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Smith Bigman Brock
Daytona Beach, Florida

The Daytona Law Blog

Former utility CEO's contract dispute may be confidential

According to news reports, the employment contract of the former CEO of the Florida utility company JEA contains provisions that call for private arbitration to resolve disputes. The CEO was ousted and is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with JEA's board of directors. If the dispute is forced into arbitration as called for in the contract, the public might not learn about what occurred or how the dispute is resolved.

The CEO was forced out of his job and was terminated for cause for several reasons. The Office of General Counsel found that he had failed to disclose his conflicts of interest, misled the members of the board, violated his fiduciary duties, and lied to the Jacksonville City Council. His attorney is challenging each of those contentions.

Mass exodus of bankers prompts lawsuit

According to news reports, a large group of Florida commercial banking employees at Seacoast Bank suddenly quit their jobs without notice on Dec. 26 to begin working at a rival bank in Orlando called One Florida Bank. Some of the former employees allegedly stole customer information from Seacoast to try to attract customers to the new bank, prompting a lawsuit by Seacoast against One Florida Bank.

The lawsuit alleges that Seacoast Bank lost half of its employees, including all of its managers, in the mass exodus. Seacoast asked the federal court judge for an injunction to prevent the former employees and One Florida Bank from possessing or using the customer information that had been taken from Seacoast by the workers.

Apple sued for patent infringement by Masimo

Florida companies must take care to avoid infringing on the patents of other businesses. If they do, they may face litigation and be forced to pay damages. Apple's legal troubles demonstrate the importance of avoiding infringement. Recently, Apple was sued by Masimo for violating its patents.

According to reports, Masimo filed a lawsuit against Apple for infringing on the company's patents through features that Apple offers on its Apple Watches. Masimo alleges that the Apple Watch contains technology that infringes on 10 of Masimo's patents. One of these patents involves the Apple Watch feature that monitors the wearers' blood oxygen content and heart rate. Masimo also has alleged that Apple hired away several former key employees.

Florida marijuana business sued by consumer

According to news sources, a Florida marijuana business is facing a lawsuit over unwanted text messages. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida by a man from Tennessee.

The plaintiff alleges that Trulieve Inc., which is based in Quincy, Florida, sent unsolicited text messages to him in violation of federal law. The text messages contained advertisements for the company's cannabis products. Trulieve is one of 22 medical marijuana businesses in Florida. The lawsuit does not explain how Trulieve obtained the plaintiff's phone number or whether he is a patron of Trulieve.

Apple pursues business litigation against former employee

In Florida and across the United States, businesses that specialize in innovation should be aware of the possibility that employees might ignore agreements when they choose to depart. It is especially problematic when a former employee who had a significant role in the creation of a product starts a business of his or her own in the same category. One recent case involving Apple has led to business litigation.

A man who was a chief processor architect is being sued. The man brought two former executives at Apple with him in the new venture. Apple asserts that the man is violating his agreement with them. Mainly, it says that he hid his intentions while playing a prominent role in developing Apple's new chips.

Planet Hollywood sued by Florida

People in Florida might be interested to learn that the state has filed a lawsuit against Planet Hollywood to recoup the money in incentives that the state gave to the company. The lawsuit was reportedly filed in November 2019 in the Leon Circuit Court.

According to the complaint, Planet Hollywood filed a request with Florida to receive monetary incentives in 2011 from the Quick Action Closing Fund. This program provided monetary incentives to businesses in exchange for creating jobs. Planet Hollywood reportedly asked for the money after its acquisition of the Buca di Beppo chain of restaurants. It told the state that it was considering relocating Buca di Beppo's headquarters to Orlando.

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. 

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