Luddites Unite – Artificial Intelligence Will Replace Us

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We’ve been thinking about artificial intelligence applications and how they might change, even transform, the way we do our business. Then, we heard an interesting story on public radio. It was about a Southern California manufacturer of sex dolls who was introducing models incorporating artificial intelligence. For reasons quite obvious, the story didn’t get very deep into the details, but we learned that these new models were designed to figure out what their owners wanted and to respond appropriately.

We thought this application to be quite amazing in that here was a business way ahead of our own. Artificial intelligence is being used to read medical images with better results than even experienced radiologists achieve. It is being used to screen job applicants, much, much faster than humans doing so and with more satisfactory outcomes. Artificial intelligence is at the heart of visual recognition, allowing machines to replace people in manufacturing operations. It is used to write newspaper articles, such as those reporting sporting events. The list could go on and on. But, what it won’t include is negotiating agreements such as leases. That is, not yet.

Agreements such as leases are not zero-sum games. Though the parties exchange things of equal value, one needs to ask, “Value to whom?” Basically, when someone gets an item of value to them worth, say, $100, the other person may be giving up something worth only $60 to them. Someone may have two widgets and only need one. The duplicate widget isn’t very valuable to that person. A second person may need a widget and have two gizmos, but only need one. In each case, one widget or gizmo has a utility value of $100, but a duplicate one has a utility value of $60. Thus, if the parties trade widget for gizmo, each gives up $60 of value and gets $100 of value in return. That trade creates $200 of value out of $120 of value – a good deal for each trader. [Read more…]

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The Times They Are A Changin

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A major supermarket, once the largest retailer in the United States, closed in bankruptcy after 156 years in existence. People much smarter and knowledgeable that we are could better explain the cause of its demise and, in hindsight, could explain how they knew, years and years earlier, it would happen. Ruminations can only offer that the facts and circumstances changed, but the company (meaning its people in charge) did not. But, this blog isn’t about history other than to use it as a platform upon which to stand when engaging in another fool’s errand – forecasting the future.

The reason this now-gone supermarket comes to mind is “Uber.” We’ll get to that, but for now, please suffer along with us. [Read more…]

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Groceries And Other Definitions Revisited

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Groceries, sandwiches, ice cream, supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, variety stores – oh, the words we use, what do they mean? Today, we revisit one of our most-read blog postings because a federal appeals court revisited the underlying case (again). We’re “talking” about the Winn-Dixie case. Our “take” on that underlying case can be read by clicking: HERE. Ruminations urges readers to refresh their memories now by re-reading our earlier blog posting

Winn-Dixie, a supermarket chain, won a court decision in Florida where the lower court ruled that “groceries” included soup, aluminum foil, and similar items. As a result, it ruled that dozens of “dollar” type stores run by three retailers were in violation of a provision in the supermarket’s lease prohibiting others from selling groceries. Basically, the federal court that first heard the lawsuit looked at an earlier state court ruling, and (kind of properly) treated it as binding on itself, the federal court. [Read more…]

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Exclusive Use Clauses And Antitrust Concerns

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It’s been a thousand or more leases since Ruminations did any serious thinking about the intersection of exclusive use restrictions, radius clauses, and their respective lawfulness. This isn’t a current topic of discussion in leasing circles, though it certainly was 40 to 50 years ago. Yes, there is comfort in knowing that, with the passage of time, we aren’t seeing the “anti-trust” or “unfair methods of competition” armies marching into the shopping center arena. That is, possibly, until now.

Readers can research the law on their own. It isn’t worth wasting electrons on hyper-technical legal background. Suffice it to write that there is a Federal Trade Commission Act barring “unfair methods of competition in commerce … .” The lessening of competition is a danger also addressed in the Robinson-Patman Act, the Sherman Act, and the Clayton Antitrust Act. Further, some states have their own anti-competition or antitrust laws. [Read more…]

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Let There Be No More Blog Postings Similar In Concept To Ruminations; We Have An Exclusive

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Many businesspeople reach agreement as to a principle expecting that someone else will express it in words that can be understood, in a common way, by others. So, when it is agreed that a landlord will not allow any “diner similar in concept to the tenant’s diner,” what were the landlord and tenant agreeing-upon? We would think that the tenant didn’t want competition in the form of having another restaurant that drew on the same kind of customer base. Of course, every restaurant competes with every other one, but the marketplace distinguishes between Michelin 3-star establishments and burger joints. That’s a key point whenever an exclusive use restriction is on the bargaining table.

So, was the tenant thinking that some diners would be acceptable and others would not be acceptable? If so, how does one slice and dice the category: diners? [Read more…]

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We All Scream For Ice Cream – But Don’t Do That As Your Exclusive Use Protection

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We were planning a family Thanksgiving turkey-centric dinner and ice cream as a dessert came to mind. Now, in our world, turkey and real ice cream don’t play together well, so the gears cranked on. What was the appeal of ice cream? Well, to figure that out, we flew to 30,000 feet for an overview. At that altitude, you can’t tell ice cream from any other frozen dessert. And, when we in the “doing leases” business think of frozen desserts, we think of a 1988 court decision. [Well, not really, but a good story is always a good way to start a Ruminations blog posting.] The case we thought about is: Draper and Kramer, Inc. v. Baskin Robbins, Inc. out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The decision can be seen by clicking HERE. [Read more…]

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Just What Is It You Want To Restrict? A Business? An Activity?

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Last week Ruminations wrote about the legal niceties involved when a lease says: “Landlord will not lease for the sale of widgets” as contrasted with saying “Widgets can’t be sold at the property.” Today, again writing about use restrictions, we’ll be less “legal,” but not entirely so.

Basically, there is a difference between banning a particular kind of business and banning a particular activity. In simple terms, by way of example, there is a difference between saying that no one can operate an office supply store and saying that no one can sell office supplies (or staplers). We’ll illustrate the issues involved by reference to a May 22, 2015 Florida District Court of Appeal’s decision. It isn’t the best example because of the political and social baggage the case carries, but that may also be why it is a good example. The political and social aspects are not up for discussion in this forum. That’s enough mystery: the case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Florida v. MMB Properties and the decision can be seen by clicking HERE. [Read more…]

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Exclusive Use Clauses – Writing Them Wrong

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An “evergreen” (or timeless) discussion topic at law conferences, such as the recently concluded ICSC Law Conference in Phoenix (a highly, highly recommended annual event) is the “exclusive use clause.” We’ve written about exclusive use restrictions, too many, many times, too many to furnish only a link or two. [If you want to see one or more of those postings, use “exclusive use” in the search box.] Today, we’ll talk a “little” law and we’ll throw in a bonus at the end.

Basically, Ruminations will look at the difference between writing “Landlord will not …” and “No part of the Property may be used … .” [Read more…]

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