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'The Good Wife': Good Law? - Season 6, Episode 17

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

After a hard fought campaign, newly elected State's Attorney Alicia basks in the honeymoon period of her success. Meanwhile, the firm represents a filmmaker suing a video-sharing site and finds itself a victim of hackers.

Here's what you need to know from last night's episode, entitled "Undisclosed Recipients":

The Good Wife: Good Law?

Season 6, Episode 17
"Undisclosed Recipients"

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More Legal Analysis of CBS' "The Good Wife":

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  • Season 6, Episode 18 (Airs 4/4/2015)

Episode Recap (Spoiler Alert!):

Alicia returns to her office to a rousing round of applause. Her office is filled with gifts that she can't keep and campaign contributors with demands that she can't please. James Castro, Guy Redmayne, and Lemond Bishop all want something from Alicia. She shoots all three down with a flat no, making them all very angry. Apparently, this is all wrong. According to Eli, "Absence of 'yes' times time equals no," and it doesn't hurt anybody's feelings. Who knew?

In this episode's law suit du jour, the firm's filmmaker client is suing a file sharing website, Wharf Master, for illegally distributing a movie before it even debuted in theaters. In what should be a highly illegal ploy, hackers release four months of the firm's emails, and threaten to release even more emails if the case isn't settled in Wharf Master's favor. The client refuses to settle, until his own company's emails are also hacked. This time, the bad guys win the day.

One of the legal arguments made during back and forth negotiation is that Wharf Master is guilty of trademark tarnishment. Trademark tarnishment is actually one of two ways a trademark can be diluted; by blurring and by tarnishment.

Trademark blurring occurs when a company's mark or a similar looking mark is used to market an unrelated product. The mark's brand power is thereby weakened by association with an unrelated product. For example, a company making cigarettes decides to call its product Xerox Slims. This odd association would confuse customers into thinking the photocopy company is making cigarettes.

Trademark tarnishment occurs when unauthorized use of a trademark lowers the consumer's positive regard for the product. In the show, the firm argues that Wharf Master is tarnishing the movie's trademark by surrounding the film's download page with advertisements for hardcore porn. While this could possibly be off putting to most consumers, Wharf Master argues that the ads are targeted, which means they only show porn ads for users who regularly search for porn.

The firm doesn't pursue this any further as it is quickly engulfed in an email hack scandal.

Alicia's office is filled to the rafters with gifts. To celebrate, she pops open a bottle of champagne that someone gave her. Marissa tells Alicia that, according to the law, she can only accept gifts under $75. Marissa is partially right and partially wrong. Illinois' State Officials and Employees Ethics Act prohibits all gifts except "food or refreshments not exceeding $75 per person in value on a single calendar day" and "any items ... having a cumulative total value of less than $100." So while Alicia may not be able to keep the more than $75 bottle of champagne, she can keep other gifts that cost less than $100.

The law firm gave in way too easily to the hackers' demands. Haven't they heard that they should never negotiate with terrorists? However, the client gets what the client wants. So when the client wants to capitulate, so must his lawyers.

What did you think of this week's episode of "The Good Wife"? Is the show guilty of making any legal mistakes? Check back here for more legal recaps of "The Good Wife," and send us a tweet at @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #TheGoodWife.

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