Rivals in lawsuits aren’t always strangers. Intellectual property disputes can crop up between friends or family members turned business partners. A tug-of-war develops over a company’s confidential information when partners or relatives get competitive.
The Lichtenberg brothers are fashion designers with separate businesses. Brian Lichtenberg LLC and Christopher Walter Lichtenberg’s Alex & Chloe, Inc. both market and sell products with the trendy “Ballin'” trademark. Brian recently told a California federal court that he’s the only with the intellectual property rights to use the design and name.
Brian filed a trademark infringement suit against his brother, along with a string of accusations. Christopher allegedly took advantage of his more successful brother’s generosity when Alex & Chloe was struggling.
The complaint says Brian agreed to boost Christopher’s business with a consignment deal that allowed Alex & Chloe to feature Brian’s products online. Christopher never paid Brian for the products.
Brian Lichtenberg stated the “Ballin'” fashion line was his idea, sketched out early last year, when Christopher was working for him as a contract designer. Brian turned over the sketch to Christopher for an electronic translation of the design.
The lawsuit said Christopher then took the “Ballin'” and ran with it. The younger sibling allegedly copied Brian’s design, fabric and other unique “Ballin'” elements, then applied them to Alex & Chloe fashions. Christopher allegedly swiped Brian’s customer file and courted his brother’s manufacturer and retailers to jump start what Christopher promoted as his own fashion line.
Brian has filed to stop Alex & Chloe from marketing and selling the trademarked fashions. He wants punitive damages for infringement, defamation and unfair competitive practices.
Businesses must guard access to inside information to protect trademarks, copyrights and patents. A stranger, employee or relative with company secrets may be tempted to turn them into personal profit. Legal strategists help companies theft-proof confidential materials to avoid letting success walk out the door.
Source: courthousenews.com, “Designer Brothers Feud Over ‘Ballin’ T-Shirts” Elizabeth Warmerdam, Sep. 19, 2013