Case law analysis: Intellectual property
Write a 2–page executive briefing of a selected federal or state court case pertaining to the topic of intellectual property.
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:
- Competency 1: Articulate the importance, context, purpose, and relevance of law in a business environment.
- Summarize the facts and ruling of a legal case.
- Competency 3: Evaluate key judicial concepts that influence the decisions related to business.
- Analyze how a legal case could impact businesses.
- Explain how a legal case could impact a specific organization.
- Competency 5: Develop information literacy skills as applied to business law.
- Exhibit information literacy skills as applied to business law.
Employment-at-Will in the United States
What often surprises Europeans who visit U.S. workplaces or study U.S. employment and labor law is the fact that the worker in the U.S.—compared to France, Germany, and Italy—lacks many of the protections from layoffs and firings that can be found in Western Europe. Indeed, the U.S. concept of employment-at-will, whereby either an employee or employer can terminate the working relationship at any time for virtually any reason, is unique to U.S. employment law, and has deep and lasting ramifications upon how the employer-employee relationship evolves and develops.
The concept of employment-at-will emerged as a defense against involuntary servitude—in other words, preventing someone from being forced to work against his or her will. This gives U.S. workers maximum flexibility to choose their workplaces, chart their career paths, and pursue better and more lucrative job opportunities when they arise. However, employment-at-will also carries severe downsides for the employee. There are few, if any, protections for workers from being let go during an economic downturn, posing significant risks for workers in economic sectors that are extraordinarily cyclical, such as manufacturing. In addition, the absence of any incentive for employers to keep workers during economic downturns has probably led to an increased trend toward outsourcing, downsizing, and streamlining operations. Finally, the employment-at-will relationship also leaves the employer-employee relationship in a constant state of uncertainty. An employee hired today may leave next year, next month, or next week. Because of that, it is difficult for employers to predictably manage and forecast their workforce.
Supporters argue that U.S. companies are more flexible and nimble than their European counterparts because they can hire and fire depending upon cyclical economic cycles. An argument can be made that the symmetry of employment-at-will, which grants equal rights to employers and employees to terminate the working relationship, presents an equilibrium of power that may not exist in Europe, where employees may hold stronger rights than corporations. However you stand on this issue, one thing is certain; employment-at-will is a very strong underlying force in U.S. employment law, and has been consistently upheld in the courts.
Combating Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination is another major theme in business law. The employment-at-will legal concept does not allow an employer to terminate the U.S. worker for just any reason. Arbitrary and capricious firings based upon race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, are prohibited. Employees can—and have—successfully sued employers for firing based on those discriminatory criteria.
However, it is not easy to prove discrimination in the workplace. Proving the intent of an employer in an alleged discriminatory firing of an employee is extraordinarily difficult. Many worker discrimination suits are settled prior to litigation, and when cases do go to litigation the plaintiffs’ success rate is fairly low. Workers seeking to bring a suit on discriminatory grounds need to have a plethora of evidence, and must be able to document that discrimination in a way that is persuasive and compelling.