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Hart | King Legal Blog


equalpay.jpgFor more than 35 years, California courts have accepted that the wage history of a newly hired person's prior salary as a "factor other than sex" in determining their current pay rate. A 2018 Court of Appeal decision found that an employer justifying an employee's current wage based upon previous employment compensation creates or perpetuates gender or race discrimination. It may be time for your company to revisit your hiring and employment practices, especially differences in compensation between your male and female employees to ensure that compensation differences are legally "job related."

As enacted, no employer having employees subject to the Equal Pay Act and the Labor Code shall discriminate between employees doing work requiring "equal skill, effort, and responsibility,... under similar working conditions" unless the reason is based upon:

  • a formal seniority system;
  • a formal merit system;
  • a formal system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
  • a differential based on any other factor other than sex. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1) (emphasis added)." Rizo v. Yovino (Id.


Many manufactured home communities have clubhouses for park and social events. Some events are sponsored by the Park, but some are sponsored by individuals or groups that reside within a given manufactured home community. An ongoing issue in many parks is whether to allow the service of alcoholic beverages at events held in a park's clubhouse. My firm, as a generality, always encourages any park owner that allows the use of a common area facility for an event where alcohol will be served, to require some form of additional adequate insurance.

California, over the past forty-five years, has been subject to a statutory scheme where a "social host" is generally immune from civil liability for serving or providing alcohol. That statutory scheme was addressed by a decision by the California Supreme Court entitled Ennabe v. Manosa.

Mobilehome Park Ground Lease

Ground leases are long term-leases that share many of the characteristics of a land purchase. The ground lessee acquires long-term exclusive rights of possession, including the right to build on and use the property as the lessee sees fit and to obtain any depreciation or other tax advantages that may accrue by virtue of owning income producing land.

The main difference between a ground lease and a land purchase of a Mobilehome Park is that, rather than paying for the underlying land value at the outset, the ground lessee makes rental payments over time which can be financed by, for example, Park revenue. Another significant difference is that, at the end of the useful life of the Park, the ground lessee might be able to walk away from the property with no further obligation, such as park closure costs.


In the past month, Hart | King has received rulings in 3 separate rent control applications/hearings.

First, we received a ruling arising out of an application in the city of Lancaster. The city of Lancaster has a fairly expedited process for submitting discretionary rent increase applications. This park had exceptionally low rent and was literally losing money after all park operations were paid. The city hired its own independent expert to review the application and the economic basis of the application. After a half day hearing where oral testimony was presented by the park owner and the residents, the city issued its ruling. The park owner received a substantial rent increase to be implemented over 3 years. The rent increase will bring the park's rents to the average rent of comparable rent controlled parks in the city of Lancaster. The city's ruling was fairly prompt and, as noted, the entire hearing process was completed in one day of hearing. Chalk one up for rational decision making.

Why register your trademark?

Why register your trademark?

Trademarks are an essential part of everyday life. They provide consumers with a shorthand way of identifying the source of the goods and services they depend upon. Whether it's the trademark for the car we drive or the clothes we wear or even the restaurants where we eat, trademarks denote the companies that provide us with those cars, clothes, and restaurants. They are everywhere.

Trade Secrets Finally Get the Respect They Deserve

In May, President Obama signed into law new legislation known as the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (or "DTSA") which is intended to provide enhanced means of protecting the confidential information that many companies rely upon as the basis for their competitive advantage. More specifically, the DTSA amends the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to provide a federal cause of action to private companies for trade secret misappropriation. The DTSA became effective immediately, but only applies to misappropriation occurring on or after the law's effective date and only protects trade secrets that are "related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce." 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b).

Those of us who have been to law school know (or should know) that the three main types of intellectual property (or "IP") are patents, trademarks, and copyrights. But, we also know that trade secrets are often considered as IP, too. Generally speaking, trade secrets include lists of suppliers and clients, sales and distribution practices, advertising strategies, manufacturing methods, and even product formulas or recipes. So, when it comes to intellectual property, why are trade secrets so often looked upon as an afterthought?

Who Will 'Walk the Plank' In the Battle Over the HAVANA CLUB Trademark?

It has been quite some time since real pirates plied the waters of the Caribbean seeking valuable treasure, high-spirited adventure, and wooden casks of rum, but the recent thaw in U.S. relations with the Cuban government has reignited a decades old trademark battle over the "HAVANA CLUB" trademark for rum.

Currently, Bacardi Ltd. sells rum in the U.S. under the HAVANA CLUB name but its right to the trademark has been called into question by Pernod Ricard SA, a Paris-based distiller that is a partner with the Cuban government in a joint venture known as Havana Club International. Bacardi, founded by one of Cuba's oldest families in 1862, claims priority of rights to the mark through the Arechabalas family, who originally founded Havana Club, registered the trademark in the United States and then sold those rights to Bacardi. Both families fled the country in 1960 when Fidel Castro's revolutionary government nationalized the island's distilleries. Bacardi has sold rum made in Puerto Rico under the HAVANA CLUB trademark almost continuously since 1995.

SCOTUS Denies Cert to Batmobile Case

Throughout his many incarnations, Batman, the fictional crime fighter and protector of the peace in Gotham City, has faced a wide range of very odd foes. Names like The Joker, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze and Penguin are familiar to fans of the Batman comic books, television series, and, of course, movies. But, any true fan of the Caped Crusader will have a hard time recalling any episode or story arc that pitted him against a small group of highly intelligent men and women clad in imposing black robes and wielding the power to decide the fate of something as important to Batman as his beloved Batmobile. That is, until now.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court (aka "SCOTUS") denied certiorari to a lower court ruling in favor of DC Comics and Warner Bros. and declined to hear the appeal of that ruling by Mark Towle, an Orange County, California auto mechanic who had been making custom builds of iconic Batmobiles for paying customers. By denying cert (as lawyers like to say), the Supreme Court left in place the lower court ruling against Towle.

TTAB Decides "ZERO" Is Registerable but May Not Be Enforceable

In February, I reported on the battle between Coca-Cola and some of its soft drink rivals over trademark rights to the word "ZERO" in an article entitled, "How many trademarks is Coca-Cola hoping to register with the USPTO this year? ZERO." Now, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the "TTAB") has issued a final ruling on the subject: The Coca-Cola Company can proceed with the federal registration of the "ZERO" trademark for use in relation to soft drinks with no calories, but it cannot prevent competitors from using the word "zero" in their own trademarks. Huh?

What is the TTAB?

In understanding the ruling, it is important to understand the limited role the TTAB plays in deciding issues related to U.S. trademarks.

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