On May 17, 2010, Invention Submission Corporation (ISC) d.b.a. InventHelp® and IPWatchdog, Inc. settled the litigation initiated by ISC against IPWatchdog, Gene Quinn and Renee Quinn (collectively IPWatchdog). Effectuation of the settlement has taken longer than initially contemplated, and this article (published after review, contribution and acquiescence by InventHelp® and their attorneys), has gone through multiple revisions and is the final piece of the settlement. The case is now over and all terms of the Settlement Agreement have been satisfactorily met by both parties. The parties are pleased that the lawsuit was resolved to their mutual satisfaction. Aside from the details contained in this article the terms of the settlement will remain confidential, although the lawsuit itself may be discussed.
We want to explain to those who have followed this story the circumstances that have resulted in the resolution of our dispute. As many of you know, on January 21, 2010, ISC, which does business as InventHelp, sued IPWatchdog asserting that a variety of statements published on IPWatchdog.com were untrue and constituted unfair business practices. ISC also requested that the Court enter a preliminary injunction prohibiting IPWatchdog from engaging in the alleged unfair business practices. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, which is located in Syracuse, NY, where IPWatchdog maintains its corporate headquarters. In essence the allegations by ISC were that IPWatchdog was knowingly making false accusations that were harming ISC’s business. ISC was represented by Edward B. Friedman and J. Stephen Purcupile of Friedman & Friedman, with Candace J. Gomez of Bond, Schoeneck & King acting as local counsel.
On Friday, March 5, 2010, IPWatchdog filed its responsive papers in the matter seeking dismissal of the case and opposing ISC’s request of preliminary injunctive relief. In essence the position of IPWatchdog was that any statements made were true and not defamatory. Furthermore, it was explained that since IPWatchdog provides legal services and is not an invention promotion company there was no direct competition. It was argued that the statements were fair, accurate and protected speech. IPWatchdog was represented by Hiscock & Barclay, with Michael Oropallo the lead attorney, Christopher Blank second chair, and with Associates John Cook and Nicholas Gallo supporting.
On Thursday, March 25, 2010, a hearing was held regarding the Preliminary Injunction. The Court scheduled for later hearing the Motion to Dismiss, which never materialized as a result of a settlement being reached. During the hearing on March 25 some progress was made toward resolving the case, with ISC requesting a more narrow injunction than was sought in their originally filed papers. Judge Scullen, who indicated he had not yet fully reviewed the papers filed, which were quite voluminous, indicated that a broad injunction would not be entertained but that if it did turn out what was said was literally false he would entertain a more limited injunction. Without ruling on the merits of the requested preliminary injunction Judge Scullen requested the parties to meet to discuss the scope of a proposed Order limited to statements that ISC claimed were literally false, in the event the Court found it appropriate to enter such an Order.
The suggestion of the Court to meet to discuss a proposed Order did open a dialogue between the parties. At the suggestion of IPWatchdog, a face to face meeting between the parties with their representatives was held in Pittsburgh, PA, at the offices of Friedman & Friedman on Thursday, April 22, 2010. Present were Gene Quinn, Bob Suza (President of InventHelp®), Martin Berger (InventHelp® founder), Ed Friedman, Steve Purcupile, Mike Oropallo, Chris Blank and Nick Gallo.
At the April 22 meeting, after a fairly routine start to the meeting, the parties started talking. Both parties voiced their intention not to lose the lawsuit and to fight as long as necessary to prevail. It was suggested that the meeting provided an opportunity to view the disagreement between the parties as a business dispute that could be solved. It was further suggested that there could be ways to compromise, giving each party what they wanted to achieve, which would result in no winner and no loser; but rather a stand-off where both parties continued to believe the justness and truthfulness of what was asserted while still obtaining what was of paramount importance to each. In order to accomplish this it was agreed that each item of disagreement needed to be painstakingly reviewed, concessions made by both parties, and a mechanism put in place to address any future disputes that may arise.
While a complete settlement was not accomplished on April 22, over the ensuing weeks concessions were made by both sides, and mechanisms put in place that should head off problems before any future litigation would be necessary. The Northern District of New York has retained jurisdiction over the Settlement Agreement.
While the terms of the Settlement Agreement will remain confidential, it is appropriate and mutually agreeable to state that the parties both achieved an end to this litigation that satisfied their own primary objectives. For example, as discussions progressed it became clear that InventHelp® wanted a few articles removed from the pages of IPWatchdog.com. Of primary importance to IPWatchdog was that there be no prohibition moving forward against truthfully writing about the invention promotion industry, including ISC or InventHelp, or discussing this lawsuit in general. Other objectives of the parties were likewise set forth and satisfactorily achieved, which is evidenced by the settlement of the dispute. In the end, it is fair to say that those aspects most important to both parties were achieved, in some cases with hard swallowing on the part of each, which likely demonstrates an appropriate resolution has been achieved.
Based on the common ground achieved at the April 22, 2010 meeting and the subsequent finalization and effectuation of settlement, the parties now believe that had a dialogue occurred earlier this lawsuit probably could have been avoided. During the Fall of 2009 attempts were made to bring the parties together, with the parties communicating through a third party that was believed to be attempting to act as an intermediary. It would appear that much of what was communicated to this third party was not relayed, or at least not relayed as intended. This worsened an already antagonistic atmosphere of distrust, which ultimately lead to the parties never speaking directly. While it is admittedly difficult to see a path that could have been followed given the distrust between the parties at that time, better efforts could have resulted in the avoidance of litigation.
What appears below are the substantive documents filed by each party during the pendency of the dispute, which will be preserved here to memorialize the various claims and assertions of the respective parties.