Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why was the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that college athletes can unionize limited to private institutions?

Under the National Labor Relations Act, states are not "employers." Since public schools are part of their state government, public schools are not employers under the NLRA. Since private schools are not part of their state government, they are not employers under the NLRA. The federal regulations of the NLRB explicitly provide that the NLRB will exercise jurisdictions over issues involving private nonprofit colleges and universities that have a gross annual revenue of $1M or more.

This does not mean that college athletes at public schools cannot unionize, it just means they have to do so differently. Those athletes would have to unionize under procedures for public sector employees. Some states are right to work states, which prevents compulsory union participation for public sector employees. Those employees could join the union if they wanted to do so, but they would not have to join or participate in its labor policies or goals.

On the other hand, Northwestern's college athletes will be voting within the month to determine whether they will be represented by the College Athletes Players Association. The CAPA was just recently formed. If a majority of Northwestern's athletes vote for representation, then all Northwestern athletes will be represented by the CAPA.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On the negligence lawsuit involving former Iowa football players injured during the rhabdomyolysis exercise scandal in January 2011.

In January 2011, 13 football players for the University of Iowa were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of muscle tissue leading to the release of muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream. The players suffered this condition as the result of overly strenuous workouts following a disappointing 2010 football season.

On March 10, 2014, one former player injured by "rhabdo" sued the school and State of Iowa for negligence. Unless one or more of the injured former players were in negotiation with the school before January 2013, and unless the parties agreed to waive arguments based on Iowa's statute of limitations, the player or players may lose on a technicality. Iowa Code 614.1(2) provides that personal injury lawsuits must be brought within two years. The former player's claim was initiated more than three years after the injury. Accordingly, even though the school would likely be liable for negligence, it may win because the player waited too long to file the lawsuit. That said, it is more likely that the players were previously in confidential negotiation with the school, and the parties agreed to waive any argument based on the statute of limitations.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What is a naked trademark license?

If you have a trademark and enter into licensing agreements where you do not oversee and monitor the manner in which your mark is used by the licensees, you risk a "naked license." Having a naked license means your trademark is no longer valid, because it no longer is source identifying.

If you have a mark and want to license it to others, make sure you enter into licensing agreements negotiated at arms' length. If you let other companies use your mark without conditions, it will result in a naked license.