Friday, April 23, 2010, 4/23/2010 01:54:00 PM

Law Firm Convinces Court of Appeals to Reverse Sanctions For Bad Faith Trade Secrets Filing

By Todd

Courthouse News Service is reporting that Meisenheimer Herron & Steele won its appeal of massive sanctions against the firm for allegedly bringing a meritless trade secrets action. The firm represented BDT Products in a lawsuit accusing Lexmark, BDT's former partner, of swiping BDT's trade secrets for a printer tray.

The federal appeals court in Cincinnati pointed out that BDT's printer tray "was commercialized and sold before BDT even transmitted some of its information to Lexmark."

Thus, "BDT and its attorneys pursued a suit based at its heart on misappropriation of 'trade secrets' that were, in fact, not secret at all," the trial court ruled.

Finding the suit meritless, the district court imposed $5 million in sanctions on BDT, Meisenheimer and another firm.

Meisenheimer appealed the $1 million fine against it, arguing that courts can only sanction individual attorneys, not firms, and that Lexmark failed to prove that it had acted in bad faith.

The 6th Circuit agreed on both counts. Put this one in the "PHEW!!!" category for the law firm.

Though the claims were clearly meritless, the three-judge panel ruled, the lower court relied on a misstatement of 6th Circuit law in its bad-faith finding.

"Lexmark has simply been unable to point to any such evidence demonstrating that Meisenheimer acted in bad faith or with improper purpose," Judge David McKeague wrote.


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