Kazim Recipient of Rising Stars Award

Haider Kazim, a partner in the Firm’s Traverse City office, has been named by Michigan Super Lawyers & Rising Stars as one of the top up-and-coming attorneys in the state for 2012. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor.

The selections for this esteemed list are made by the research team at Super Lawyers, which is a service of the Thomson Reuters, Legal division based in Eagan, Minn. Each year, the research team at Super Lawyers undertakes a rigorous multi-phase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, independent evaluation of candidates by the attorney-led research staff, a peer review of candidates by practice area and a good-standing and disciplinary check.

T. Joseph Seward, managing partner of the Firm, explains, “Haider’s Rising Star recognition is validation for the hard work he puts into the Firm and his clients, and is also a positive reflection of the Firm’s future direction and leadership.”

Mr. Kazim is a partner in CMDA’s Traverse City office where he concentrates his practice on municipal law, zoning and land use, labor and employment and insurance defense. He successfully defends numerous municipalities in both federal and state courts in a broad range of lawsuits involving wrongful discharge, discrimination claims, police excessive force cases, jail suicide cases, whistleblower actions, First Amendment claims and Section 1983 cases.

He can be reached at (231) 922-1888 or hkazim@cmda-law.com.

Intellectual Property in the Academic Setting

Universities and colleges, although institutions of higher learning, must be prepared to navigate the complicated world of intellectual property, including dealing with their own trademark. A trademark is a name or symbol which identifies a product, service or institution to the general public. Trademarks, while intangible, are considered property, and the rights associated with trademarks are protected by Federal, State and common law. Generally, the first party to use a trademark in commerce is entitled to exclusive use of the trademark. That means the first party to use a trademark can prevent anyone else from using the trademark. This is important, because trademarks can have significant economic value as many consumers make purchasing decisions based upon a specific product or service’s identification with a specific provider.
A university or college’s name, logo and mascot are all trademarks subject to the same protections as any other trademark. University and colleges use their name, logo and mascot on a wide variety of promotional and marketing materials, including everything from letterhead to apparel to intercollegiate athletic facilities. The most common trademark issues that university and college administrators must deal with involve preventing unrelated businesses or organizations from using its name, logo or mascot without permission. The failure to protect against the unauthorized use of a trademark can result in the loss of trademark rights. Universities and colleges have developed licensing program which provide for the use of its name, logo or mascot in exchange for payment of a royalty. Licensing programs allow the university or college to regulate commercial use of its name, logo or mascot, which includes allowing the university or college to police the quality of the products bearing its name, logo or mascot to ensure they reflect positively on the university and college. It has been reported that collegiate licensing annually tops 3 billion dollars in sales and resides only behind Major League Baseball and the National Football League in terms of major sports sales revenue.
Many universities and colleges have been forced to file infringement lawsuits against those businesses or organizations who have appropriated the university or college’s name, logo or mascot without permission. In Board of Supervisors for Louisiana State University Agricultural & Mechanical College v. Smack Apparel Co., Louisiana State University, joined by three other major universities, filed suit to enforce their trademark rights against Smack, a t-shirt manufacturer, who was producing t-shirts using the schools’ colors. The t-shirts also referenced the schools’ sports success. Only one t-shirt actually used a registered trademark owned by Oklahoma. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found Smack’s use of the color scheme, along with reference to the school sports success constituted infringement. In reach this holding the Fifth Circuit reasoned that each of the schools’ long term use of the color scheme had acquired distinctiveness through secondary meaning. The Court also found that the similarity between Smack’s marks and the schools’ marks, the intent to associate with the school, and several of the other Polaroid factors demonstrated a likelihood of confusion.
Universities and colleges have also pursued trademark enforcement actions against other educational institutions who have adopted a trademark which might be considered so similar to their trademark that the newly adopted mark causes a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the trademark. Recently, the University of Iowa successfully prevented the University of Southern Mississippi from federally registering its newly adopted eagle head mascot, despite the common use by many other institutes of bird heads for mascots. Southern Mississippi tried to register its new trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Iowa objected, claiming Southern Mississippi’s eagle head was confusingly similar to Iowa’s Hawkeye trademark. In finding in Iowa’s favor, the court explained:
Both parties’ marks present the head of a bird of prey facing right, and basically oval in shape. Both contain identical colors. These images are very similar to each other in style and proportion. They both involve a bold profile image of the head of a large bird. That Southern Miss’s eagle may be a bit more literal and fierce than Iowa’s original Hawkeyes mark does not overcome the overall similarities.
Southern Mississippi attempted to argue that Iowa’s mark was not entitled to protection because the field was flooded by a large number of colleges and universities whom had adopted a bird’s head as a mascot. The court disagreed, finding that despite the popularity of using birds of prey, like eagles and hawks for collegiate and professional sports teams, Iowa’s mark had developed sufficient recognition allowing Iowa to develop a zone of protection, which precluded Southern Mississippi’s use of the mark. In reaching its holding, the court also noted that some collegiate logos containing bird heads, also contained literal elements (e.g., the university name, the team name or mascot, or even one or more letters), which arguable reduces the chances of confusion – even among the most uninitiated of sports fans.
The above discussion is not intended, nor does it constitute a comprehensive examination of the issues faced by universities and colleges in connection with either trademarks. Instead, this brief survey simply begins to highlight the significant legal complexities of intellectual property in academic setting. It does however highlight the need post-secondary institutions to take proactive approach in protecting their name, logo and trademark.
Patrick R. Sturdy is a partner in our Livonia office where he concentrates his practice on post-secondary education law, employment and labor law, corporate and business law, and intellectual property. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or psturdy@cmda-law.com.

Vinson Participates in Belle Isle Aquarium Reopening

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Ethan Vinson (right) and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing participated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting reopening Sept. 14 at the Belle Isle Aquarium, which will be open to the public Saturdays.

Mr. Vinson, a partner in our Livonia office, is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Belle Isle Conservancy.

The Belle Isle Conservancy was created by four non-profit organizations (Friends of Belle Isle, Belle Isle Botanical Society, Belle Isle Women’s Committee and Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium) joining forces to become stronger as one.

The Belle Isle Conservancy’s mission is to protect, preserve, restore and enhance the natural environments, historic structures and unique character of Detroit’s Belle Isle as a public park for the enjoyment of all.

Vinson elected to Board of Belle Isle Conservancy

CMDA is pleased to announce that Ethan Vinson, a partner in our Livonia office, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Belle Isle Conservancy. He will serve as their Vice President.

The Belle Isle Conservancy’s mission is to protect, preserve, restore and enhance the natural environments, historic structures and unique character of Detroit’s Belle Isle as a public park for the enjoyment of all.

Congratulations Ethan! He can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or evinson@cmda-law.com.

CMDA Attorneys Obtain Significant Victory in Federal Appellate Court

CMDA Attorneys Obtain Significant Victory in Federal Appellate Court

Timothy S. Ferrand, a partner in our Sterling Heights office, and Karen M. Daley, head of CMDA’s appellate division, recently obtained a Judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Sixth Circuit) that affirmed the lower court’s dismissal (won by Mr. Ferrand in 2011) of Fourth Amendment police stop, arrest and detention claims brought against several police officers of a Michigan municipality. 

The case arose out of the stop, detention and transportation of the plaintiff by police for psychiatric evaluation. Police officers stopped the plaintiff for a traffic violation. Inside the vehicle they noticed a sleeping infant under a pile of personal belongings. The Plaintiff indicated that he was headed with his infant son to Ohio and that he did not know where the child’s mother (his wife) was. The plaintiff’s wife was contacted and she reported a domestic disturbance and custody dispute had occurred earlier that day. After the plaintiff was transported to the police department, his wife advised officers that he had become violent towards her and threatened suicide earlier that day. He was transported for psychiatric evaluation. 

In its ruling, the Sixth Circuit held that “reasonable suspicion” existed for the motor vehicle stop. The Court noted that all factors must be considered when determining whether or not “reasonable suspicion” was present. In this case, the plaintiff’s route of travel, the time of night, the location of his vehicle in a high crime area and the fact that the vehicle was packed to the ceiling with personal items must be considered together. The Court held that all of these factors, when taken together, constituted “reasonable suspicion” to justify the motor vehicle stop.

Second, the Court held that the length of detention was not unreasonable in light of the circumstances presented. The Court held that the circumstances of the traffic stop, the presence of the child in the vehicle, the plaintiff’s out of state destination and not knowing his wife’s location made it reasonable for officers to suspect the plaintiff was attempting to conceal a child from his wife, a possible violation of Michigan’s parental kidnaping statute. These concerns justified the officers in extending the seizure beyond the limited scope of the brief stop. 

Next, the Court discussed how an investigatory detention may ripen into a seizure, at which point officers must possess “probable cause”. Here, the Court concluded the plaintiff was, in fact, arrested. However, the Court found there was “probable cause” to make the arrest. Probable cause was based on the plaintiff’s violation of Michigan law in the officer’s presence as plaintiff (by his own admission) was not in possession of a valid Michigan driver’s license at the time of his traffic stop. The Court alluded to the fact that there was a possible alternative basis for probable cause based on the information regarding the domestic violence incident between the plaintiff and his wife. However, the Court found it unnecessary to analyze that issue because of the existence of probable cause based on the driver’s license violation.  

The final aspect of this case involved the transportation of the plaintiff to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. The Fourth Amendment requires an officer seizing and obtaining a person for psychiatric evaluation to have probable cause to believe the person is a danger to himself or others. Here, the Court found probable cause existed. During his detention by police, the plaintiff made a series of disturbing comments. The plaintiff’s wife informed officers that he had been violent earlier that evening, had destroyed property, held a knife to his neck and threatened his own life.  The plaintiff’s wife warned police that he had told her he wanted her family to “die”and to “suffer”. Based on this information, the Court found probable cause existed to transport the plaintiff for a psychiatric intervention.

Based on the same information, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s state court claims for assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment. The court found “probable cause” for the officer’s actions and no indication the force used by the officers was excessive or unreasonable in nature.