Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bucks for Becks. And insults.

The big international sporting news is that the most famous person on the planet, David Beckham, is coming to America to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.

The big drama is when Beckham might start playing with Los Angeles. It certainly does not help that the president of his current team, RĂ©al Madrid, talked about Beckham's inability to be loyal to his current team now that a contract was signed that starts after his current contract runs out and that he's washed up.

It's not hard at all to find opinions on this being a good or a bad signing - certainly it is about growing the sport in the United States as much as it is about the Galaxy's ability to win the MLS Cup, the MLS Supporter's Shield, or the just-formed North American tournament called the SuperLiga.

However, the focus here is on the belief that a player cannot work (play) for one sports team in one league after signing a contract that begins once his current contract ends. Oddly enough, there's a case from 1974 that rejected that notion. Bill Bergey, a defensive player who is still well-liked in my hometown of Philadelphia, was playing for the Cincinnati Bengals (of the National Football League) at the time when he signed with the Virginia Ambassadors of the then-new World Football League. Bergey's Ambassadors contract was to start only after his Bengals contract expired at the end of the season.

The Bengals sued and the case is now known as Cincinnati Bengals v. Bergey 453 F.Supp 129 (S.D. Ohio 1974).

The parallel isn't quite the same as both football leagues were in competition with each other in the U.S. and now the two soccer leagues are international and regulated by international agreements on how players can move from league to league. But it's the notion that a player can't play for the team in this league with a contract that starts later in a new league.

The court rejected that notion. Why? Bergey had "no intention of seeking an early release" from his Bengals contract. The court in this case found that Bergey had every intention of fulfilling his Bengals contract. He was not breaching the contract. He was not interfering with the business of the Bengals, either. "The Court concludes that there is no incentive to Bergey to compromise with his pride in his playing ability which impels him to be the aggressive player that he is."

What a quaint notion.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, readers!

The forum has taken some time off in order to do work and take care of personal business.

The big news story in the technological world comes from Apple. There's no shock there, as Apple has been making waves in personal devices, like the iPod. In fact, this forum noted that Apple has been protecting its marks feverishly by taking steps to stop any mark that begins with a lower-case "i" followed by a word.

So, the big news story is that Apple has released a cell phone called, of course, the iPhone.

And now the battle begins for the name, iPhone. What's that? You never heard of iPhone before? Cisco owns the mark and has begun to try to enforce its rights in the name, saying that Apple's iPhone mark is in the same goods and services (or a similar set) as Cisco's.

If anyone is curious, the text of the complaint can be found on the Web.

The iPhone name was first registered in 1996 by InfoGear, a maker of Internet appliances. Cisco acquired InfoGear, and the trademark, in 2000.

Apple even tried to negotiate the use of the iPhone mark.

Looking at the mark, Cisco's iPhone represents "computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks."

As in most trademark issues, the issue swings upon the difference between the two products. Is Apple's cell phone/music player/video player/internet browser different enough to Cisco's products? It'll be interesting to keep tabs on this one.

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