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Smith Bigman Brock
Daytona Beach, Florida

The Daytona Law Blog

Boat at the center of legal dispute "arrested"

A thorny legal battle involving a Florida man, a British yacht builder, a yacht distributor and a boat broker prompted a U.S. district judge to order marshals to place the 74-foot yacht at the center of the dispute under arrest. Arrests are sometimes ordered under maritime law to prevent the parties involved in a legal dispute from using a contested vessel. Marshals arrived to execute the arrest on Nov. 3 shortly after the close of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

The Wellington resident who initiated the contract dispute says that he paid $4 million to have the yacht built. He has not been able to take delivery of the yacht or secure a refund because the British yacht builder is mired in a legal battle of its own with one of its former dealers over an engine failure. This is a problem for the man because he placed his order with, and paid his money to, the dealer involved in that legal action.

Medical companies in Oviedo trademark dispute

Two Florida companies are locked in a trademark battle over the names of their hospital services. Oviedo Medical Center is suing AdventHealth over the name "Oviedo ER". The medical center claims that AdventHealth is infringing its trademark and engaging in unfair competition. It opened Oviedo ER in 2013. In 2019, AdventHealth opened a new emergency room on Red Bug Lake Road, less than one mile from the emergency room operated by Oviedo Medical Center. However, the AdventHealth location is advertised in billboards as an "Oviedo ER", and the medical center says that both patients and emergency personnel may be confused about the differences.

Oviedo Medical Center filed the lawsuit once before, but it was dismissed on technical grounds. The judge hearing the case gave the medical center until Nov. 12 to revise the complaint, but the medical center refiled before the deadline. It is also alleging that AdventHealth registered a domain name incorporating the term "Oviedo ER" to recruit employees to work at its facility and is calling for the domain to be transferred to Oviedo Medical Center. Since the lawsuit was initially filed, Oviedo Medical Center's pending application to register Oviedo ER as a trademark was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Gaming companies battle over 'Riot' trademark

Many people in Florida love to play video games and compete in or watch esports, professional competitions in the video games world. The competition in esports can be fierce but so can the disputes between companies in the industry. Well-known video game company Riot Games has filed a trademark infringement against an esports firm, Riot Squad, accusing it of using the company's trademarks to build their own brand and reap the profits of a nonexistent association. Riot Games is best known as the manufacturer of "League of Legends," a popular game in esports competition.

Riot Games sponsors esports competitions, especially in the "League of Legends" field. The world championship it sponsored in 2018 drew in 100 million viewers to watch the competition live. It claims that Riot Squad is taking advantage of consumer confusion to build its esports brand, despite there being no connection between the companies. Riot Squad does not compete in "League of Legends" tournaments. According to its website, the team competes in tournaments for games like "Counter-Strike," "Global Offensive," "Apex Legends" and "Fortnite."

Permission for use of copyrighted material

If a particular material is under copyright, it does not necessarily mean that no one else can use it. It generally means that someone else has to gain permission from the copyright owner before using it. The owner of a copyright can, of course, choose to withhold permission, which can limit the other party's ability to use it legally. 

According to Stanford University, there are two types of permissions that a person can gain to use copyrighted material. One is a release, which protects the borrower of the material from lawsuits related to its use. The other is a license, which gives the borrower the right to use the material. There may be some overlap between the language of a release and a license. Therefore, the title of the document is less important than the terms of the agreement. 

Understanding false advertising law

Business owners in Daytona Beach rely heavily on their companies’ reputations. A claim against that reputation can exact untold damage, leaving executives and decision-makers with every incentive to dispute such assertions. One type of claim that can be particularly harmful is that of false advertising. Thus, it is important that those representing their respective companies understand exactly what the laws defining false advertising in their states entail. 

Per Section 817.44 of the Florida state statutes, a company that advertises to the general public the sale of property (be it real or personal, tangible or intangible) or an offer of professional services as part of a scheme not to provide such property or services as advertised if guilty of false adverting. The same is true if a company advertises a product or service for sale at a specific price with the intention not to sell said service or product at that price. 

What does breach of contract entitle you to?

If your business in Daytona Beach primarily works contractually, then having a partner try to end an agreement with you prematurely can be devastating to your operations. If its abrupt termination of your agreement meets the legal standard for breach of contract, then you may be entitled to compensation. The question then becomes what exactly your company might be entitled to in such an action.

Per the Judicial Education Center, there are two primary types of damages that you can seek in a lawsuit for breach of contract: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages themselves can be further broken down into two categories. The first is general damages. These are to compensate for the direct losses that you can trace back to the termination of the contract. These can include the cost for any work that your company had already done or any funds that your company paid your now-former partner for goods or services that now must be returned or redone.

What is alternative dispute resolution?

When Florida business owners like you run into issues with litigation, who do you turn to? What can you do about it? Handling conflicts and disputes in a quick and efficient manner can help you maintain good business relations and recover from potential setbacks with greater ease.

Accordingly, having an arsenal of ways to handle disputes can be a lifesaver for you and your business. Cornell Law School discusses one such method: alternative dispute resolution, or ADR. This is an umbrella term for any method of conflict resolution that does not involve litigation. Generally speaking, the only time a court is involved is if they must approve of the ADR option you decide on, but it is very rare for them to overturn it. Different types of ADR can include:

  • Conciliation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Negotiation
  • Early neutral evaluation

Company sues former managing partner

Most in Daytona Beach might assume that business litigation is limited to legal conflicts between two different companies. Yet oftentimes such cases can arise from internal strife. In many ways, internal employees can pose the greatest threat to business owners in that they know a company' vital business information (their trade secrets and intellectual properties) and they often have the explicit trust of those owners. If and when such trust is violated, those with a stake in a business that has been compromised might justly want to seek legal action

That is exactly what is happening in a feud between a New York company and its former managing partner. In a lawsuit filed against the former partner, it is alleged that the man used the opportunity of the founder suffering a stroke to assume control of the company. Yet rather than continue with the business' standard operations, the man instead manipulated the company's resources to further his own interest. He started another company (which he operated from the same location) and began to play the two off of each other as competitors. Representatives of the original company claim that while doing this, he grossly mismanaged the business, even going so far as to fail to remit payroll taxes (which resulted in a federal tax lien). 

What is a hostile takeover?

For many business owners in Daytona Beach, their goal is to grow their businesses to the point of making them attractive to potential buyers (putting them in a position to make a significant profit from the sale). Yet you may have contrary aims to keep your company under your control as it continues to expand. That, however, may not keep your business from being targeted for acquisition. You could reasonably find your company the target of a hostile takeover bid. 

What is a hostile takeover? According to the Corporate Finance Institute, this occurs when a company attempts to acquire another by bypassing its management and going directly at its shareholders. This can be done by offering to purchase the shareholders' stock at a premium price (referred to as a "tender offer"), or by engaging in a campaign to convince shareholders to vote out a company's current management team (a "proxy vote"). 

Understanding non-compete agreement enforcement

Businesses in Daytona Beach understand the importance of their proprietary information. It is for this reason that concerns are often raised when an employee leaves a company. Many may view these fears to be justified, and thus warrant requiring staff members to sign non-compete agreements. Such an agreement typically seeks to limit what a person can do when pursuing opportunities similar to the work they provide while in a company's employ. The question is whether or not such agreements are enforceable. 

Section 542.335 of Florida's state statutes says any covenants that restrict or prohibit an employee from competing with a former employer are enforceable provided that they are reasonable in terms of their time, area and line of business. Often, courts have interpreted "reasonable" to extend only to the sharing of vital business information and not restricting an employee from working in the same industry or for a particular company within that industry (agreements deemed to be lawful that restrict employment usually only apply to a company's immediate geographic area). Indeed, Florida's law goes on to specify that restrictive covenants to employment only apply when there is a legitimate fear of a negative impact on a company's business interests. Those interests are defined as: 

  • Trade secrets 
  • Valuable confidential business and/or professional information
  • Relationships with current and potential clients and customers
  • Client goodwill
  • Trademarked practices
  • Extraordinary or specialized training

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Smith Bigman Brock

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