Contracts

“Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” is Yahoo!, of course. And, its lawyers should be embarrassed by Yahoo!’s inability to create enforceable online Terms of Service (TOS).

The issue arose in Ajemian v. Yahoo!, decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court on May 7, 2013. In this case the plaintiffs were the administrators of a decedent’s estate. They wanted access to the decedent’s email account to let his friends know of his death and memorial service, and later to locate assets of his estate. Yahoo! refused to provide the online password, and the administrators filed suit in Massachusetts to compel access.

Yahoo!, in turn, argued the suit should have been brought in California and, in any event, it was too late. These arguments were based on Yahoo!’s terms of service which provide, in part, as follows:

You and Yahoo agree to submit to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within the county of Santa Clara, California….

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D. Mass. Judge Stearns: Advertising Claims Create Express Warranty Despite Disclaimer in EULA

Assume a software vendor makes advertising clams regarding its product’s functionality. However, its end-user license agreement (EULA) is very narrow – it provides a 30 day  express warranty that (i) “the medium (if any) on which the [s]oftware is delivered will be free of material defects” and (ii) that “the software will perform substantially in accordance with the applicable specification.” Assume further that that software performs in a manner consistent with the “applicable specification” (the user manual) but inconsistent with advertising claims for the product. In fact,  not surprisingly given that this case is in federal court, it malfunctions and wipes out the data on the purchaser’s hard drive. 

You might think that the EULA would prevent a purchaser from claiming breach of express warranty, but under Delaware law (and the law of most states) you would be incorrect.

AVG Technologies is the seller of PC TuneUp. In Rottner v.Read the full article

You Want to Blog for Huffpost? Well, I Have to Warn You - We're Pretty Darn Selective!

A lot of people blogged for The Huffington Post for free between 2005 and 2011. But after Huffpost was sold to AOL for $315 million in 2011, they had second thoughts about their generosity. They filed a class action seeking compensation for their work based on claims of unjust enrichment and deceptive business practices, seeking one-third of that money for the bloggers. The trial court, and now the Second Circuit, rejected their claims. As the Second Circuit stated early this week in Tasini v. AOL (2d Cir. Dec. 12, 2012):

Plaintiffs’ basic contention is that they were duped into providing free content for The Huffington Post based upon the representation that their work would be used to provide a public service and would not be supplied or sold to “Big Media.” Had they known that The Huffington Post would use their efforts not solely in support of liberal causes, but, in fact, to make itself desirable as a merger target for a large media corporation, plaintiffs claim they would never have supplied material for The Huffington Post.

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Baker v. Goldman Sachs – The Business Deal From Hell

by Lee Gesmer on December 10, 2012

Baker v. Goldman Sachs - The Business Deal From Hell

An interesting “David v. Goliath” jury trial is scheduled to begin in Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris’s Boston courtroom this week. The case has received a fair amount of press coverage, but not nearly enough in my opinion.  (Steven Syre Boston Globe column today, July 2012 NYT article).

The events in Baker v. Goldman Sachs date back to the heady days of the dotcom era. In short, James and Janet Baker (pictured here) spent much of their careers pioneering speech recognition technology which they commercialized under their company Dragon Systems, based in Newton, Massachusetts. The Bakers were legendary in the Massachusetts tech community in the 1990s – home-based technologists who came up with a promising-today, sky-is-the-limit-tomorrow technology.

In 2000 they sold Dragon for almost $600 million to Lernout & Hauspie, a Dutch company. Unfortunately, they were paid fully in Lernout stock, and almost immediately after the sale Lernout was discovered to have been cooking its books.  … Read the full article