Mar 9 • 7M

🗞️ Nike Appeals, Tumblr Settles, & DOJ Sanctions

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Forward GC interviews General Counsels of leading brands throughout the globe.
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This week: Nike lawyers up again, Tumblr agrees to LGBTQ protections, and a former Fox News producer gets caught for violating sanctions against Russia.


👟 Already Courting Trouble

Nike's litigation offensive shows no sign of slowing as the company requested to block Already LLC's trademark registration of the phrase "Just Sue It". Nike has made the request to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board based on its own catchphrase "Just Do It" that the brand adopted in 1988. This latest action by Nike is part of a long-running feud between the athleticwear staple and Already LLC.

  • Already LLC is the company behind the shoemaker Yums. The brand is relaunching its sneaker line after a previous legal battle with Nike a decade ago.

  • "This moment has been a long time coming, and we couldn't be more excited," said Tex Moton, Yum’s founder, reports PRNewsWire.

Supreme Court Showdown

Nike first filed suit against Already in 2009 claiming that their Sugar and Soulja Boys shoes infringed upon the trademark design of Nike's iconic Air Force 1 sneaker. The suit was then met with a countersuit by Already who claimed that a trademark for a product's design rather than a "mark" was not valid, notes JDSupra. Understanding that Already was not a real threat to their business, Nike dropped the suit with a broad covenant saying it promised not to sue the smaller brand. Yet, Already maintained its countersuit and continued to argue that Nike's trademark was invalid. The showdown made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in favor of Nike, but gave the warning "against manipulation of the courts by trademark holders who sue their rivals, then back off to protect their marks," says SCOTUSblog.

The Verdict

By jumping back into a fight with Nike, this time over a new piece of IP (the "Just Do It" slogan), already seems to be goading the athleticwear giant into renewed litigation as a means of bolstering its brand. While the SCOTUS slapped Nike on the wrist for "manipulation of the courts" last time, it might be Already who deserves the warning this time.


🏳️‍🌈 Tumblr Reconsiders ‘Adult Content’

Tumblr has settled with the New York City Commission on Human Rights over claims that the blogging platform's 2018 adult content ban disproportionately discriminated against the LGBTQ community. According to The Verge, Tumblr has agreed to revise its user appeals process, revisit old cases, and retrain human moderators against potential bias. 

  • The settlement, which was reached without legal complaint or proceedings, could open the door to wider regulations against social media companies. 

  • Tumblr will further revise its moderation algorithm and has "180 days to hire an expert on sexual orientation and gender identity issues and provide related training to moderators," according to the settlement.

  • "I think it’s inevitable that social media companies are going to come under more government regulation and that more of these enforcement actions are going to come about," Alberto Rodriguez, an attorney for the city's commission, said of the deal’s implications.

Discrimination Troubles

Social media platforms remain a largely toxic environment for the Queer community. GLAAD determined that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter were all unsafe for LGBTQ users and that 64% of those users experienced hate speech and harassment online—more than any other group. According to NPR, both Facebook and Twitter have introduced new tools in the last year to help Queer users mitigate harassment on their platforms.

The Verdict

As various states enact anti-LGBTQ legislation, having Tumblr and other social media sites work to protect the Queer community is a net positive (if you'll pardon the pun). Though it'll be left to see how much online protections and behaviors affect real-world ones.


🦊 Takedown Of A Former Fox News Producer

A former Fox News producer and US citizen has been ensnared in the West's sanctions against Russian oligarchs. John Hanick, who was a producer at Fox for the first 15 years of its existence, was arrested in London last month for violating 8-year-old sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of that nation's annexation of Crimea. He is also charged with lying to FBI agents.

  • The charges brought against Mr. Hanick by the U.S. District Court in Manhattan claim he worked for Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev for 3 years after sanctions were placed on Russia in 2014. Malofeev was one of the chief architects and financiers of Russia's separatist campaign in Crimea.

  • The indictment further details that Mr. Hanick moved to Greece in 2015 to set up a TV network that would be an "opportunity to detail Russia’s point of view on Greek TV," Hanick wrote to Malofeev in an email, notes the New York Times.

Task Force KleptoCapture

Why go after Hanick now? It seems to be the first action resulting from the DOJ’s creation of a task force that "will target the crimes of Russian oligarchs and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct," reports the National Law Review. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco is overseeing the task force named KleptoCapture.

The Verdict

If you impose sanctions but never enforce them, you're doing little more than a performance. With the arrest of John Hanick, we may be witnessing the first domino to fall in a larger takedown of the Russian oligarchs' web, and a sign that sanctions have tangible consequences.


📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Hiring Spree: US Attorney General Merrick Garland is looking to beef up the DOJ's staff as he goes after pandemic-related fraud and white-collar crime, says Law360.com. The Justice Department is seeking to hire 120 more attorneys and 900 FBI agents.

Russian Aid: Law.com takes a look at which US and UK Big Law firms do the most work with Russian companies. A few names at the top of the list: Linklaters, DLA Piper, and Latham & Watkins. 

Insurrection Protection: A federal judge ruled that Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina cannot be removed from office if he played a role in the January 6th insurrection, reports Bloomberg Law. The judge didn't speak to whether Cawthorn did take part in the attempted coup, but rather said that a 150-year-old law resulting from the Civil War protects the incumbent Congress Member from being investigated and/or removed from office.


🎧 Music We’re Working To

Today we’re listening to Jadu Heart, London-based electronic music duo Diva Jeffrey and Alex Headford. Formed in 2016, their first EP, Wanderflower, came as a result of a class project at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. Described as a mix of psych-rock, electronic, and indie music- Wanderflower feels like an immersive escape.

Wanderflower - Jadu Heart
Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon Music


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See ya next week!

✌🏽 Raad