Articles Posted in Litigation/Business Trials/Business Lawsuits/Business Litigation

Before 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 ›

Root Consulting Inc. v. William Insull, 2016 WL 806556 (N.D. Ill., March 2, 2016)

An officer and shareholder of a closely held corporation has a fiduciary duty not to compete with the company even if he is forced out of the organization.

William I. was sued by Root Consulting Inc. and fellow shareholders for breach of fiduciary duty after he formed a competing company and solicited business from Root customers, while still a vice president and shareholder of Root (Root Consulting Inc. v. William Insull (2016 WL 806556)). Root is an Illinois-based information technology company with operations in Illinois and Texas; William I. is a Texas resident. William I. claimed his employment ended in July 2013 when he was “frozen out” (or constructively terminated) by the other shareholders, and therefore he had no fiduciary duty to refrain from competition. However, U.S. District Judge Robert Blakey found that he remained vice president and 47.5% shareholder until February of 2014, and that he continued to do work for Root after his alleged termination date.

Under Illinois law, corporate officers owe a fiduciary duty to their corporation and to its shareholders and may not enrich themselves at the expense of the corporation. Under the “corporate opportunity” doctrine, a fiduciary cannot take personal advantage of business opportunities that arise from and rightfully belong to the corporation. The officer’s resignation does not relieve him of liability if he acquired the opportunity before his employment ended. 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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NPR reports:

At the University of Tennessee Tuesday, 16 of the university’s head coaches held a rare joint press conference. They defended the university in the wake of a Title IX federal sexual assault lawsuit. ..

The press conference was a rare sight. All of the University of Tennessee’s head athletic coaches – including football, baseball, diving and soccer – sitting on a stage, telling reporters that UT is not such a bad place. Robert Patrick coaches women’s volleyball at the Southeastern Conference school.

 

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If you’ve committed a crime for which you were never charged and you’re considering doing a documentary about said crime, you might want to think again.

Thirty-four years ago, Robert A. Durst’s wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, disappeared from her home in Westchester County. Since then, Mr. Durst has spent his time traveling between New York, Los Angeles, and Houston, funded by his estranged family’s real estate empire.

Ms. Durst’s family members have long suspected Mr. Durst of killing her, but they never had enough evidence to charge him for the crime. Three decades later, Mr. Durst sounds pretty confident that he got away with murder. Continue reading ›

The Internet has done a lot of wonderful things for us, including facilitating communication beyond what most people would have ever thought possible. This has proven to be both good and bad as people have the opportunity, not only to communicate with each other, but with the entire world regarding everything from national news to what they ate for breakfast.

When people talk about an organization or person online, it can frequently cause problems for the organization or individuals being talked about. It’s well known that the people who write online reviews are rarely the people who had a mediocre experience. It tends to be those who had an excellent or a terrible experience and that can result in a skewed online presentation of the organization or person. Continue reading ›

NPR reports:

Where do you draw the line between inspiration and appropriation when it comes to musical compositions? That question is at the heart of several high-profile court cases, including the recent “Blurred Lines” trial and a current copyright-infringement lawsuit involving “Stairway to Heaven.” But it isn’t always easy to prove a song is yours – particularly when you’re up against one of the biggest rock and roll bands of all time.

 

Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorneys Peter Lubin a Super Lawyer in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation, and Consumer Rights Litigation. Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of a century of experience in litigating complex class action, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes. We handle emergency business law suits involving injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0333 or our toll-free number (833) 306-4933.  You can also contact us online here.

Our Chicago libel and slander lawyers concentrate in this area of the law. We have defended or prosecuted a number of defamation and libel cases, including cases representing a consumer sued by a large luxury used car dealer in federal court for hundreds of negative internet reviews and videos which resulted in substantial media coverage of the suit; one of Loyola University’s largest contributors when the head basketball coach sued him for libel after he was fired; and a lawyer who was falsely accused of committing fraud with the false allegation published to the Dean of the University of Illinois School of Law, where the lawyer attended law school and the President of the University of Illinois. One of our partners also participated in representing a high profile athlete against a well-known radio shock jock.

Our Chicago defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. Our Chicago Cybersquatting attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicago area including in Carol Stream and Glen Elyn and Elmhurst, who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating sites and pretend consumer rating sites that are simply forums to falsely bash or business clients. We have also represented and defended consumers First Amendment and free speech rights to criticize businesses who are guilty of consumer fraud and false advertising.

Non-compete agreements were initially intended to keep trade secrets safe. They originated in the tech industry where certain employees have the potential to take highly sensitive information with them when they leave the company. This could be disastrous to the company if employees decide to leave to work for a competitor and take all the confidential information they’ve been working with.

In order to prevent this from happening, companies had employees sign noncompete agreements (often as part of their employment agreement) stating they would not work for a direct competitor within a certain radius of the employer and a certain time frame (usually six months to a year).

Despite these sensible beginnings, employers of all industries have incorporated noncompete agreements into the employment contracts of just about all their workers. Even minimum wage employees on the bottom of the corporate ladder have been forbidden from working for a competitor. Continue reading ›

Just like any relationship, the breakup of a law firm is complicated, especially when a partner start a new business of their own. In the case of Bernstein & Grazian, P.C. v. Grazian & Volpe, P.C., 402 Ill. App. 3d 961, 931 N.E.2d 810 (2010), the actions of the partners themselves throughout the dissolution of the firm and the fiduciary duty owed to one another play a large role in the division of fees once the firm has closed its doors.

Attorney and partner of Bernsterin and Grazain, Bernstein left the firm to open his own practice. Grazian complained that his former partner allegedly breached his fiduciary duty by opening up his own firm while still working for the current firm. Bernstein denied these claims and the trial court ruled in his favor. The Court determined that there was no breach of fiduciary duty by Bernsiten and that there he was entitled to 10% of the fees for all of the open cases at Bernstein and Grazian before he left. Continue reading ›