An important ingredient in an allegation of stealing trade secrets is that you must be able to prove you suffered financially as a result of the alleged theft. With technology changing as quickly as it is these days, it’s important for anyone thinking about suing over misappropriated software to consider how much the technology is really worth.
According to a jury, attorney Peter Francis Geraci failed to account for these two factors before filing his lawsuit against another attorney, Thomas G. Macey, and a computer coder, R. William Amidon.
Amidon had created GapC for Geraci’s law firm, Geraci Law, LLC. According to the federal trade secrets lawsuit, Amidon allegedly stole Geraci’s proprietary software and gave it to Macey, a competitor of Geraci Law, LLC. Macey then allegedly used the stolen software to create a similar program for his own law firm, Legal Helpers P.C., which has since gone out of business.
Geraci used GapC from 1996 to 2006, at which point he switched to a different software to perform the same function. He sued Amidon and Macey for $30 million, although U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah capped the possible damages awards at just over $2 million before sending the jury off to make their decision.
Amidon and his attorneys argued that, not only was the software not proprietary, but that it was already out of date when he wrote it.
Although the dawn of the internet kicked off an age in which technology began (and continues) to develop faster than ever before, few people were prepared for that in the 1990s when the internet was still relatively new. That may have been why GapC was written in Clipper for the DOS operating system, both of which Amidon claims were already out of date by the time he started writing the program. So even if he had intentionally stolen the software he wrote for Geraci, there’s no way it could have been worth the tens of millions of dollars that Geraci alleged he was owed.
The jury sided with Amidon and Macey, ruling that Geraci had no claim on the GapC software.
Judge Shah is giving Geraci until the middle of January to decide how he wants to proceed. If he wants to appeal the federal jury’s opinion or file any other post-trial motions, he’ll have to do it before that date. Amidon and Macey will then have a little over two weeks to respond to any motions Geraci files.
Geraci released a statement saying he had not yet decided if he would continue to pursue the matter. He said he thinks he has a strong case for appeal, but that the cost of continuing to pursue the legal dispute for the purposes of teaching Amidon and Macey a lesson is beginning to outweigh the potential benefits. However, he also said he did not regret having filed and pursued the lawsuit as far as he has.
An attorney representing Macey has released a statement saying Macey is relieved to have the jury on his side after having spent several years fighting over this case.
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