Jun 30, 2021 • 11M

🗞️ Tech 1, Antitrust 0

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Raad Ahmed
Welcome to Not Billable. Weekly legal news updates. Full event replays. And, a chance to hear from industry leaders about what’s been going on behind the scenes. Powered by Lawtrades, and hosted by their Head of Community, Matt Margolis.
Episode details

This week: A judge makes a shocking decision in a Facebook case and ADT settles with Ring over blue signs. Plus: the ABA reveals a disturbing trend for racial disparities in bar passage rates.

👨‍⚖️ Facebook notches a victory in the antitrust wars 

The FTC’s biggest antitrust case in years has landed with a thud. 

On Monday, a federal judge threw out the FTC’s action against Facebook, as well as a similar case brought forward by states. Here’s how it all went down.

  • The FTC’s lawsuit argued Facebook had a monopoly over social media: It pointed to acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp as evidence of Facebook’s overly dominant position.

  • But the judge didn’t agree: James Boasberg ruled that the FTC had essentially not provided enough facts to illustrate that Facebook held a 60%-plus share of the market. This was a stunning move, given the hype surrounding reforms to major tech companies over the last couple of years.

  • As for the states’ lawsuit: Boasberg said their claims about unwinding Instagram and WhatsApp all stemmed from years ago and were not nearly recent enough. He noted that the action was premised upon things that occurred “when Kevin Durant still played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and when Ebola was the virus dominating headlines.”

The potential solution for the FTC

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but legal analysts say that antitrust laws, relics of the early 20th century, must be reformed for anything to stick against Facebook and other companies. 

  • It could potentially happen: Republicans and Democrats and Congress have signaled support, and this judicial decision may solidify their interest. “This is going to strengthen the case for legislation,” Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, told the NYT. “It seems to be proof that the antitrust laws are not up to the challenge.”   

The Verdict

The judge gave the FTC a month to refile its complaint. 

📃 There’s still a huge gulf in bar passage rates between white and Black and Hispanic lawyers 

New data from last year shows striking racial disparities when it comes to passing the bar, according to Law.com. It’s been like this for years. 

  • The ABA revealed the gap last week: In 2020, the passage for first-time white test takers was 22 percentage points higher than Black test takers and 12 percentage points higher than Hispanic test takers. 

  • The data reflects past trends and apathy: Since at least 1990 studies have shown similar disparities. Still, hardly any key players in the legal community have worked toward solutions. 

Ideas for change

One suggestion is to lower the cut-rate for tests to 130, like Missouri, Minnesota, and a handful of other states have done without endangering the quality of the legal profession. Another suggestion is making bar prep courses more available and affordable.

The Verdict

But wider scale changes have also been proposed (including getting rid of the bar exam entirely). One group of researchers suggests every state should allow licensure through the bar exam and through alternative means such as clinics and supervised practice.

🔵 Ring loses to ADT over a patent 

Apparently this country’s only big enough for one security company with a blue logo. 

  • A few months ago, Ring added new alarms -- called Outdoor Sirens -- for customers: They were octagonal and they were blue, and if you knew anything about home security they probably looked familiar. That’s because ADT has used an octagonal blue sign for decades and has the trademarks to prove it.

  • So ADT sued Ring in April: It asked Ring to stop using the sirens and to fork over some cash in damages. The lawsuit worked. The companies settled last week, and Ring will have to redesign the Outdoor Siren. 

The Verdict

This isn’t the first time ADT has gone after Ring for trademark infringement. A previous sign led to controversy, and so did a dispute over alleged proprietary info. 

💌 What else we’re forwarding

The weird conflict of interest in Australia’s antitrust actions against tech: Australia has come out with some of the strictest laws against companies like Apple and Facebook when it comes to aggregating the news. Is it because of Rupert Murdoch? 

Microsoft and Solar Winds have a common hacker: In this week’s latest in nonstop hacker news, the WSJ discovered that Microsoft got hacked and it was likely by the same Russian syndicate that went after SolarWinds a few months ago. 

🎧 Music we’re working to

Today we’re listening to Jake Muir, a Berlin-based sound artist, and field recorder. He makes richly textured ambient tracks with looping samples from nature and music. Lady’s Mantle constructs a poignant sound world crafted from samples of well-loved American pop smudged with field recordings made everywhere from Iceland to the beaches of California.

Lady’s Mantle - Jake Muir (40m, no vocals)
Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube Music / Amazon Music 

See ya next week,

🧐 Raad