Bernhard Law Firm has won judgment in a $350K+ film intellectual property lawsuit against a university theater director arising from his tenure at Penn State University, later transferring to University of Arizona. Bernhard Law Firm sued to recover investor funds in the film IP, lost when the university professor sabotaged the project in a row over project direction. (Florida Bar disclaimer: results may not be typical. You may not have as beneficial a result, or same or similar results). If you have questions about breach of contract, intellectual property lawsuits, disputes in the education sector, and investor fraud, please contact Bernhard Law Firm at www.bernhardlawfirm.com, 786-871-3349, or firstname.lastname@example.org
As garnered from the motion for judgment, the Defendant was the original creator, producer, and marketer of a film series about connecting people from different age groups. Defendant was also a professor at Penn State University, which gave him significant opportunity to connect with business executives, investors, and donors working with the University, and thereby develop commercial interest in his film. Through Penn State, Defendant met university alumnus and donors, including the Plaintiff investment group that engaged Bernhard Law Firm. Defendant sought out and solicited the Plaintiff investment group to help him create a company to merchandise the film. Together they formed the Plaintiff company, a Florida company whose sole purpose was to develop and commercialize the film series into a profitable product primarily intended for the education, human resources, and health sectors. To entice the Plaintiff group to invest, Defendant represented to the investors that his film series had garnered substantial commercial interest for use in healthcare, human resources, and education, and that Defendant was the sole owner of all the film IP. Defendant made similar representations touting the film’s world-wide appeal in writing to Penn State personnel for Provost funds to maintain a studio dedicated solely to the film.
Plaintiff and Defendant had two contracts under which they formed and ran the Plaintiff company—the Operating Agreement and the Workforce Training Development Agreement. Under these agreements with Plaintiff, Defendant contractually agreed: (1) to transfer all intellectual property rights in the film to Plaintiff; (2) to “finalize” a six-part learning series derived from the film series, with accompanying handbooks for sale to human resources departments as Workforce Training in age discrimination and workplace sensitivity; (3) to develop and enhance the film series to match the six-part training module to the “highest professional image;” (4) to do these things himself, Defendant personally, and that these duties were not delegable or terminable at will; (5) to “take all action” to ensure that the film IP belonged to Plaintiff and to stop any use without Plaintiff’s authorization, so that Plaintiff’s investment in the film IP was safe; and (6) to “not challenge or take any action inconsistent with Plaintiff’s rights to the Plaintiff’s Content” in the film and its ancillary IP.
Although Defendant contractually agreed to do all of this, Defendant failed to fulfill these contractual obligations, in material breach of his contracts. Instead, Defendant misused Plaintiff’s money to engage in a year of academic tourism, self-promoting his personal teaching and consulting career, and having fun with friends, academic colleagues, and former students. When in August of 2018 it came time for Defendant to deliver the “finalized” and sellable product at a soft opening of the film’s workforce training materials to potential trainers, Defendant only had an old personal sketchbook of undecipherable notes. There was no discernable work-product, no “finalized” deliverable that could be offered to a prospective client. Defendant then tried to delegate and assign his work to Penn State colleagues, in further breach of his contracts. Ultimately, Plaintiff had to hire professional staff to create the film deliverables, essentially from scratch and at significant expense.
In the fall of 2018, when it then came time for Defendant to market and promote the film’s product at the Leading Age Conference, touted by Defendant as the premier event at which to score major sales, Defendant’s promised commercial interest and domestic and international contacts never materialized. At the Leading Age Conference Defendant’s veil of misrepresentations came down, showing Defendant had been lying about outside commercial interest in the film solely to string Plaintiff along and continue its capital investment in Defendant’s personal lifestyle as a tenured professor. It turned out that Defendant had neither taught a full semester class since 2016 nor ever produced any published research during his entire tenured professorship at Penn State, yet still had not produced any marketable film materials or contacts for Plaintiff sales.
When Plaintiff management redirected Plaintiff’s focus to limit spending and generate actual sales at Penn State University and elsewhere, Defendant intentionally sabotaged Plaintiff’s business, in material breach of his contracts. When Plaintiff management communicated to Defendant in November and December of 2018 that Plaintiff would not fund his academic tourism and lifestyle, Defendant immediately contacted Penn State administration to enlist their help in challenging Plaintiff’s rights to the film and Plaintiff’s content. Defendant, with the assistance of Penn State, acted against Plaintiff to newly invent a claim that Defendant had not transferred the film’s intellectual property to Plaintiff. Defendant did so even though the University had previously provided written confirmation that Defendant was the sole owner of the film. Although he was an officer of the Plaintiff company with duties of loyalty and good faith to Plaintiff, Defendant withdrew and withheld further involvement in Plaintiff, and sought to have Penn State claim rights to the film’s IP from Plaintiff for unauthorized use at Penn State, all in material breach of Defendant’s contracts.
The destructive impact of Defendant’s breaches and deceptions was substantial and complete, rendering Plaintiff’s $350K investment and expenditure worthless. While still an officer and member of the Plaintiff company, Defendant broke off all contact with Plaintiff and quickly transferred jobs across the country to the University of Arizona—working for his former supervisor at Penn State who had also transferred to the University of Arizona.
Defendant refused to turn over the film materials in his possession, custody, and control, and intentionally left the film assets with Penn State for continued unauthorized use. All of these acts reflect material breaches of Defendant’s contracts with Plaintiff. Thus, the Court granted the relief sought by Bernhard Law Firm, and entered judgment against Defendant for his breach of contracts. (Florida Bar disclaimer: results may not be typical. You may not have as beneficial a result, or same or similar results). If you have questions about breach of contract, intellectual property lawsuits, disputes in the education sector, and investor fraud, please contact Bernhard Law Firm at www.bernhardlawfirm.com, 786-871-3349, or email@example.com