March 2009

Not Every Great Idea Is a Trade Secret

by Lee Gesmer on March 7, 2009

Not Every Great Idea Is a Trade Secret

You have a brainstorm: there is a market for dumpster rentals, and what better place to make the rentals than The Home Depot? You go to Home Depot and have it sign a non-disclosure agreement before you disclose this idea to it. You disclose the dumpster idea to Home Depot executives, but after much discussion and a great deal of back and forth over several years with many Home Depot employees, Home Depot turns you down. The next thing you know, Home Depot is renting dumpsters, using a business model not too different from the one you proposed.

You cry foul. You sue Home Depot in Massachusetts state court for misappropriation of trade secrets. Home Depot removes the case to Massachusetts federal district court where it grinds through a couple of years of discovery. During that process you claim that the damages you’ve suffered are between $19 and $60 million.

Home Depot files a motion for summary judgment.… Read the full article

While I shy away from posting PowerPoint outlines on this blog, the materials from two talks that my partner Sean Gilligan recently gave to attorneys in our firm are sufficiently comprehensive as to be an exception. Both outlines are on scribd.com, and are embedded below:

Issues Facing Officers and Directors in Financially Troubled Companies

Key Issues for Corporations Facing Downsizing, Insolvency or Liquidation

Schumpeter, Creative Destruction and the Golden Age of Capitalism

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the American economy was in crisis after years of stagflation. Mortgage rates were 17%, business loans carried 20% interest rates and productivity had collapsed. On April 21, 1980, Time magazine ran a cover story that asked the question: “Is Capitalism Working?” Today, the crisis that the American economic system faces is greater than that during the darkest days of stagflation. In this opinion piece, George M. Taber, former business editor of Time magazine and author of the 1980 cover story, asks and answers the same question — 29 years later. [Continue reading at Knowledge@Wharton]

Taber still agrees with the final sentence of his 1980 article in Time:

For all its obvious blemishes and needed reforms, capitalism alone holds out the most creative and dynamic force that any civilization has ever discovered: the power of the free, ambitious individual.

And, he warns that despite the pain inflicted by the boom and bust business cycle that is the downside of unfettered capitalism — pain that we are suffering from now –

well-intentioned, but unwise, changes in the nature of American capitalism could do damage that will be felt for decades .

Read the full article

What? Marshall, Texas?

by Lee Gesmer on March 5, 2009

What?  Marshall, Texas?

It would be nice if lawyers didn’t have to call their clients and tell them that their company had been sued for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Texas (EdTX). “Where? Where’s that?” “What, you’ve never heard of Marshall, Texas?” you reply. “Never been to Tyler, Beaumont or Lufkin? Kind of quiet evenings after the sidewalks are rolled up, but your choice of BBQ rib joints is almost endless, and traffic isn’t a problem.”

As I’ve written before EdTX has evolved into a hotbed of patent litigation, although it has cooled a bit as of late. When you’re talking to a lawyer in Boston and you learn that he or she is heading to Texas, it’s a good bet that the destination is somewhere in the Eastern District. The EdTX has assembled some frightening statistics regarding number of patent cases (large) and the success rate of plaintiffs (high).

The lawyers in that part of the country joke that they used to do PI law (personal injury), and now they do IP law (intellectual property).… Read the full article