Monday, September 12, 2022

Spotting the employment law issues in “She-Hulk"

Donny Blaze was a former student of Kamar-Taj, having dropped out after failing to adhere to their strict teachings. He left, however, with a souvenir, a sling ring, which sorcerers use to open mystic portals. Blaze then uses the sling ring, along with what he learned during his time at Kamar-Taj, to spice up his otherwise very pedestrian cabaret magic act.

Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme, seeks your legal counsel to file suit against Blaze to enjoin his use of Kamar-Taj's mystic arts. 

What are the potential claims? Let's explore.

1/ Confidential information. During their first meeting, She-Hulk asks Wong if Blaze signed an NDA as a condition to learning Kamar-Taj's mystic arts. He hadn't. That's a problem. If you want to protect your company's confidential information, it's best to get that promise in writing in a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement.

2/ Trade secrets. Setting aside the issue of whether the mystic arts are a protectable trade secret, Wong might have a different problem protecting them as such. To protect a "trade secret," its owner must take reasonable efforts maintain its secrecy. If the mystical teaching of Kamar-Taj are so secret, there should be something other than a nod or a wink documenting them as such. 

3/ Conversion of property. Conversation is the wrongful act of dominion or control over the chattels (personal property) of another, in denial of the rightful owner's rights thereto. If Blaze left Kamar-Taj with a sling ring given to him by its sorcerers to be used as part of his studies, it seems to me that Wong has a good argument that Blaze converted it (i.e., stole it) by taking it with him when his quit Kamar-Taj.

4/ Civil theft. Like many states, Ohio has a specific statute that allows for one to sue civilly for theft. Not only can one recover the amounts stolen, but also three-times that amount as liquidated damages. Because of this penalty provision, Ohio's civil theft statute is a powerful tool to combat employee theft. In addition to compensatory damages for the value of the property stolen or damaged, the statute also allows for the recovery of three times the value of the property as liquidated damages, plus attorneys' fees if certain pre-suit conditions are met.

My bottom line: don't leave matters of the ownership of intellectual and other property to chance. Get it in writing at the outside of employment. It's a whole lot easier for me to get it back for your with proper documentation outlining ownership rights than with no documentation at all.