High court rules in terror, trademark dispute cases

BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 19th of May, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Brian Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The Supreme Court handed down two opinions in the past week. Both unanimous. 

First, compensation for victims of terror attacks. The court ruled terror victims can seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. 

Six hundred people sued the government of Sudan for injuries they suffered in attacks back in 1998. Al-Qaeda carried out twin truck bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And during that time, it was Sudan that gave al-Qaeda safe haven.

At issue for the Supreme Court was whether a law passed years after the attacks applies retroactively. An argument that it shouldn’t was that it’s unfair to impose new burdens after the fact. At oral argument, you can hear a foreshadowing of the court’s ruling in this question from an incredulous Justice Samuel Alito:

ALITO: I mean, is the idea that if a — if a foreign state is going to sponsor terrorism, it might think, well, you know, if we’re going to be liable for compensatory damages, it’s worth our while, but if we’re going to get hit with punitive damages, well, that’s going to stop us?

The justices decided that Congress did intend for punitive damages to be available to terror victims for past actions. And so the case returns now to lower court to align with this ruling.

BASHAM: The second unanimous decision is in a trademark case. 

In dispute were apparel makers Lucky Brand, Inc. and Marcel Fashions, Inc. They’ve long disputed the use of the word “Lucky” on their products. 

Years ago, the companies reached a settlement agreement, but it didn’t anticipate disputes in the future

Marcel argued that settlement precluded Lucky Brand from bringing up new defenses in future cases. But the justices say new facts foster new claims and, therefore, it has to allow for new defenses.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, the Supreme Court in Washington is seen at sunset. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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