Tuesday, March 28, 2006, 3/28/2006 07:15:00 PM

Where's Richard Dawson When You Need Him?

By Todd
Seems the Doebler family dominated the hybrid corn seed market for a gazillion years in rural Pennsylvania. Grandpa Doebler set up a company that ultimately became quite successful generating various hybrid versions of corn seed. His son and even his grandson, let's call him Doebler III or "Defendant," learned a good bit about the business too. When Grandpa Doebler passed away the company was run by some other Doeblers and some non-Doeblers. Doebler III wanted to run his own company. So he set up his own company. And then he started assigning the Doebler name to some of his hybrid corn. Grandpa's company didn't like this. They sued Doebler III and, among other things, claimed Doebler III had misappropriated some of their trade secrets. The district court, obviously convinced that Doebler III had pulled a stunt here he shouldn't get away with, granted summary judgment to Grandpa's company and told Doebler III he couldn't use his knowledge of Grandpa's hybrid seed names to his own competitive advantage on an ongoing basis. Doebler III didn't like that ruling so he appealed. The Third Circuit considered, among other things, whether Grandpa's company's hybrid seed trade names were a trade secret of Grandpa's company. Doebler III argued they weren't. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed with Doebler III and reversed saying these Doeblers had screwed up the record so bad it was tough to say what was going on with these trade names. One of the thing the Court noted was that a piece of federal legislation concerning seeds forced companies that sold seeds to properly identify and name their products. Doebler III argued that if he were to comply with the trial court's permanent injunction he would run afoul of this federal seed law. The Third Circuit liked that argument. The Third Circuit apparently didn't like the Doebler attorneys for either Grandpa's company or Doebler III. It suggested they better work harder to make better arguments. No matter how you pop it, this corn case is pretty interesting - and you know for sure that a Doebler will ultimately win this one.

You can find the citation for the Third Circuit's decision as Doebler's Pennsylvania Hybrids, Inc. v. Doebler, 2006 WL 722156 (3rd Cir. 2006). Does anyone know if Orville Redenbacher has a grandson?

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