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Best Naperville and Oak Brook Lawyers who handle business lawsuitsBefore now, if an organization had its trade secrets stolen, its only recourse was usually to bring an action against the perpetrator in state court under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which was adopted by most states to provide a uniform civil remedy for trade secret theft, or under state criminal laws. The only federal protection for trade secrets was criminal sanction under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. That changed this May, when President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which gives owners of trade secrets a new federal civil cause of action for misappropriation of their proprietary information. The law is intended to provide an alternative to the current patchwork of state laws governing the issue, but not replace them; unlike the federal Copyright Act, for instance, DTSA does not pre-empt state law.

DTSA allows a plaintiff to seek relief in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets “by improper means” related to a product or service in interstate or foreign commerce. Improper means is defined as theft, robbery, misrepresentation, espionage, or breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. The law establishes civil remedies such as injunctions and damages for actual loss and unjust enrichment, or a “reasonable” royalty where an injunction is not feasible. If a trade secret is “willfully or maliciously” misappropriated, damages may be doubled. Trade secrets are broadly defined to include all forms and types of information that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret, and which derive independent, actual or potential economic value from being unknown to the public. Continue reading

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Best trade secret copyright and intellectual property lawyers near Chicago Oak Brook and NapervilleMany of us have heard of art historians debating whether a new-found painting was created by a certain artist, but it’s much more rare to hear of such a debate over a painting allegedly created by an artist who’s still living. Even more rare is the owner of a painting suing the artist he claims painted it, but that’s exactly what Robert Fletcher, a 62-year-old retired corrections officer, is doing.

Fletcher was working in a correctional facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1975 when he met a young man named Peter Doige who was from Scotland and was taking classes at a local college. Doige was brought to the prison farm Fletcher worked at on an LSD charge, and Fletcher says he saw Doige creating a painting of a rocky desert scene using acrylic and canvas and offered to buy it from him. Continue reading

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Best lawyers in Illinois near Chicago Oak Brook and Naperville that handle business disputesA corporate defendant waives the right to enforce an arbitration clause in an employment agreement if it asserts an affirmative defense to a complaint that is unrelated to arbitration. So ruled the First District Appellate Court of Illinois in a recent breach of employment contract case called Koehler v. Packer Group Inc., 2016 IL App (1st) 142767.

Michael K. was CEO of Packer Engineering, a subsidiary of The Packer Group. When he reported evidence of alleged financial improprieties on the part of Packer’s chairman to the company’s board, he claims he was dismissed in retaliation. He filed suit against the company for breach of his employment contract, and also against various Packer officers individually for tortious interference with contract, claiming they induced the company to breach the contract. The defendants argued that, pursuant to the contract’s terms, Michael’s claims should have been resolved in arbitration.

Michael’s four-year employment agreement contained an arbitration clause waiving the right to resolve disputes in court. The contract was signed by Michael, Packer’s chairman, and several Packer executives. Michael claimed that after he refused to go along with the alleged financial improprieties, he was offered the option of demotion or termination and chose termination. In his complaint, he sought future salary and bonus compensation plus punitive damages. In its answer, Packer asserted the affirmative defense of Michael’s own breach of the employment agreement, then later moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the arbitration provision deprived the court of jurisdiction. The individual defendants argued that the arbitration clause also applied to Michael’s suit against them for tortious interference, claiming they had signed the agreement in their corporate and not individual capacities. The circuit court ruled that Packer waived its contractual right to arbitrate when it answered Michael’s complaint without asserting the right.   Continue reading

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Wheaton and Waukegan Class Action Lawyers near NapervillePlenty of consumers who use Google to look up information have long been complaining about the company selling their information to advertisers, but now it’s the advertisers who are complaining about Google’s practices.

In this case, the advertisers whose internet ads were placed via Google’s Adwords program, have filed a class action lawsuit alleging the tech giant deceived them about the placement of their ads. According to the lawsuit, the objective of the Adwords service is to place ads alongside relevant internet searches. For example, if someone looks up exercise tips, Google might place ads for local gyms and/or personal trainers alongside the search results.

Instead, the lawsuit alleges ads appeared on error pages and undeveloped websites, which are also known as parked domains. This type of placement does nothing to help the advertisers because only a few, if any, people will see their ads. In fact, such a placement can even hurt the advertiser if a frustrated consumer accidentally finds themselves on an error page or an undeveloped website and they associate the advertiser with a failure to maintain that website/webpage.

Companies pay to have Google post their internet ads in places where they’ll be seen by their target audiences, so if Google is instead placing these ads on unused websites and webpages, then the advertiser has paid for a service that doesn’t benefit them at all and may even harm them. Continue reading

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Top Illinois and Chicago partnership dispute lawyers and attorneysA Cook County judge on June 3 in the case of Robert Buono v. Intelligentsia Coffee, Inc., Emily Mange, and Doug Zell gave the green light for this lawsuit to proceed against the founders of Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee, Inc. for allegedly withholding more than $15 million in profits from the company’s former CEO. Last November, plaintiff Robert Buono sued Intelligentsia and two company co-founders, Emily Mange and Doug Zell, for breach of contract and violation of Illinois’ Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA). Buono, former counsel for the coffee retailer and supplier, was hired in 2011 as co-chief executive and president under an employment contract that set out compensation of salary, annual bonus, and a share of future profits that was to gradually rise to 15 percent.

In his complaint, Buono claimed his management decisions helped grow the company into a successful chain by the time Peet’s Coffee & Tea purchased a majority stake in Intelligentsia for a reported $100 million in late 2015. During his tenure, Intelligentsia’s profits rose 61 percent. Mange and Zell dismissed Buono in 2014. In count I of his complaint for violation of IWPCA, he claims he is owed profits from 2012 until the date of his termination, which should have been paid at the time of his departure. In count II for breach of contract, he claims he is owed $15 million, which should have been his share of the Peet’s sale. Buono argued in his suit that he accepted a below-market salary in exchange for the cut of future profits, without which he would not have agreed to take the position. Continue reading

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Overtime and Employment attorney near Tinley Park and Oak ParkThe federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to pay their workers in a variety of ways, including an hourly wage, an annual salary, by the day, by the job, or on commission. But no matter how employees are paid, the FLSA requires the amount to be no less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25 per hour.

In addition to the minimum wage, the FLSA also defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. For all overtime worked, employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal rate of pay, regardless of the method of their payment. The FLSA does allow for certain types of employees to be held exempt from the overtime requirement, but it is very specific about the qualifications employees need to meet in order to be legally considered overtime exempt.

According to a recent collective action wage and hour lawsuit against Citizens Bank, the financial company allegedly deducted overtime wages from its mortgage loan officers. U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab recently certified the collective action, which means all the eligible employees who worked at Citizens Bank as mortgage loan officers will have the opportunity to opt into the collective action and submit their claims for relief. Those claims will then be used to determine how much the plaintiffs receive if the lawsuit is settled or awarded to the plaintiffs. Continue reading

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Chicago copyright and intellectual property lawyers near Oak Brook Schaumburgand NapervilleIt’s common to hear artists talk about their work as being an homage to the work of another artist they admire or someone they once worked with, but sometimes the line between being influenced by an artist and stealing from that artist can get pretty blurry.

Randy Wolfe was a songwriter and member of the rock band Spirit. He wrote the band’s song “Taurus,” the opening chords of which sounded remarkably similar to the opening of the Led Zeppelin’s legendary song, “Stairway to Heaven.” Led Zeppelin and Spirit played some shows when they were touring together, which allegedly gave Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, who wrote the seminal “Stairway to Heaven,” access to the Spirit’s song, “Taurus,” which was released three years before “Stairway to Heaven.”

Wolfe had complained on multiple occasions about the similarities between his song and “Stairway to Heaven,” saying he felt ripped off, but he never filed a copyright lawsuit against Led Zeppelin. When Wolfe died in an accident in 1997, Michael Skidmore became the trustee of Wolfe’s songs. Skidmore initially thought suing Led Zeppelin would be like David taking on Goliath, so he didn’t pursue the matter until Francis Malofiy, an American attorney, convinced Skidmore he had a case. Continue reading

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Best Chicago Non-Compete agreement and trade secret lawyer

When a company sues a former employee for breaching confidentiality and solicitation agreements, it needs more than generalized accusations in order to hold up in court. Bridgeview Bank Group employed Thomas M. as a senior vice president and SBA loan officer from 2013 to 2015. Thomas originally signed a noncompete agreement that prohibited him from engaging in SBA lending for six months after termination, but after he was dismissed by the company, the contract was modified as part of a severance agreement. He was allowed to compete with Bridgeview but had to refrain from soliciting Bridgeview clients or employees for one year, and from making “disparaging” comments against the company. He was also required to maintain the confidentiality of Bridgeview’s information.

More than four months after Thomas’s termination, Bridgeview brought claims against him for breach of contract and fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with business relationships. The company claimed that Thomas had contacted its customers, divulged confidential information, and made disparaging remarks about Bridgeview, alleging that he had interfered with “one or more contractual or prospective contractual relationships.” However, as noted by the First District Appellate Court on appeal, Bridgeview identified no specific customer, confidential piece of information, or disparaging comment in its complaint. Bridgeview also sought a temporary restraining order against Thomas, but provided no more in the way of documentation than e-mail messages Thomas supposedly sent to himself on his last day of work, containing an income statement, various internal passwords, and a list of about 3,000 contacts which reportedly included Bridgeview staff and prospective customers. Continue reading

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Best employment lawyers in Oak Brook Naperville and in DuPage and Kane CountyAn employment agreement that sets out a specific term of employment may not protect an employee from being terminated at any time. The Fifth District Appellate Court in Wessel v. Greer Management Services, Inc., 2016 IL App (5th) 150259-U recently ruled against a plaintiff who brought a breach of contract action against her former employer, holding that the language in the agreement she signed provided for at-will employment despite the inclusion of fixed employment dates.

Christina W. was hired as a compliance manager by Greer Management Services. She and a Greer representative signed an untitled document labeled an “employment summary,” which stated that Christina would serve in the position “for the period of January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014,” and described the compensation package. However, the final paragraph read: “Greer Management Services reserves the right to change the above provisions at any time. The provisions of the policy manual govern the rights and obligations of the employee. The employee acknowledges that she is an employee at will.” After Greer terminated Christina’s employment in September 2013, midway through the term specified in the signed document, Christina filed a complaint against the company claiming that the document was a contract for employment which was breached by Greer.

The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding that Greer reserved the right to change the provisions of the agreement at any time, including by terminating Christina’s employment before the expiration of the term, and that the “employment summary” was not sufficient to overcome the presumption of employment at-will. Christina then filed an amended complaint again alleging breach of contract and also breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, for “terminating her employment without notice, warning, or explanation, contrary to her expectations.” The court against dismissed her complaint, on the grounds there was no valid and enforceable contract for employment and therefore could be no breach. Continue reading

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Best class action and privacy lawyers near Chicago Oak Brook Schaumburg and NapervilleA recent class action lawsuit filed against Facebook may end up having far-reaching implications for large companies that do business all over the country. The lawsuit has to do with the facial recognition technology the social media company utilizes to allow users to “tag” themselves and each other in photos that get posted on the site.

The named plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit sued Facebook in Illinois for allegedly violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The law requires companies using facial-recognition software to inform their customers of the facial-geometry data that is being collected, how long the information is stored for, and how it gets used.

The law also requires companies to get a written release from consumers to authorize the company to collect the data. Negligent violations of BIPA come with statutory damages of $1,000 and $5,000 for violations that are considered to be intentional and reckless. Continue reading