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Who’s Really Prescribing Your Medicine? It May Not be Your Physician.

By: Jaime C. Garcia* | Staff Writer

Patients aren’t the only ones paying a premium to doctors and other healthcare providers. In the last five months of 2013, drug and medical device companies paid at least $3.5 Billion to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals. In addition to raising a few eyebrows, the large sums of money these companies are paying out have raised several questions about the conflicts of interests these payments create.

Public information on payments made to doctors and teaching hospitals has only recently been made available thanks to the “Sunshine Provisions” of the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect August, 2013. The purpose of the enacted regulations is to drive down healthcare costs by making the public aware of potential conflicts of interest. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) breaks down the data into three types: 1) Research; 2) Ownership; 3) General (non-ownership, non-research). Of these three categories, research and general payments have drawn the most scrutiny and criticism. Continue reading »

California Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags: Environmental Concerns v. Business Cocerns

By: John Hodnette* | Staff Writer

In late September of this year, Governor Jerry Brown of California made history by making California the first state to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.  Beginning in July 2015, large grocery stores and pharmacies will be banned from providing shoppers with plastic bags at checkout, and other stores will follow a year later.  This statewide ban follows the lead of the Los Angeles ban signed only last year, and having substantially similar terms, and the Santa Monica and San Francisco bans, among many other U.S. cities already in effect.  Like these other bans, the bill require the stores to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag or other reusable bag it gives to customers to encourage the use of reusable bags.

The ban’s main focus is on the environmental damage that single-use plastic bags can cause, and Environmental groups are already hailing it as a victory:  “I think this is the beginning of the end of plastic grocery bags and 10 years from now we’re going to forget they ever existed,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians against Waste.  Most states include laws giving the state the power to enact legislation for the purpose of environmental protection, but the legal question is whether this interest is substantial enough. Continue reading »

How Minimum Do We Want Minimum Wage?

History of US federal minimum wage increases

History of US federal minimum wage increases

By: Alec Roberson* | Staff Writer

Minimum wage requirements have been the center of much political debate for quite some time.  Different politicians and political parties will use a minimum wage hike to try to attract support from individuals, or may oppose one to gain support from businesses.  This area of debate also raises the question of the choices of the various states versus the choice of the federal government and how decisions by the former can have an impact on those of the latter.

In 2007 Congress passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 that increased the national minimum wage requirement from $5.15 an hour to $5.85 with two more increases over the next two years to bring the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.  This act was passed following increases of minimum wage in 13 states through ballot initiatives allowing the people of each state to vote on the issue.  Currently, President Obama has urged Congress to pass a bill allowing for another minimum wage hike that would ultimately end at $10.10 an hour. Right now more than 20 states have set their minimum wage above the federal requirement.  In North Carolina, the minimum wage currently is set at the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour. Continue reading »

Part Two: Using Corporate Tax Policy to Stop Corporate Inversions

By: John Sanders* | Staff Writer

New York City

New York City

Politicians, business leaders, and legal professionals have spent a great deal of time this year talking about corporate inversions.  As stated in a previous post, an inversion is a business transaction, perhaps a merger or acquisition, between a U.S. corporation and a foreign corporation with the objective of establishing the headquartering the new combined corporation in the foreign nation to take advantage of a better corporate tax rate.

Opposition to corporate inversions has been widespread and forceful in recent months.  However, it hit a fever pitch when American corporate icon Burger King announced plans to merge with Canada’s Tim Horton’s in order to take advantage of Canada’s lower tax rates.  Politicians, business leaders, and legal professionals were suddenly able to command the newspaper headlines and the lead segments of cable news shows if they had a proposal for how to stop inversions.

The interested parties began rallying support around three very different proposals.  The three proposals, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, are changing the U.S. corporate tax code, using the bully pulpit to pressure corporations into staying put, and using existing provisions in the tax code to punish and deter inversions.

In a previous post, I described the proposals that Republicans and Democrats have put forward to amend and overhaul the tax code.  In the short time that has passed between post, there have been development on that front as well as others.  In this post, however, I will outline the competing proposal to use existing provisions in the tax code to punish and deter inversions. Continue reading »

JBIPL Board Spotlight: Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor

Compiled By: Samantha Berner | Staff Writer 

Andrew Powell, Editor-in-Chief

What are the pertinent qualifications? Excellent time management and organizational skills.  Respect for deadlines and the ability to coordinate multiple moving parts and individuals through changing scenarios.  Strong editing skills and familiarity with the Bluebook and legal writing. 

Why did you apply for this position? I chose to apply because I wished to take a greater role in the Journal, practice my management skills, and help set the strategic direction for the Journal.  In my time in the MBA program, I have directed my studies toward strategic planning and change management.  The Journal has grown in the past few years, and when I applied to the position, the Journal was in the process of further evolving and experimenting with new ideas.  I saw it as a perfect opportunity to help guide the Journal through current issues, explore our strengths and growth opportunities, and set a firm direction for us to continue our mission of publishing top-notch legal research. Continue reading »

Self-Defense: Expediting the Patenting Process to Meet Emergency Demand

By: Austin J. Griffin* | Staff Writer 

“Radam’s Microbe Killer” Patent Medicine Advertisement

“Radam’s Microbe Killer” Patent Medicine Advertisement

The modern world faces many varied threats that require quick action.  Not the least of these are diseases like Ebola.  However, despite its media coverage and known mortality rates, many of the largest medical R&D groups have failed to act on Ebola until now.  A recent article in USA Today stated that although the threat of Ebola has been known since 1976, the monetary gain from the development of a cure has been so little that major drugmakers have ignored it.  Now that the threat is growing, several new treatments, from antiviral drugs to blood transfusion therapies, are being tested and readied for market.  However, they are not ready yet.

Why are these treatments not available?  One reason may be the lack of economic protection of the drugmaker’s final product through a patent.  The United States patent system, although useful in its protections of intellectual property, is notoriously slow.  In the face of anything other than a “sure deal”, a pharmaceutical company may be tentative to produce and subsequently patent an otherwise unneeded treatment.

So, how can a company expedite its protection so that new treatments for new illnesses can become economically available?  This article will use a broad hypothetical to follow a few options for such a process and find whether such a patent process may actually be effective in helping secure a company’s specific treatment. Continue reading »

Facebug: The Orwellian Expansion of Mobile Apps and the Law’s Protection

By: Austin J. Griffin* | Staff Writer

Google Image

Google Image

 

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.

George Orwell,1984

The above quote, taken from George Orwell’s novel 1984, seems to speak to the recent rise in privacy-affecting mobile apps and the companies behind them.  The question remains, though, is the average user protected by the law?

The Facebug

In the past year, the Internet giant Facebook released a new feature for its mobile app.  According to Yahoo! Finance, this feature allows Facebook to turn on your device’s microphone on its own, so that the app can listen to your surroundings.  Ideally, this app feature was meant to create automatic Facebook updates based on what your microphone picks up, such as Watching Once Upon a Time or Listening to Elvis Presley.  In light of its spying abilities, some have referred to the app as “breathtakingly creepy.

Facebook has released a statement clarifying that the privacy settings on your device decide its access, but the “creepy” factor has not faded for many.  This app and others like it are starting raise important questions.  Is this sort of intrusion widespread?  How might the law protect the average consumer?  This short post will attempt to provide an overview of these questions.  Continue reading »

Are you vaccinated against an unhealthy workplace?

By: Jaime C. Garcia* | Staff Writer

Enlargement of the tiny Ebola virions

Enlargement of the tiny Ebola virions

The United States is far removed from the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa.  At least, it was.  When Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, two Americans working in Liberia to help treat Ebola patients, were brought to Emory Hospital in Atlanta for treatment, some feared this move could bring the epidemic to American shores.  Despite these fears, it is unlikely an  Ebola outbreak ever was, or will be a large threat to the United States.  However, that does not mean Americans are safe from a viral outbreak.  More common viruses, such as the flu, may not receive as much attention as the Ebola outbreak, but they are far more likely to have a noticeable effect on the average person.  For example, the CDC estimates approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year.  While the public focused on the protections and precautions taken by healthcare workers who treated Ebola patients, few, if any, employees think about their rights, and the corresponding duties of their employers, to be protected from viruses they encounter in the workplace. Continue reading »

Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s Domestic Violence Spurs New NFL Policy

By: John Hodnette* | Staff Writer 

Ray Rice, formally of the Baltimore Ravens

In March, then-current Baltimore Raven running back was indicted for aggravated assault against his now wife Janay Palmer.   A new video released shows the assault itself, which occurred in an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on February 15th and ended with Palmer being dragged, unconscious from the elevator.  The NFL’s initial response to Rice’s action was a two game suspension, but this resulted in massive outcries from the public on the inadequacy of this punishment.  Some of the most outspoken were women, who account for 45% of the league’s total fan base.  Commissioner Roger Goodell responded by creating a new domestic violence policy for the NFL, aided in part by Kim Gandy, the president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Goodell sent a letter to each of the NFL owners with his new proposed policy, which is primarily based on stiffer penalties.  For the first domestic violence offense, the player would face a six-game suspension without pay, and for the second, a lifetime ban from the NFL.  This plan would apply to all personnel, including executives and owners.  Goodell writes in the letter, “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”  A copy of the letter can be found here.

While initially unclear, the league has since attempted to help define some of the terms used in the policy.  For example an “offense” was said to not necessarily be limited to a conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction, but that each incident will be “judged on its own merits.”  Some criticize the new policy as mere puffery, as the Commissioner always had the power to suspend players for as long as he deemed reasonable. Continue reading »

Upcoming Publications: JBIPL’s Student Authors Discuss Their Work

By: Samantha Berner* | Staff Writer

One great aspect of the Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law is the opportunity for law students to get published. Each semester, the Journal picks a select few submissions from within Wake Forest to be published and featured within each issue. The following three students were selected from the Spring 2014 submissions and tell us a little about their note or comment, their inspiration, and a little bit about themselves.

From Left to Right: Hannah Nicholes, Rebecca Winder, Chase Smith

From Left to Right: Hannah Nicholes, Rebecca Winder, and Chase Smith.

  Continue reading »