ORLANDO — A Minnesota attorney discussed in an online interview about unfair practice suits like one case in the Orlando division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
As previously reported by the Florida Record, two local business owners that once worked together now are involved in a legal battle over alleged unfair business practices in Florida in regard to competition in the professional polishing industry here. One businessman alleged that the other used information obtained from working in a mutual relationship at one point, then using it to unfairly compete.
The complaint was filed on Jan. 6 against Xiaoyu Abrasive Inc., doing business as Universal Polishing Systems. The suit stated the Lanham Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Chris Kennedy, an attorney for Kennedy and Kennedy Law Firm in Mankato, Minnesota, is not familiar with Florida law specifically, but most states have similar structures in regard to unfair competition statutes like this. Kennedy spoke generally about the burden of proof in cases like this both for the defendant and plaintiff.
"In this type of claim, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant had access to information, a duty to protect the information and that they used it in a manner to cause the plaintiff harm," Kennedy said in an email interview with the Florida Record. "The defendant many times will argue that the information that was acquired was acquired in a legal fashion and was properly used."
Kennedy also explained how the court would decide to award damages in cases like this.
"The court will determine damages based on lost contracts and actual damages," he said. "In some cases, if the plaintiff can show that the use of the information was in a manner that meant to cause harm, then there may be punitive damages as well."
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant discussed a possible business partnership. Later, the two became entangled by sharing an industry marketing trade-show booth. The proposed partnership did not go as planned and, according to the lawsuit, the defendant expanded to directly compete with the plaintiff.
The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant tried to claim the plaintiff's work was its own and even stated on its website that machines that were owned by the plaintiff were its own as well.
"This type of claim is many times brought with other causes of action, and the cases settle for other reasons," Kennedy said.
The plaintiff said the defendant in the case is responsible for causing confusion in the local market about affiliation or connection to the plaintiff. The defendant was also alleged to have done all this using the plaintiff's goodwill and reputation to advance its own company's competing business interests.
The plaintiff wants a trial by jury and judgment against for damages, attorneys' fees, interest, costs and further relief the court is willing to grant.
The plaintiff's attorneys are Jeffrey M. Partlow of Cole, Scott & Kissane PA in Orlando and Todd Deveau and Wesley Roberts of Thomas Horstemeyer LLP in Atlanta.