Articles Posted in Emergency Commercial Litigation

Apple’s app store is one of the most popular in the world, which means you need to play nice with Apple if you’re creating an app and you want to get in front of the millions of people who use Apple’s store to download apps. But Apple takes a percentage of every payment made to an app creator through their app store, which is why it retaliated after Epic Games introduced a new in-app payment system within their videogame, “Fortnite”. Apple removed the game from its app store as soon as it became aware of the update to the popular videogame.

Epic responded with a lawsuit that asked the court for an injunction against Apple that would require the tech giant to put the game back in its app store. It claimed Apple is acting as a monopoly with a payment system that allegedly suppresses competition and inflates prices.

Apple countersued with a claim that the videogame company had breached its contract with Apple by introducing an in-app payment system within the game that avoided the 30% cut every other app creator pays Apple and Google for placement in their app stores. Within hours of the addition of the in-app payment system, both tech giants had removed “Fortnite” from their app stores.

In its own complaint, Apple accused Epic, a multi-billion-dollar company, of trying to derive significant financial benefit from placing its videogame in Apple’s app store without sharing any of those profits with Apple.

Back in June, Tim Sweeney, Epic’s CEO, emailed executives of Apple, including the CEO, Tim Cook, asking for a special agreement that would exempt Epic from some of its contractual obligations, including the ones dealing with payments made in the app store. Apple rejected those terms, and in early August Epic sent to the app store an updated version of “Fortnite” that the company described as a “hotfix”, but Apple alleges it was more like a Trojan horse. The “hotfix” version of the videogame allegedly allowed it to bypass Apple’s normal review process and payment system, thereby allowing Epic to sneak into Apple’s app store a videogame that charged customers in the app, rather than in the app store.

Once the “Trojan horse” version of the videogame was in Apple’s app store, Sweeney sent another email to Apple saying that his company refused to abide by Apple’s payment processing rules, after which his company activated the in-app payment system, which Apple alleges was little more than theft.

Apple’s app store has about 1 billion global customers, and in just the first seven months of 2020, in-app purchases, premium apps, and subscriptions generated almost $39 billion in global revenue. Apple claims the fees it takes from app purchases help the company fund the development and maintenance of an app store that provides a safe and secure environment for customers to purchase and download third-party software.

For Epic’s part, the videogame company has earned more than $600 million by working with Apple. Continue reading ›

When a contract between two loan servicing corporations contained a drop-dead date specifying that it could not be extended past June 2018, the district court erred in granting one corporation an injunction that kept the contract in force past the drop-dead date. The appellate court found that interpreting the contract as the district court did would have trapped one party in the contract with no way to extricate itself and that this outcome could not have been the intended outcome of the agreement.

BankDirect Capital Finance and Capital Premium Financing both participate in the market for loans to finance insurance premiums. In 2010, Capital Premium exhausted the line of credit that funded its operations. It approached BankDirect with a request for operating capital. BankDirect was willing to purchase the loans that Capital Premium made, and to pay Capital Premium to service those loans while they were outstanding, but it demanded a right to purchase Capital Premium’s business outright after five years.

Capital Premium agreed to the terms and the contract went into force in December 2010. The option to purchase could be exercised near the fifth anniversary. If BankDirect elected not to purchase Capital Premium, then either side could extend the term by notice given before Jan. 4, 2016; otherwise, the deal would wrap up on Jan. 31, 2016. Any extension could not exceed the contract’s drop-dead date, June 1, 2018, after which neither side would have any obligation to the other. Continue reading ›

Our Chicago business dispute lawyers have extensive experience prosecuting and defending intellectual property, copyright, trademark, partner disputes and complex business lawsuits.

 

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Our business litigation firm has handled Illinois partnership disputes for many years. We have handled partnership disputes in a wide variety of different contexts from lawyer and doctor disputes to disputes by real-estate development partners.

We have handled TRO’s and preliminary injunction matters and dissolution of partnerships that have lasted over two decades.

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How Long is Long Enough: Substantial Employment Standard
for Non-Compete Agreements

Non-Compete covenants are among the strongest ways to protect against an employee potentially walking away with vital and, even more importantly, confidential information of the employer. Though it has long been established that timing plays a large role in whether or not an employment agreement is enforceable, a new holding has established that timing may not be everything when it comes to a post employment non-compete agreement.

A two-year time frame was considered to be the main threshold to satisfy “substantial” employment, however, the ruling in Montel Aetnastak, Inv.v. Miessen, 998 F. Supp. 2d 694 (N.D. Ill. 2014), demonstrates that because of inconsistencies between both lower Illinois courts and the Illinois Supreme Court, the implementation of a bright-line rule is not the determining factor when it come making a decision whether employment was “substantial”. Also, the Court determines that over broad post-employment non-compete covenant is not for the Court to narrow under the facts in that case. Continue reading ›

Crown Packaging Int’l, Inc. v. Brown, 2014 IL App (1st) 140284-U

“Preliminary Injunction to Prevent Alleged Customer Soliciation”

The Illinois Appellate Court held in July, 2014, that the trial court below did not abuse its discretion when it granted a preliminary injunction against defendants who allegedly operated a secret competing business in violation of a restrictive covenant.

Crown Packaging supplies craft breweries with containers such as glass bottles, bottle caps, and related items. In December 1998, Crown Packaging entered into an employment agreement with Brown, which contained a non-compete clause.

In September 2010, Brown started an alleged ‘secret’ side business, Libation Container, Inc. Crown Packaging alleged that Libation competed with Crown Packaging and solicited its customers, and that Brown failed to seek Crown Packaging’s permission to sell craft brewing containers on his own through Libation Container Inc. while employed by Crown Packaging. Brown denies the claims. Continue reading ›

An Illinois federal court granted a motion to dismiss in a putative shareholder derivative class action, having already denied the plaintiff’s application for a temporary restraining order (TRO). Noble v. AAR Corp., et al, No. 12 C 7973, memorandum and order (E.D. Ill., Apr. 3, 2013). The plaintiff asserted causes of action for various alleged breaches of fiduciary duty on behalf of the corporation, but the court found that the lawsuit was a direct action, primarily for the plaintiff’s benefit as a shareholder, rather than a derivative one.

The dispute related to a recommendation by the Board of Directors to the shareholders of AAR Corporation, a publicly-traded company, regarding an executive compensation plan. The Board made a unanimous proposal regarding the corporation’s “say on pay” plan, which allowed the shareholders to vote on executive pay as required by Section 951 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank Act), 15 U.S.C. § 78n-1. In a seventy-page proxy statement, the Board asked the shareholders to approve an advisory resolution regarding executive compensation at the corporation’s annual shareholder meeting, which was scheduled for October 10, 2012.

The plaintiff filed suit against the corporation and individual Board members, alleging that the Proxy Statement failed to disclose various details about what the Board considered before making its proposal. Noble, memorandum at 5. He claimed that the individual defendants breached their fiduciary duties of good faith, care, and loyalty to the shareholders, and that the corporation aided and abetted these breaches. Id. at 5-6. The defendants removed the case to federal court on October 4, 2012. The following day, the plaintiff filed a motion for a TRO, asking the court to stop the shareholder vote. The court held a hearing on October 9 and denied the motion. On October 10, the shareholders approved the Board’s proposal, with seventy-seven percent of the shares voting in favor. Id. at 1-2.

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It is very difficult to obtain an injunction when monetary damages can compensate for a business’s losses. A recent article in Reuter’s regarding Kraft Food’s bid to require Starbucks to allow it to continue to distribute Star Buck’s coffee illustrates the point. Reuter’s reports:

A federal judge rejected Kraft Foods’ bid to force Starbucks Corp to keep using Kraft to distribute packaged coffee to supermarkets in North America and Europe, a decision that allows Starbucks to move ahead with a new partner.

In a ruling from the bench, U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in White Plains, New York, on Friday also noted that Starbucks could end up owing Kraft “a boatload of money” if an arbitrator decided the coffee chain breached a 1998 agreement with Kraft.

 

Our Chicago business emergency attorneys were interested to read an appellate opinion in which the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a Sangamon County judge for the second time in the same case. The Rochester Buckhart Action Group v. Young, No. 4-09-0037 (Ill. 4th Sept. 8, 2009) is a lawsuit filed by a community group attempting to stop Robert Young from building a hog farm on his property. The Rochester Buckhart Action Group, a nonprofit that opposes activities it feels decreases the quality of life in its area, sued to stop Young, arguing that the hog farm should be regulated as a new farm rather than an extension of Young’s existing dairy farm. The trial court granted the group’s request for a preliminary injunction, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed it. On remand, Young asked for costs and damages stemming from that injunction, but the trial court denied it — only to be reversed again by the Fourth.

Young’s property already had a 40-cow dairy farm, and had once had a 2,300-animal hog confinement operation that was demolished in 2004. He notified the Illinois Department of Agriculture of his intention to add a 3,750-hog finishing operation, which is where piglets are grown into adult pigs. In that notification, he told the state that this would be an expansion of an existing operation, not a new operation. The Rochester Buckhart Action Group disagreed and sued for a declaratory judgment under the Livestock Management Facilities Act, which requires public notice, comment and hearing for new facilities. The lawsuit also included counts for nuisance and public nuisance. It moved for a preliminary injunction stopping construction of the hog farm. That order also required the plaintiff to post a $60,000 bond. The trial court then declined to vacate its decision and the defendant successfully appealed to the Fourth.

On remand, the defendant requested costs and damages, pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure on a “wrongfully entered injunction.” He requested the proceeds of the $60,000 bond to set off the $294,159.01 that he said the injunction cost him. The plaintiff moved to strike that motion, claiming there was no adjudication of the injunction as “wrongful.” The trial court granted that motion to strike, saying it did not believe the injunction was wrongful and thus, the defendant could not recover costs. This appeal followed, arguing that the defendant’s situation met the definition of “wrongful” in the Code of Civil Procedure.

The Fourth agreed. It noted that Illinois Supreme Court precedent allows damages only when judgment has been entered that a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order was entered wrongfully. The plaintiff argued that there was no such adjudication, but the Fourth was not convinced. It said its prior opinion was a legal determination that the injunction was wrongfully issued. “It is hard to fathom what the appeal in Rochester I was all about if it was not a determination of whether the trial court rightfully or wrongfully enjoined defendant from continuing the construction on his hog farm. The sole issue in Rochester I was whether the trial court erred in declining to vacate the preliminary injunction.” Furthermore, the court noted, Jefco Laboratories, Inc. v. Carroo, 136 Ill. App. 3d 826, 829, 483 N.E.2d 1004, 1006 (1985) specifically said there was only a semantic distinction between “in error” and “wrongfully issued.”
The plaintiffs next argued that the preliminary injunction order was the law of the case because the defendant did not appeal that order — he appealed the trial court’s refusal to vacate it. However, the Fourth said, the issue of the injunction itself was before the court when the issue of whether to vacate the order for an injunction was before it. Thus, it wrote, the defendant cannot be said to have waived the issue of whether the injunction was properly issued.

Finally, the plaintiffs said damages should not be awarded because it is a nonprofit “seeking to vindicate public rights.” It supported that argument by citing Save the Prairie Society v. Greene Development Group, Inc., 338 Ill. App. 3d 800, 801, 789 N.E.2d 389, 390 (2003), in which the First District Court of Appeal found that the trial court should not have imposed a $200,000 bond on a nonprofit seeking to serve the public interest. It is true that the Code of Civil Procedure gives trial courts discretion not to impose bond if it would be a hardship, the Fourth said, but no rule of law says this must be done in every case. The plaintiff did not object to the bond as a hardship at the time, it noted. And the state Supreme Court noted in Buzz Barton & Associates, Inc. v. Giannone, 108 Ill. 2d 373, 384, 483 N.E.2d 1271, 1276 (1985) that it would be “inequitable and would invite spurious litigation” to allow parties to interfere with legal activities without being held liable for wrongful interference.

That is the situation in this case, the Fourth said. It reversed and remanded the trial court, saying the defendant is entitled to damages and the trial court must allow him an opportunity to prove any damages.

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Any business owner should keep abreast of laws and court rulings that can affect the way they conduct their operation and interact with employees. The law constantly evolves, and that is why our lawyers are vigilant in tracking changes that affect our clients. Citadel Investment Group v Teza Technologies is one such ruling that provides clarity regarding noncompetition agreements between employees and employers.

In this case, Defendants Malyshev and Kohlmeier worked for Plaintiff Citadel Investment Group until February of 2009, when they resigned. When Malyshev and Kohlmeier were initially hired by Citadel, they each signed a nondisclosure agreement and an employment agreement containing a noncompetition clause. The noncompetition clauses contained language giving Citadel the discretion to set the length of the restrictive period at zero, three, six, or nine months. Citadel elected for a nine month restricted period for both Malyshev and Kohlmeier upon their resignation.

Malyshev and Kohlmeier formed Defendant Teza Technologies two months after leaving Plaintiff Citadel in April of 2009. When Citadel discovered the existence of Teza and its status as an entity performing similar high frequency trading in July of 2009, the present legal proceedings began. Plaintiffs initially sought a preliminary injunction against Defendants based upon the noncompetition agreements signed by Malyshev and Kohlmeier. This injunction was granted in October 2009 for relief through November of 2009. The trial court made its decision based upon the agreed upon nine month period contained in the noncompete and calculated the time from February of 2009 when Malyshev and Kohlmeier resigned.

Citadel appealed the decision, and asked the appellate court to grant the injunction for nine months from October until July of 2010. Citadel argued that they had not received the benefit of the restricted period prior to the preliminary injunction being entered, and the Court should adjust the start date of the restricted period accordingly. The Court did not find the Plaintiff’s argument persuasive and denied the appeal because the plain language of the agreements signed by Malyshev and Kohlmeier contained no provision allowing for an extension of time or modification of the commencement date. Thus, the restrictive covenant properly ended in November as was required by the agreement signed by both parties.

Citadel Investment Group v. Teza Technologies serves as a warning to business owners who utilize noncompetition agreements and a potential boon to employees who sign them. Whether you are a business already in a dispute over a noncompetition agreement or a former employee seeking employment with a new company in the same field, you should contact a Chicago business litigation attorney to be apprised of your rights.

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