Free Speech

News & Analysis as of

Public Employer May Not Retaliate Against Employee Based on Perception that He Engaged in Political Activity

On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court held that a public employee could sue his employer for retaliation where the employer demoted him for engaging in constitutionally-protected political activity, even though the employer was...more

Of Slants, Skins And Signs: The March To The Supreme Court

This week saw developments in the two cases challenging the application of Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act to their registration: In re Tam and Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc....more

Paul Watler Speaks: Texas Supreme Court Opinions Firm Up Anti-SLAPP Rights For Online Journalists

Online journalists and scholars from the Americas and around the globe recently gathered at the University of Texas at Austin to assess the state of internet-based journalism. The keynote address of the 16th annual...more

Perception Is Everything: Supreme Court Expands First Amendment Protections for Public Employees

In a decision that may expand the "zone of interest" protected by the First Amendment via 42 U.S.C. §1983, the Supreme Court in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, strengthened free speech rights for public employees by holding a...more

The Slants and the Future of Disparaging Trademarks

Trademark and copyright law are in a constant struggle with the right of free expression guaranteed under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. This is unavoidable. Copyright laws were enacted to protect authors of...more

Pro Football Calls SCOTUS Audible

As we noted here last week, the Director of the USPTO filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court requesting that it review the Federal Circuit’s en banc decision, In re Tam. That decision held Section...more

Schilling Firing: Can You Fire An Employee for What They Say on Social Media?

This week ESPN fired pitcher-turned-broadcaster Kurt Schilling for an allegedly offensive tweet about the recently passed law in North Carolina requiring persons to use the restroom associated with the sex of their birth. As...more

In re Tam Redux: The PTO seeks Certiorari

On April 20, 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Federal Circuit seeking Supreme Court review of that Court’s decision in In re Tam, 117 USPQ2d 1001...more

Anti-SLAPP Statute Raised in Planned Parenthood Protest Lawsuit

The DC anti-SLAPP statute has been invoked in a Superior Court lawsuit in which plaintiffs arguing that students need to be free from disruptions in the school environment are facing off against anti-abortion protestors....more

California FEHA Forecast: Evidence of Pretext Required in Anti-SLAPP Case Against TV Stations

On January 19, 2016, a California Court of Appeal issued an unpublished decision in Hunter v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. The case was brought by Kyle Hunter, who filed an employment discrimination complaint, claiming that two...more

USPTO to SCOTUS: SOS on the Lanham Act ASAP

On April 20, 2016, the USPTO made it official: It formally requested the U.S. Supreme Court to review the en banc Federal Circuit decision that held Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violated the First Amendment. At issue...more

Blake Shelton Says Magazine Wrong About Rehab & Survives Anti-SLAPP Motion

Last year, country music superstar Blake Shelton filed suit in federal court against the creators and publishers of In Touch Weekly, bringing claims of libel per se and false light invasion of privacy after the magazine...more

Another Successful First Amendment Challenge to the Prohibition of Off-Label Promotion for FDA-Approved Drugs: Part Two

The Free Speech Clause notched another victory in the latest and, perhaps, final chapter of the lawsuit between the FDA and Amarin Pharma, Inc. concerning off-label marketing of an FDA-approved drug. On March 8, 2016, the FDA...more

Employment Law Letter - Spring 2016

Will Smoking Pot on the Job Get You Fired? You’d think that would be a slam dunk question, but if you’re a state employee whose union is willing to take your case to an arbitrator, apparently it isn’t. Back in 2012,...more

First Amendment Prevents Right of Publicity Claim Arising from Film About “Issues of a Public Nature” - Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver v....

In a lawsuit involving the 2010 Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that right of publicity claims arising from expressive works, including films, are in essence...more

French Data Protection Wants to Force Google to Extend the Right To Be Delisted to All the Search Engine’s Extensions

On March 10, 2016, the French data protection agency (« CNIL ») pronounced a €100.000 ($111,715) fine against Google Inc. for failure to comply with its formal injunction of May, 2015 ordering the company to extend delisting...more

In re Tam: Still No Trademark Registration for The Slants

In the continuing saga of whether Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment, the rock band The Slants will have to wait a little longer before it knows whether it can register...more

Two Additional Lawsuits Filed Challenging the DOL’s Final Persuader Rule

In follow-up to our earlier blog post about the first lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Department of Labor’s Final Persuader Rule that was promulgated in late March, two additional lawsuits have been filed challenging the Final...more

Higher Education Highlights - Spring 2016

Upcoming changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act salary-basis test may convert many of your smartphone-toting exempt employees into non-exempt employees, requiring you to track the evening and weekend time these employees...more

Divided Supreme Court Allows Public Unions’ Agency Fee Collection to Continue

In a much anticipated case, an evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court has issued a per curiam order letting stand a Court of Appeals decision that allows unions to collect dues from public employees, even if those employees do not...more

Freedom of Speech Protects “Disparaging” Marks, Federal Circuit Holds

In a recent landmark ruling, the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, held that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act’s ban on “disparaging” marks violates the First Amendment. Section 2(a) provides that no trademark shall be refused...more

Hulk-Sized Damages in Sex Tape Privacy and Publicity Case

In 2006, Terry Gene Bollea, better known as “Hulk Hogan,” had sex with his best friend’s wife, Heather Clem. Apparently unbeknownst to either of them, his best friend Todd Alan Clem, now legally known as “Bubba the Love...more

Manatt Digital Media - March 2016

In this newsletter, we take a detailed look at the world of virtual reality with an emphasis on the potential legal issues that exist in this area of media that is still in its infancy....more

The Law Behind the Hulk Hogan $140 Million Verdict Against Gawker

A few days ago, a jury in Florida awarded Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea)  $140 million because Gawker posted a leaked sex video of the former wrestler. Rather than focus on the lurid details (which you can Google), let’s...more

Political Speech in the Workplace: Can I Just Make It Go Away?

Every four years like clockwork, it happens: presidential politics becomes the focus of our national attention, seemingly dominating all aspects of our lives. The national conversation becomes one of campaign rhetoric, and...more

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