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SIN CITY STEAMED ABOUT SALE OF POPULAR AD SLOGAN The city of sin has turned to Morrison & Foerster for help. Earlier this month the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority hired MoFo attorneys for a battle over its hit advertising slogan, “What happens here stays here.” The dispute began last year when Dorothy Tovar launched a clothing line emblazoned with the phrase, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” which LVCVA claims infringes its oft-quoted ad. The advertising agency that created the tagline, R&R Partners, sued Tovar for trademark infringement in March 2004. The litigation took another turn, though, over LVCVA’s sale of rights to the phrase to R&R for $1 last November. The Las Vegas Sun recently reported that MoFo had been hired to conduct an investigation into how LVCVA “secretly gave away” the slogan. Mayor Oscar Goodman announced July 12 at an LVCVA board meeting that the tourism agency would hold a public meeting when MoFo completed its report on what happened. Taking the “What happens here stays here” slogan to heart, MoFo attorneys Douglas Hendricks and Zane Gresham declined to talk about the case. Hendricks heads the firm’s trademark practice group, and Gresham advises clients on joint ventures and strategic alliances. Tovar’s attorney scoffed at the claim that his client named her clothes after LVCVA’s tag line. “That’s incredibly silly,” said Daniel Ballard, an associate at McDonough Holland & Allen in Sacramento. “She applied what’s in the everyday vernacular to a line of clothing.” Ballard said Tovar, who lives in Placerville, hadn’t seen the ads before she launched her Las Vegas-tagged clothes. LVCVA began its “What happens here” ad campaign in January 2003 and received a Nevada trademark registration on the tagline six months later. Tovar received a Nevada trademark registration on the “What happens in Vegas” phrase in April 2003. As for LVCVA’s sale of its pop cult slogan to R&R, the devil may be in the details. “Trademarks are sold all the time, and sometimes they are given away,” said trademark attorney Sally Abel, chair of Fenwick & West’s trademark group. “That aspect in and of itself is not that unusual.” Brenda Sandburg POT DRAWS STRANGE BEDFELLOWS It’s not often that you get the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (California NORML) on the same side of a bill. But for a couple of months that was the case. Both groups were opposing Senate Bill 797, authored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, which aims to give prosecutors the option of classifying first-time offenses for pot possession of less than 28.5 grams as either an infraction or a misdemeanor. NORML thought the bill’s original version was too tough on first-time pot possession, while the narcotic officers continue to believe it softens existing possession laws. They argue in the bill analysis that SB 797 would “remove an entire class of drug offense from the treatment requirements” of state law. NORML had originally opposed bill language allowing prosecutors to raise the fine for first-time marijuana possession from $100 to $250. But the bill was amended in the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee to give prosecutors leeway to charge a first-time possession offense for an ounce or less as an infraction, with a penalty of $100, or a misdemeanor, with a penalty of $250. With those changes in place, NORML is officially neutral on the bill. Romero is carrying SB 797 for Quentin Kopp, a former state senator and retired San Mateo County Superior Court judge who wants to save the state the cost of funding court-appointed counsel and jury trials — both available for defendants charged with misdemeanors. The bill has the support of the California District Attorneys Association and is slated for an upcoming Assembly floor vote — its last stop before the governor’s desk. — Jill Duman WHO NEEDS LAWYERS? Peter Mutnick seems to have little use for attorneys. Several years ago, the Berkeley activist represented himself in suing his landlord, whom he accused of raising rents after threatening tenants with eviction. He won. Now he’s trying to get an agreement between UC-Berkeley and the city annulled, allegedly because the public wasn’t involved in the process. And instead of hiring an experienced law firm, Mutnick is again going it alone. “I think I can do better than an attorney, frankly,” he said. Looking to get more money for city services to compensate future campus development, the Berkeley City Council sued the university in February before reaching a settlement in May. Mutnick claims the settlement was reached through “extrinsic fraud” because a promise to include the public in the process was broken. Although the city attorney’s office denied any wrongdoing, several city council members who disagreed with the settlement wrote declarations in support of Mutnick’s motion for inquiry. His prior legal success and support from some city leaders have the 56-year-old disabled physics student feeling confident. “I think I’m going to win,” he said. “I think, based on their replies, [the city's attorneys] don’t got a clue. � They don’t really understand law.” Mutnick also said he will consider taking the bar exam if he wins his motion. “I’m now getting interested in law,” he said. “My mind is too disabled for math and physics.” — Warren Lutz

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