Mueller v. TL90108, LLC a Tale on the Statutes of Limitations

Mueller v. TL90108, LLC a Tale on the Statutes of Limitations

Regardless of the facts, there are certain types of legal cases that restrict the amount of time in which legal action may be taken based on statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations are laws that set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. When that period of time passes, the statute of limitations can be used as a defense to defeat the claim. Such was the case in the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Mueller v. TL90108, LLC.

Like a Bond film, this captivating story of international intrigue has a rare and exotic automobile at the center of its storyline. Specifically, a French handmade 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C with distinguished coachwork.

In 2001 the car (and title to it) were reported stolen. Under the cover of darkness, the thieves had disassembled the Talbot-Lago from a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and smuggled it to Europe.* In 2015 a company purchased the Talbot-Lago for nearly $7 million. This company is listed as TL90108, LLC in court documents. TL90108 is owned by Illinois dental company founder Rick Workman. When the original owners of the Talbot-Lago found out that it had been purchased by TL90108, LLC in 2017, they sued for return of their property when Workman refused to do so.

Despite having a sordid history, the Supreme Court did not actually take into consideration the car’s history. Instead, their decision was based on the statute of limitations. Here, the statute of limitations for the wrongful conversion or detention of the Talbot-Lago was 6 years. The question the Court had to decide is when the 6-year period began. If it began in 2001 when the car was stolen, then Plaintiff’s claim would be dismissed as stale. However, if the 6-year period began when Workman refused to give back the car in 2017, then the claim was still timely. Because the statute in question very clearly states the 6-year period begins with the theft OR when the wrongful detention began, the Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed Plaintiff’s claim to move forward. The ultimate question of who owns the Talbot-Lago remains unresolved.

*The thieves remain at-large and were not part of the Mueller v. TL90108, LLC lawsuit.

 

Apple Obtains Verdict of $1,051,855,000 against Samsung

On April 15, 2011, Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, iPod, and iPad devices, sued Samsung, maker of a variety of smartphones, in United States District Court for the North District of California. Apple’s primary claims were that a number of Samsung’s products infringed on Apple’s patents and trademarks. As a quick primer on patent and trademarks: (1) A patent is the “exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention for a specified period (usu. 20 years), granted by the federal government to the inventor if the device or process is novel, useful, and nonobvious.” 35 U.S.C. §§ 101-103; (2) A trademark is “a word, phrase, logo, or other graphic symbol used by a manufacturer or seller to distinguish its product or products from those of others.” Black’s Law Dictionary (7th ed.). To receive federal trademark protection, a trademark must be: (1) distinctive rather than merely descriptive, (2) affixed to a product that is actually sold in the marketplace, and (3) registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.
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Protect Your IP Address or Find Yourself in the Hurt Locker

If you, your children, or anyone using your IP address downloads copyrighted content online, you may find yourself in the dragnet of civil litigation. Copyright holders of movies such as Hurt Locker and Expendables have taken the shotgun approach to litigation, suing BitTorrent (described more fully below) users who downloaded their films. For example, in the Hurt Locker litigation, nearly 50,000 people who downloaded the movie using BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer (“P2P”) downloading software have been sued. On one side, the copyright holders are accused of being copyright trolls, a derogatory term used to describe aggressive litigation to enforce its copyrights. In their defense, the copyright holders argue that their property has been stolen and they are using legal channels that provide compensation.

To prevent being sued for copyright infringement, some background on BitTorrents is necessary. BitTorrent is a P2P file sharing protocol. With BitTorrent, every downloader is a source for other users who want that file. Torrents differ from traditional P2P networks like Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire, in that each new file downloader is receiving a different piece of the data from each user who has already downloaded the file that together comprises the whole. Thus, a downloader of Torrent is also an illegal uploader. In legal terms, this means that every BitTorrent user downloading Hurt Locker is infringing copyrighted material by simultaneously acting as a source for others to download the copyrighted material.

BitTorrent users are not anonymous. Therefore, it was possible to obtain the IP addresses of all current and possibly previous downloaders of the movie Hurt Locker. Hurt Locker served a subpoena on the downloader’s ISP requesting that they disclose the personal information for the IP addresses that downloaded the film, and a federal judge ordered the ISP to release the identities of the defendants. In general terms, this is the story of how 50,000 people, based on their IP address, have been sued for copyright infringement for downloading Hurt Locker.
The defendants, if found to have violated the Hurt Locker copyrights, could be liable for damages up to $150,000, not including attorney’s fees.

The foregoing illustrates the dangers of illegal downloading. To protect yourself, you must know who is using your IP address. To do this, password protect your IP address and monitor whom you give the password to. You should contact your internet service provider with any questions regarding this procedure. In sum, to prevent exposure to costly, time consuming, and potentially embarrassing (depending on what was downloaded) litigation, understand the dangers of using torrent technology, limit access to your IP address, and monitor your children’s use of the internet.

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