Nasir and Matt start the week by discussing Lindsay Lohan stealing an app from a previous business venture. They then answer, "Should I take any Ebola precautions with my employees?"
NASIR: All right. Welcome to our podcast where we cover business in the news and answer some of your business legal questions that you, the listener, can send in to email@example.com. My name is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: And I’m Matt Staub.
NASIR: And, here we are, bringing you another episode of Legally Sound Smart Business #100 – 100th episode.
MATT: I think we’re a little bit past that.
NASIR: Oh. 100?
MATT: Uh, what is this?
NASIR: 100-something episode.
NASIR: Oh, 113. I got excited for a second. I thought we were at 100.
MATT: Yeah. Well, I guess we can count backwards. Maybe if we subtract 13 episodes from now. We’ll just go in reverse and get back down to zero.
NASIR: That would be so confusing.
MATT: Yeah. Ah. Well, speaking of confusing, we’re going to talk about the life of Linsday Lohan.
NASIR: I was wondering where you were going with that.
MATT: I never have any planned lead-ins, but I guess that one kind of made sense, but – not surprisingly – she’s in the news again for something bad. This time, she’s getting alleged of stealing a business idea. I guess she had a joint venture. Her and I believe her brother was involved too and then a friend of her brothers were in this joint venture to develop this shopping app.
NASIR: I think fashion app, if there’s a difference.
MATT: Fashion app?
MATT: Revolutionized user shopping experiences. So, whatever that means but anyways. So, they had the idea. I assume Lindsay Lohan was only involved for name purposes only because I don’t know why you would choose her as any sort of business partner. But, basically, they had this deal or this joint venture with her brother’s friend and I guess, eventually, she just kind of stole his idea and ran off with it. And now, he has just filed in Manhattan Supreme Court for $60 million for her theft of his business idea. So, yeah, Lindsay Lohan.
NASIR: That’s a good way to put it. Well, they also alleged that she signed a couple of contracts, one including a confidentiality and non-compete. She agreed to somehow be a spokesperson of some sort to this thing. And so, the app that they were working on uses some kind of image recognition technology that allows users to basically identify clothing or accessories in photographs or social media feeds which I swear sounds very familiar to – what’s that show? I don’t know. My wife loves that show. I forget what it’s called – The Big Bang Theory. That girl in there came up with an app idea where you take a picture of shoes and it will automatically tell you where it’s from or something. It kind of reminds me of that.
NASIR: Not to get too distracted with that. This other app which is – what’s the name? Vigme?
MATT: Hers is V-I-G-M-E. I don’t know how you would pronounce it.
MATT: I don’t know what that even means either.
NASIR: Yeah. So, of course, they were responding that the two apps aren’t clones and that the suit’s meritless, of course, and that’s their defense. But I think the focus is going to be on these actual written contracts because there’s so many app clones of different games and so forth of each other and a lot of times – we’ve talked about this in the past – from an intellectual property perspective, the only thing that you can really rely on is trademark and copyright, and trademark in the sense that it may have some likelihood of confusion of affiliation and then copyright if you’re actually copying images and so forth. But, in the business process and so forth, the only way to protect that is through patent protection and, oftentimes, with apps, because these come out so quickly, you don’t have that kind of protection.
MATT: Yeah, and that’s what I was going to say. I mean, for the actual legal aspect of this, I’m sure even their original idea was very similar to a bunch of other apps that are already out there. I’m not going to begin to try to figure out what her app actually does specifically, but I’m sure this isn’t the first shopping or fashion style app that’s out there. From that aspect, it’s going to be a little bit more difficult to prove that she copied it or stole it. But, if there’s actual documentation of this, that’ll be a little bit easier and I don’t get why they’re suing for $60 million. It seems a little bit high.
NASIR: Or randomly chosen. But that’s what happens with those lawsuits. I mean, you just pick and number and see where it falls or damages. But, yeah, this agreement is understood to have included a non-compete and a confidentiality clause that was some kind of “self-destruct” clause – like, kind of Inspector Gadget style – if Lindsay failed to promote the site and be involved involved in the business side of the project. You know what? What’s funny with working with these celebrities, and this is what you wouldn’t think but, as much of celebrities having so many people around them to protect them both on a professional level but especially on a legal level, you’d be surprised as to how much that really doesn’t really mean anything in the sense that celebrities, just like other people, sign stupid contracts all the time and breach them all the time, just like anyone else. And so, I wouldn’t be surprised if this non-compete and confidentiality clause is in there, is enforceable, but they went ahead and did it anyway. That’s not uncommon, I think.
MATT: Yeah, I don’t think she ever really thinks about anything she does so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was enforceable and she just ignored it.
NASIR: I don’t really have good faith in their legal team anyway. I don’t know what’s come up with this case but Grand Theft Auto IV came out – I don’t know – last December. On the cover and some of the other material, there’s this graphic of a woman who’s blonde and I guess white. And so, somehow, Lindsay Lohan somehow thinks that is an image of her so they sued Rockstar Games to – I think the actual cause of action is – “use of likeness” of Lindsay Lohan or affiliation, et cetera, without their consent. If you take the pictures side by side, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Like, the only thing that’s in common is that it’s a woman because even Lindsay Lohan I don’t think is blonde anyway. So, it’s such a weird, weird lawsuit.
MATT: Yeah. Actually, I’m looking at what you’re talking about right now. It doesn’t look like her and the best part is there’s another picture of the actual woman that they modelled the image off of and she’s standing in front of it and it looks exactly like her.
NASIR: Oh, gosh. I have to look that up, too.
MATT: It’s in the story – go down a little bit, on the left side.
NASIR: Oh, yeah. I just searched the images. That’s so funny.
MATT: The Shelby Welinder.
NASIR: I mean, really, first of all, it’s a cartoon, right? And so, you could take any kind of generic person and make a cartoon out of them and somehow make it look like somebody else.
MATT: That’d be like someone suing us for our podcast logo. It’s like this could literally be anyone.
NASIR: That’s funny.
MATT: Well, I hope this is the last we talk about Lindsay Lohan, but I guess we shall see.
NASIR: It may become, like, one of our recurring topics like pizza and Yelp.
MATT: I hope not. Promising career.
NASIR: Yeah, very true.
MATT: Also, incredibly bad on Saturday Night Live when she’s been on, but that’s not unexpected. Let me rephrase that. The first couple of times, she was okay. And then, like, once her career went to a tailspin, she was bad on the show. I mean, obviously, the hosts don’t really prepare so they’re just reading cue cards the whole time, but she was extra bad. I just remember from a couple. She ruined a couple of sketches, in my opinion, that would have been good.
NASIR: That’s coming from a big SNL fan, I guess – very critical.
MATT: Question of the day. Oh, this is a good one.
“Should I take any Ebola precautions with my employees?”
NASIR: Ah, you have no idea how funny this question is to me because our household has been dealing with Ebola for a while and that sounds strange because my wife’s in the public health department locally and so she has to deal with a lot of these issues and one thing that I’ve found for certain is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a medical degree or not, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of over-exaggeration and over-fear-mongering regarding this issue. But it’s still a good question though because some employers may still have to deal with it.
MATT: But you guys are actually close to where a lot of the stuff initiated in the US.
NASIR: Well, yeah, obviously. I was in Dallas which is a few hours.
MATT: Much closer than most people.
NASIR: That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. That’s not unfair to say.
MATT: I realize that Houston and Dallas are, like, next-door to each other. I mean, compared to where I’m at, for example, it’s a big difference. I don’t know if you’re the right person to answer this question. You seem like you’re downplaying the situation which maybe employers should do.
NASIR: You reminded me. I have a friend – I mean, he’s from the States but he’s living in Nairobi right now in Kenya which is in East Africa – and people keep asking him, like, “Oh, are you okay?” and, of course, the response is that basically, New York is closer to West Africa where Ebola is prominent than Nairobi is.
MATT: That’s a good point.
NASIR: In fact, I think it was Rwanda that was actually starting to screen all the passengers that were coming from the United States to Rwanda which I think is very ironic and funny.
MATT: Yeah, I’ve never been concerned about this Ebola breakout, but I’m sure that some businesses have employees that are concerned about it, especially if you’re in tight quarters. I can see a situation where you’re next to somebody and they might just have a common cold.
MATT: Because it’s elevated temperature, right? That’s kind of how things start off. And so, they’re just kind of looking at them and they’ll get concerned and I’m sure this has happened. I can almost guarantee it’s happened with businesses because people get worried about this stuff, especially when there’s outbreaks like this.
NASIR: I don’t know if you watch The Walking Dead, do you?
NASIR: Okay. So, not to give anything away – I’m not – but, when you’re bit, of course, you turn into a zombie or a “walker” and one of the first symptoms though, however, is a fever. So, I’d be just as scared of Ebola as turning into a zombie as well. So, that’s a concern that you should have in your workplace. But the real question is, if there’s at risk, right? If you have people maybe traveling from Liberia or Nigeria, et cetera – other affected countries – then perhaps this is a real concern to you. But to what extent, as an employer, can you go through to protect your employees? Because doing, for example, medical examinations in general is prohibited of your employees, unless it’s through limited circumstances, specifically if there’s a threat of your co-workers’ health. And so, it could be a good idea to go through those screenings. But, at the same time, I would pay attention to the CDC guidelines and that’s what’s going to legally protect you. Going overboard either way – whether ignoring the issue all together to the extent of going overboard and screening every person that comes in even if they have no risk of contracting it – also could open yourself up with a liability. I mean, just take the doctor in New Jersey that’s been quarantined right now. Obviously, that’s a politicized issue. That wasn’t a recommendation of the CDC, but they went a little bit more restrictive and now the New Jersey State is going to be wrapped up into a lawsuit because of it. You know, again, that’s politicized, but just take that into consideration. As an employer in the objective of protecting your employees, I would just follow the guidelines and play it safe that way.
MATT: That’s a good point, too. Yeah, don’t go overboard with it. I don’t know if there’s anything that you should be doing that you wouldn’t already have been doing in the first place, if that makes sense.
MATT: So, I guess my answer is just do the right things, assuming you were doing the right things before.
MATT: Very specific answer.
NASIR: Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re all good!
MATT: Yeah, don’t worry about it.
NASIR: But, hey, you never know. This podcast right now could become more and more relevant if we have another small little outbreak. You know, people start getting a little bit more. So, I guess we should take it semi-seriously. I mean, right now, as of today, we’re coming closer and closer to that 21-day mark in New York. We’ve already passed it in Dallas. So, hopefully, things calm down. There’s some good news coming out of West Africa, too, but it’s still a huge problem, obviously, but things are starting to get a little bit better.
MATT: I’m glad we ended that on a…
NASIR: Very high note.
MATT: On a more serious note.
MATT: Especially after I read the question off, you just laughed like Ebola wasn’t even real.
NASIR: Yeah, that’s true. I don’t know. Well, it’s my anecdotal experience right now that’s affecting my judgement for sure. But, by the way, Ebola is not the only issue. Even in the workplace, I mean, the H1N1 flu virus, it’s in fact more contagious. It’s not deadly – as deadly, at least – but that’s probably a greater risk of contracting, and that goes with any kind of flu. I mean, how many times has it happened in schools? It happens in offices where one person gets sick and everyone get sick. That’s why – I think we’ve talked about it in the past – you know, having sick day periods is an important process of efficiency in the workplace, not only for your employees’ sake, but for the employer’s sake of making sure that half your workforce isn’t sick, you know, because you can send them home.
MATT: Yeah, getting right into that season.
NASIR: Say “boo!” to the flu. Okay. Thanks for joining us on our 100th episode – plus 13.
MATT: 100 plus 13, yeah.
NASIR: Thanks for joining us.
MATT: Yeah. And, as always, keep it sound and keep it smart.