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Op-Ed

He’s alive!!!

February 14, 2022

Do people think less of you if you're dead? Doesn't being called dead damage your reputation? Elvis might have something to say about this.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Here’s a question you’ve probably never considered: is being accused of being dead or almost dead damaging to your reputation? Is it defamatory? After all, you can’t help being dead. It’s not something you usually do on purpose.

I bring this up because a lawyer based in Santa Monica, California, last week filed a defamation suit against two major law firms — Proskauer Rose and Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp — and three lawyers for reporting that the plaintiff, Carney Shegerian, was on his deathbed.

Apparently, Shegerian is fine or someone is pranking us with this lawsuit.

According to the suit, Shegerian’s reputation “came crumbling down” last April when he started getting “goodbye wishes from persons in the legal community who had been told that Shegerian was in hospice, was dying and would pass away within a matter of days.”

Well, that would certainly affect your practice.

This, said the suit, began with a brief email sent to a group of “labor attorneys” from an MSK lawyer with the subject line: “Sad News re Carney Shegerian.”

Sad news...

The sender was sad! How could that be malicious?

Well, the suit says it was. A couple of other lawyers allegedly got the email and then spread it to others “maliciously and with the intent to impugn Shegerian’s reputation.”

Since Shegerian had limited personal interactions with members of the defense bar due to Covid-19 restrictions, the “false statements took hold, festered and spread,” and this has hurt his practice.

So he hasn’t been able to convince people he’s not dead? I’m guessing part of the problem is that he may not know how to use “cc” and “bcc” on his health update emails.

Anyway, I suppose apparent death would be a problem.

“Indeed,” said the suit, “no one in California would want to retain an attorney whose health problems prevented him from practicing his profession.”

Don’t you hate it when your lawyer is dead?

The suit says the defendants have refused to retract their statements.

They’re insisting he’s dead? If so, I really want to be in on the first depositions when he’s sitting in front of the defendants. Could the plaintiff be a zombie?

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but, if it had been me, I wouldn’t have sued. Tom Sawyer had the right idea: show up at your own funeral and find out who your friends are. And then you can haunt the people who weren’t there.

Confusion. Here’s another question I’m betting you’ve never considered: Is an X substantially similar to a G? Are you likely to confuse the two?

After all, they are both letters.

I bring this up because a company called Ace Bayou Corp. last week filed a trademark infringement suit in federal court in Minnesota against Modern Depo LLC claiming that a trademark with a G infringes a trademark with an X.

Both companies make gaming chairs with built-in audio and/or video systems. The plaintiff’s chairs are X Rockers and V Rockers. The defendant makes G Rockers.

The G Rocker and X Rocker. Can you tell which is which?

“Defendant, by its conduct, intends to deceive consumers,” the suit says. “Defendant’s proposed ‘G-Rocker’ mark, and the products on which the ‘mark’ is used, is an attempt to pass off products as if they were produced by Plaintiff.”

I’m not sure what to make of this. Are gamers deceived by alternative letters? Do gamers care who makes their chairs? Did the defendant really think gamers would be deceived by the use of “Rocker” with a different letter?

Here’s my main question: Why didn’t Modern Depo come up with a better name?

Gamers (and Robert Heinlein fans) would buy Grockers.

You’re welcome, Modern Depo.

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