New 96-page paperback available from the Independent Institute. I wrote a blurb:
In clear and non-lawyerly language, Patent Trolls spells out why patent trollery is so loathed and so lucrative: its rapid rise (with lawsuits quintupling in the past three years), the havoc it’s wreaking from Silicon Valley down to your local restaurant and hotel; and the reasons it can be so hard to distinguish trolls from legitimate patent claimants. He lays out remedies worth considering.
— Walter K. Olson, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute; author, The Litigation Explosion and The Rule of Lawyers; editor, Overlawyered.com
Speaking of restaurants, the latest business to speak out about its bad experience with patent trolls is the venerable hamburger chain White Castle.
Chefs “hate” the idea of using gloves or tongs on everything, says the L.A. Times, and the epic volume of plastic disposables that will have to be run through daily will make a bad joke out of the bag bans popular in the state, but the legislature was unswayed:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that made changes to the California Retail Food Code in an effort to curtail foodborne illnesses, and those changes include a law that says “food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.”
That means cooks must wear single-use gloves or use utensils when handling food such as sushi, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and any cooked components of dishes that will be plated for customers.
Some opinions from Twitter:
P.S. Cookery writer Michael Ruhlman has more to say here (“at any busy restaurant, my experience has been that the cooks’ hands are the cleanest in the place. You’re more likely to pick up germs from the waiter’s hand that sets your plate before you — but you don’t hear the legislators clamoring for this.”)
It’s coming as part of ObamaCare (earlier here and here) and it might wind up restricting consumer choice [AP]:
The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. …
Some companies may use electronic displays to post calorie counts while others may opt for signs stuck to the machines.
Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, [N.H.,] said she doesn’t yet know how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn’t like them. She has five employees servicing hundreds of machines and says she’ll be forced to limit the items offered so her employees don’t spend too much time updating the calorie counts.
David Boaz comments:
In my experience, vending machines shuffle their offerings fairly frequently. If the machine operators have to change the calorie information displayed every time they swap potato chips for corn chips, then $2,200 [per operator per year] seems like a conservative estimate of costs. But then, as Hillary Clinton said when it was suggested that her own health care plan would bankrupt small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”
A court has awarded costs against a Dublin family that sued a restaurant for not warning that if they allowed their two-year-old to put her finger down the metal lid of a sugar dispenser, she might have trouble pulling it out again. The balky lid had to be cut off at a hospital. [Mirror]
Around half the states, including Vermont, ban “happy hour” promotions at drinking establishments. At Watchdog.org, Jon Street quotes me suggesting it’s past time for the Green Mountain State to drop its ban:
Walter Olson, a senior fellow for constitutional studies at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Vermont Watchdog, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”
“When young people are starting out in the job world, they like moving to the sorts of places where there’s happy hour… It’s good for main streets that don’t want to go dead when the work day ends, good for restaurants trying to reach new customers, and good for tourism. The toll of drunk driving across America has plunged tremendously, both in states that have bans and in those that don’t, and it’s hard to see any difference there,” Olson said.
The happy hour controversy flared up earlier this year in Massachusetts [coverage: MSN, ABC, Consumerist, and Boston Globe (pro-happy-hour column by Farah Stockman)]. Texas alcoholic beverage regulators have a table of state laws here (PDF)
Following through on earlier rumblings, New York City’s mayor proposes a citywide ban on Styrofoam cups and plates [New York Post, earlier, Baltimore, suburban Boston]
“The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it is taking the first step toward banning dangerous trans fats that are found in a variety of processed foods. The agency said in a statement that the fats, used in a number of products from margarine and coffee creamer to frozen pizza, are a major health concern for Americans despite lower consumption of the dangerous, artery-clogging fats over the last twenty years.” [Chicago Tribune, our earlier coverage] More: Julie Gunlock, IWF; Scott Shackford, Reason; Michelle Minton, CEI (logic of removing ingredient from GRAS list based on long-term cumulative health effects could point toward regulating salt, sugar).
From comments: “Trans fats are pretty rare in my experience at this point outside of, ironically, military rations.” [L.C. Burgundy] More: Via Jacob Grier, Olga Khazan at The Atlantic recalls the days when the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) denounced restaurant chains for using saturated fat. The ensuing pressure campaign resulted in a widespread switchover to supposedly healthier trans-fat.
At 5 a.m., although the seating area of the fast-food restaurant was closed, the drive-through window was still filling orders. Some people were partying in the parking lot when Ali Aziz and a friend arrived. The friend got into an altercation with the partiers, Aziz stepped in and was beaten and nearly killed, suffering brain damage. Lawyers proceeded to argue that the fast-food chain should have trained its employees better and failed to follow its own procedures for handling disruptive customers. “The jury award was actually for $25 million but was reduced to $20.5 million because jurors found Aziz was partially to blame for his involvement in the fight.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
Yesterday I poked fun at a ridiculous piece at HuffPo (apparently written by an undergraduate who was given a byline as a university researcher) claiming that doubling wages at McDonald’s would be no big deal for its prices or business strategy. Well, hats off to HuffPo, which has now withdrawn the piece, apologized for its errors, and substituted a piece that tries to take a more sober look at the issue. I wonder whether Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who was completely taken in by the original article, is feeling sheepish now (via Twitchy).
So McDonald’s Dollar Menu would go up only to $1.17 if the company doubled all wages? Oh, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), you’re so gullible it’s almost cute. [Tom Maguire]
Update: Well, hats off to HuffPo, which has now withdrawn the piece, apologized for its errors, and substituted a piece that tries to take a more sober look at the issue. I wonder whether Rep. Ellison is feeling sheepish now (via Twitchy).
Now a slip and fall litigant wants a million dollars from the Harlingen, Tex. eatery. [AP/El Paso Times]
“A Boston Red Sox fan who was harassed and stabbed through the neck by a New York Yankees fan at a restaurant in 2010 has been awarded $4.3 million by a jury. The jury in New Haven reached the verdict Thursday in favor of Monte Freire and against the restaurant, U.S.S. Chowder Pot III, in Branford, attorneys for both sides said.” The plaintiff’s lawyer said the restaurant had been put on notice that the Yankees fan was potentially violent and should have cut him off from further liquor; the restaurant’s attorney said that while the man had previously behaved like a jerk, he was sitting quietly when observed which is why the bartender decided only to monitor him. [ESPN]
The Underbelly restaurant in Houston offered a “Double Double” burger. When chef Chris Shepherd got a letter from lawyers for the California-based In-N-Out chain, saying it infringed on their similarly named sandwich, he promptly changed the name to “Cease and Desist Burger.” It has sold well, says the restaurant’s marketing manager. [Erica Ho, Time]