• April 7, 2015
Ouroboros: The Self-Devouring Snake

Ouroboros: The Self-Devouring Snake

Update (April 7, 2015): Something as silly as a large inflatable plastic wedge with garden hose mount invented so that adults can use a slip’n’slide — that is, so adults do not have to dive from standing position (or running) into the hard ground to enjoy the slip’n’slide toy but can more gently slide from a plastic wedge — this toy accessory has been keeping Minnesota litigators busy, it has been keeping Minnesota litigators in trouble, it has been keeping Minnesota litigators unpaid, keeping them going round and round for five years or so.  And it has kept me and the most devout Minnesota Litigator readers edified and a little entertained over the years, too.

Minnesota law firm Briggs & Morgan appears to have sold its $500,000+ unpaid bill owed by former client Manley Toys to Washington D.C. boutique firm, Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC (here is B&M’s complaint on which it won a default judgment).

Why would Briggs & Morgan do that (and for how much)? We’ll never know for sure. But there is a hint, I think, as to the “why?” question. Weisbrod Matteis & Copley PLLC appears to be trying to enforce the judgment against Manley Toys by garnishing assets from Minnesota’s own beloved Target Corporation (here is the stipulated protective order they’ve recently entered into).

Large Minnesota law firms like Briggs & Morgan, as a general matter, are not particularly fond of being adverse to large Minnesota businesses like Target. That is called biting the tail that feeds you…

Update (March 14, 2013): Even when things seem done, they are far from done.  A litigant wins a “default judgment” for an adversary’s discovery abuses, but does there have to be a trial even when there was a default judgment?  If not, what exactly is the judgment for (that is, how much money)?  This week U.S. District Court Judge Joan  N. Ericksen scrapped the jury trial but, at the same time, left the door open for one in the case at a later date…(Not sure how this plays out and I am not the only one.)

Update (February 13, 2013):  The law is neither an art nor a science.  It has attributes of both.  What it is, more than anything, is a framework or outline of a social system.  So law and culture are entirely and inextricably bound together.  (This is why the idea of “international law” is arguably, in an abstract sense, oxymoronic or, at least, inherently in tension.)

This is also why representing foreign companies in U.S. civil litigation can be a challenge.  Sometimes they just do not seem to “get it.”  The linked decision is a severe and costly sanction for discovery violations.  U.S. Mag. Judge Janie S. Mayeron’s sanction order was adopted last week by U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen (D. Minn.).

Photo by Ryan Malhoski

Photo by Ryan Malhoski

Original post (July 31, 2012):  (Under the subject line: “Summertime!  Bust Out The Slip’n’Slide!”):  It never ceases to amaze that there are individuals, indeed whole families, and even generations of families can become quite wealthy from what seems to be a trivial fad or a slight innovation.

What about the slip’n’side?  A strip of plastic.  Put it on an incline. Run some water on it.  And let the fun begin.  And someone somewhere’s been racking up the simoleons for the past 50 years (maybe heirs to inventor Robert Carrier)?

For more than 50 years, kids have been hurtling themselves across lawns and down slip’n’slides in the United States.  Apparently, their not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be caretakers succumb to the fun occasionally and have the back and neck injuries to show for it.

Enter U.S. Patent No. 6,558,264 (filed Nov. 3, 2001), “Inflatable Wedge for Diving onto a Water Slide.”

This is a prosthetic device, of sorts, so that relatively inflexible adults can intentionally slip on wet plastic with lower incidence of back and neck injury.

The inventor (or the business who bought the rights from him) is getting rich. The proof of this is that others appear to have copied the invention and lawyers are fighting to enforce the patent.

In the attached order, U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen (D. Minn.) interpreted the patent at issue and defendants’ efforts to subtly alter the design of their competing products to design around the ‘264 patent.  Defendants’ (mom’n’pop operations like Wal-mart and K-mart) changes were not deemed sufficient to avoid the patent’s reach.

So the litigation, brought in 2009, continues.  Individuals, indeed whole families, and even generations of families might become quite wealthy not only from the slip’n’slide, but also the accompanying inflatable wedge, and also maybe the lengthy litigation, a fundamental part of the U.S. intellectual property system.

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