got something I need help with.
I quit the job 4 years ago, on good terms. They sent me work after I
left, both of us were happy. Everything was peachy (I’m in Georgia),
until just before x-mas when miss personality called me and excused
me of copying their designs. Bullcrap!
Now she is saying something about trade secrets etc.
I don’t know how to handle this. They have more money than me. I
don’t want to roll over and let them bully me but what are my
Any input is much appreciated!
Everything was peachy (I'm in Georgia), until just before x-mas
when miss personality called me and excused me of copying their
If someone has a issue about you copying designs, first of all, they
have to have their lawyer contact you. People cannot just call
someone and accuse them. I would not contact them in any way. At
this point, just ignore them. Anything you do will make you look
defensive. Sometimes someone is having an emotional problem and just
want someone to blame. If the person calls, just say “I understand
that you feel that way, please do not contact me again.” Most likely
nothing will come of this. I know from experience. Most likely they
can not prove that you copied their design and cannot sue. If they
could, they would hire a lawyer and have the lawyer contact you by a
letter. Until you know facts, you have nothing to fear. Don’t waste
Richard Hart G.G.
You probably should consult an attorney about this, and see what
relief the laws of Georgia can or do provide. but ask about:
you can’t do much, until, or unless they libel/slander you and it
costs you $$$. The court system can not restore anything but money.
or they sue you.
until then remember that “20% of the people cause 805 of the
I would, in a polite letter, tell them that their assertions are
incorrect and that you would prefer that they have no additional
contact with you (except through your attorney, make sure that you
John Atwell Rasmussen, Ph.D.
Geologist and Gemologist
Rasmussen Gems and Jewelry
I really hope you get some great advice regarding your dilemma. I’m
a huge fan of your work and would hate to see someone ride rough-shod
all over you and your reputation.
If you did nothing wrong, STAND YOUR GROUND! Where is their proof?
Be patient wait it out and remember, the only one who wins in
something like this are the blood sucking Lawyers!
Out of curiosity, did they specify what designs they felt you had
copied? were these designs they had created before you left them, or
designs they have come up with since, and could they have copied
your designs and gone on the offensive?
Maybe you could have a non-confrontational sit down. If they showed
you evidence that would give a reasonable person the idea that yes
maybe their design predated yours…would you agree to cease
production of that particular design? On the other hand if they were
shown cause why yours predated would they drop the issue? Would the
both of you agree to arbitration? You seem to have had a cordial
relationship until now, try to exploit that.
It could be they are trying to buffalo you. Its costs plenty to
initiate an action and its sometimes difficult to prove and the
results are uncertain until the last minute. But it also costs you
plenty to defend and court proceedings can drain you emotionally as
well as financially. You might want to consider how much money is at
stake, more than how much you feel insulted or intimidated.
Personally, I’d rather be insulted and solvent than morally
vindicated and broke. Which may be what they have in mind. Its also
quite possible that settling this may lead to more bullying, who
knows. I think your best interest is to get beyond this episode and
get back to work. One tack would be to do nothing for now, wait to
see if they do initiate action. Arbitration would still be a
possibility at that point. Right now the ball is in their court but
you’d be ahead to consult an attorney now anyway.
You said, " I quit the job 4 years ago, on good terms. They sent me
work after I left, both of us were happy. Everything was peachy (I’m
in Georgia), until just before x-mas when miss personality called me
and excused me of copying their designs. Bullcrap! Now she is saying
something about trade secrets etc."
Hmmm. Is it possible that THEY are copying YOUR designs and want to
claim them as their own?? Only you can determine that. Have you
asked specifically what designs they are talking about? It seems that
some is missing.
Let us know what you find out,
Judy in Kansas
If you signed a confidentiality agreement then you must abide by it.
If not then you owe a duty of confidentiality to your ex-employer.
This means you dont try to poach their customers or bad mouth them
by using inside knowledge.
Now, after 4 years it is deemed that anything you do is not directly
attributable to your previous employment so there is no ‘trade
secret’ unless they can show you a patent to something you hadnt
worked on when you were there.
Their argument doesnt hold water but I would write to them outlining
the conversation and then pointing this out in no uncertain terms
[they are threatening restraint of trade] before they write to you
and claim something that isnt so. To do or say nothing isnt really an
option because they could then get their lawyers to try and restrain
you which will be a headache and a waste of your valuable time and
effort to defeat.
Going through a similar thing here in the UK with my daughter, if
she had kept a diary it would have been a lot quicker to sort out
[she moved jobs and got the threats afterwards so suing them for
breach of confidentiality, contract etc]
Other than to call an attorney, it’s hard to say exactly what I would
do without more info. I’m going to guess that you made the original
pieces in the first place, so unless you have some molds that
belonged to her, it might be difficult for her to prove you are
selling designs that belong to her. Difficult, but not impossible.
It might be even more difficult for her if the designs are not
copyrighted or trademarked, or if they don’t clearly bear her
signature design style or some other distinguishing or unique
manufacturing technique. That doesn’t mean she won’t get heavy
handed, or that you are free and clear, however.
Just because she has no case doesn’t mean she can’t sue you and win.
My only advice with what you have told us so far is to do your best
to stay out of court. Talk it out with her and try to come up with
something you can both live with if at all possible, but if the
words “lawsuit” or “court” or anything related to the legal system
come up, don’t walk, run to your attorney. High power, high dollar
trial attorneys get that way because they can make the innocent look
like thieving, scamming scoundrels that hate puppies, and the guilty
look like angelic, helpless children that just got their candy bar
stolen by the mean old puppy kicking man. Guess which one you will be
portrayed as, and the judge won’t be interested in the pictures of
you and your dog. Don’t wait for the sheriff to knock on your door
and hand you a summons. Take any threats of legal action very
seriously, and be proactive.
If you can’t come up with an agreement that you are both OK with,
talk to a lawyer as soon as you can. I’d talk to one anyway. It
costs virtually nothing to sue someone, especially if a hot shot
lawyer offers to handle it on contingency, but the cost of defense
can be extremely high, even if you win. After all, your attorney gets
paid either way. Be careful you don’t spend $10,000 to beat a $2000
If someone has a issue about you copying designs, first of all,
they have to have their lawyer contact you. People cannot just call
someone and accuse them. I would not contact them in any way. At
this point, just ignore them.
Ah, Lawyers!!! Over the years of dealing with the types of conflicts
that often lead to lawyers becoming involved, I’ve found that I
usually end up in a better spot if I can keep the lawyers out. This
doesn’t mean that I give the “opponent” what they want. Instead, I
suck up my ego and attempt to carry out a civil conversation in an
attempt to find out as much as possible. In this case,
what design? How many? Why ? Who says so? What records? No
defensiveness, no disagreement and no agreement with their
statements. Instead, I agree with their “feelings.” For example, “I
understand why you’re upset” or “that would make me angry too”. Even
when we disagree on the facts of a situation we can agree with the
And then the ultimate question for the “opponent” … “what do you
want me to do about this?” The answer could range from $1 million to
“nothing, just don’t do it in the future.” Then, armed with this
my usual response is “I appreciate your willingness to
talk to me. Let me research my records. I will call you back by
[date].” This gives me time to formulate a strategy. If the essence
of my response is “go jump in a lake,” I prepare myself for the call
back by writing down 3-5 “talking points.” One of the talking points
usually has reference to “my attorney says” since the strategy of a
“higher authority” is often successful. I try to keep the
conversation civil by sticking with my talking points no matter how
out of control the opponent gets, and end the conversation when
appropriate with “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” This
way, if I’m ever accused of threatening or belligerent behavior, I
can demonstrate that I used a reasoned, pleasant approach. And I have
the notes to prove it.
The best thing about this method is that I feel good about it. I
took the high road, and feel good about that. And I have less
anxiety during the process because I have a plan that I will follow
regardless of what the “opponent” does. And if there is a successful
resolution to the problem, I feel empowered.
p.s. This works very well with teenagers too.