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JULIE RESEARCH LABS., INC. v. SELECT PHOTOGRAPHIC

November 24, 1992

JULIE RESEARCH LABORATORIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
SELECT PHOTOGRAPHIC ENGINEERING, INC., PHILIP BOETTGER, SANDRA BOETTGER, NEIL DARRISH, JIM LINFORD and PLI PHOTO LAB, INC.


CARTER


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT L. CARTER

CARTER, District Judge

 Plaintiff, Julie Research Laboratories, Inc. ("JRL") is a New York corporation, with its principal place of business in New York. Its president, Loeb Julie, is responsible for the creation of the JRL Diamond, the product involved in this litigation. Defendant, Select Photographic Engineering, Inc. ("Select") is an Arizona proprietorship. Defendants, Philip and Sandra Boettger, are the proprietors of Select and are citizens of Arizona. Defendant, Neil Darish, *fn1" is the marketing director of Select and is a citizen of Arizona. Defendant, Jim Linford, is an independent contractor hired by Select to assist in the sale and promotion of the JRL Diamond and is a citizen of California. Defendant, PLI Photo Lab, Inc. ("PLI"), is an Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio.

 Rubadeux evaluated the JRL Diamond for Select in a report completed within a few days of the demonstration. In his report Rubadeux identified the Diamond as PC-based, running on a DOS operated system which included QFX, TIPS, and RIO and using a Wacon tablet.

 Subsequent to their meeting in New York plaintiff and Select reached agreement orally (plaintiff rejected a written accord) pursuant to which Select was to market the Diamond, provide space in its booths at various trade shows for showing the Diamond, with plaintiff's staff appearing at the trade shows to demonstrate the Diamond and to answer technical questions. Select was to receive a 15 percent commission on sales of the Diamond and a 40 percent commission on the sale of peripherals.

 Neil Darish spent time at plaintiff's facilities in New York in the fall of 1990 familiarizing himself with the Diamond and in drafting sales literature. He did not enter into a confidentiality agreement with plaintiff concerning any proprietary information he might acquire in the process. The Diamond was featured in Select's booths at trade shows in 1991 in Las Vegas in February, Chicago in September and New York in November, along with a prominently displayed informative and complimentary article about the Diamond by Elizabeth Cunningham.

 In 1991, Select sold a Diamond workstation to Andre's, a photo lab in Chicago where defendant Jim Linford was employed at the time. While at Andre's Linford had written a report evaluating various electronic photographic retouching and imaging systems including the JRL Diamond. When Linford left Andre's in the summer of 1991, he approached plaintiff to have the latter engage him to do a brochure on the Diamond. Plaintiff referred him to Select, and Select took him on to do the brochure. Linford spent the summer and fall of 1991 in New York at plaintiff's premises preparing the brochure on the Diamond. He did not enter into a confidentiality agreement with plaintiff concerning any trade secret information he might discover about the Diamond in the preparation of this brochure.

 Almost from the outset the relationship between plaintiff and Select was marked by disagreement over marketing strategies for selling the JRL Diamond, involving promotional literature, sales approaches to potential buyers and Julie's continual interference with Select's particular marketing efforts to close a deal with putative customers manifesting interest in the Diamond.

 Early in December, 1991, Select learned from Elizabeth Cunningham that plaintiff was seeking to find a sales representative for the Diamond to replace Select. While Julie denies he was seeking a replacement for Select, he admits confiding in Cunningham that he was much dissatisfied with Select's efforts in promoting and selling the Diamond. At any rate, this led to termination of the agreement by Select. Select gives December 26, 1991, as the termination date. Plaintiff places the date a few days later in December. Whether the relationship ended on December 26, 1991, or a few days later is irrelevant to our concerns.

 On December 20, 1991, in apparent anticipation of the dissolution of the agency relationship with plaintiff, Select met with Eric Sandel, an integrator, to discuss the possibility of his constructing a fast operating electronic photographic retouching and imaging system, using Hi-res QFX to handle large files. Sandel developed the Edge, which is subject to the preliminary injunction currently outstanding in this case.

 Plaintiff obtained a preliminary injunction barring defendants from distributing or marketing an electronic photographic retouching and imaging system called the Edge, having convinced the court that it was a copy of the Diamond which defendants had constructed by misappropriation of plaintiff's proprietary trade secrets involved in the development of the JRL Diamond. Plaintiff seek a permanent injunction barring the Select defendants for a term of years from marketing, selling or promoting any PC-based electronic photographic retouching and imaging system, and from using or disclosing the configuration of the Diamond workstation and from using or disclosing the unique training, techniques or procedures in the operation of the Diamond. Plaintiff also seeks judgment against Select of $ 50,000.00 for training of Linford in the operation of the Diamond and judgment against PLI for unpaid balance due of $ 108,900 on its purchase of the Diamond.

 As they have maintained at the preliminary injunction hearing, defendants in the trial on the merits argue that no trade secrets or proprietary information was misappropriated by them from plaintiff because there were none; that Select owed no fiduciary duty to plaintiff; that their relationship was at will and plaintiff never sought nor secured from them a confidentiality agreement as to any proprietary information concerning the Diamond. Defendants seek vacation of the preliminary injunction and dismissal of the complaint. PLI seeks to repossess its benchmark from plaintiff and ...


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