tax payments into account in applying the 2017 Tax Act’s $10,000 cap on state and local taxes. Notice 2020-75, effective immediately, appears to directly support the efficacy of New Jersey’s work-around (S-3246/A-4807) adopted early in 2020 to address the federal 2017 Tax Act’s $10,000 cap on state and local taxes (SALT). Because that cap applies predominantly to real property taxes and sales taxes in addition to income taxes, business taxpayers who can use the work-around and remove business income taxes from the $10,000 cap will effectively be allowed to deduct an additional amount of other SALT taxes under the cap. The New Jersey law, commonly called the Pass-Through Business Alternative Income Tax,...

Federal Court Sanctions Defense Attorney Under § 1927 for Unreasonably Vexatious Conduct During Discovery

A Minnesota federal court recently issued a stern warning to attorneys and litigants who ignore court orders and fail to make any effort to engage in meet and confers during the discovery process. In Management Registry, Inc. v. A.W. Companies, et al., the District Court for the District of Minnesota ordered a defense attorney to pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927, in addition to other forms of sanctions for the attorney’s “pervasive discovery misconduct.” This case arose from plaintiff’s claims against defendants “after a corporation acquisition went wrong.” The litigation has a tortured procedural history during which the parties fought for almost two years over various discovery disputes, a number of which involved the format of production of certain documents. The parties had participated in a telephonic conference in late 2018, during which time the court ordered defendants to produce ESI in the same manner that plaintiff was required to produce ESI. Following that conference, a number of issues arose with respect to defendants’ production, and counsel for the defendants (at that time) agreed to make a supplemental production to resolve the technical issues. Defendants then obtained new counsel, and the new counsel proceeded to file a motion to compel without: (1) first reviewing the status of documents that had...

Gibbons Attains National and Regional Rankings in 2021 Best Law Firms

Gibbons is proud to announce that 35 of the firm’s practice areas have achieved national and metropolitan recognition in the 2021 edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms.” The firm also earned numerous national rankings this year, placing in the second two national tiers in the categories of: Construction Law Employment Law – Management Land Use & Zoning Law Litigation – First Amendment Real Estate Law We also earned our highest number of National Tier 1 rankings ever, in the categories of: Environmental Law Litigation – Construction Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions – Defendants “Gibbons continues to evolve and adapt our legal services to anticipate the future needs of our clients,” said Patrick C. Dunican Jr., Chairman and Managing Director of Gibbons. “The recognition of our practice areas on both the national and regional levels reaffirms that excellent client service and legal work are firm-wide commitments.” The firm’s regional practice area rankings include: New Jersey Regional Rankings Appellate Practice Banking and Finance Law Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law Bet-the-Company Litigation Commercial Litigation Construction Law Corporate Law Corporate Compliance Law Criminal Defense – White Collar Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law Employment Law – Management Environmental Law First Amendment Law Government Relations Practice Health Care Law Insurance Law Land Use & Zoning Law...