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Following Trade Secrets Litigation

Hey Ya! Andre 3000 Sued for $2 Million

bostonherald.com is reporting that Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 of the musical group Outkast has been sued, along with the Cartoon Network and Turner Broadcasting, by Timothy McGee, a Boston postal worker, for $2 million in damages relating to animated series “Class of 3000.” The suit claims copyright infringement, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets and requests damages “including but not limited to” all the profits from the show, legal fees and “whatever this court may deem additionally just and proper.” Unfortunately for McGee, the profits from the show aren’t that extensive as it has already been cancelled.

Key graphs:

Timothy McGee, 33, a former art student, claims he developed “characters, artwork, storylines . . . and concepts” for an animated series he called “The Music Factory of the ’90s,” nearly 10 years before the oddly similar “Class” began airing on the Cartoon channel.

and:

In 1997, the Boston guy submitted a proposal for his show to Michael Lazzo, then a vice president of programming for the Cartoon Network, and promptly received a rejection letter.

Nine years later, in November 2006, the Cartoon Network premiered “Class of 3000,” an animated series set in Atlanta.

Only time will tell if McGee has the goods to be able to hang this one on Andre. A good place to start will be any documentation he submitted to Lazzo in 1997, the rejection letter, and (if he’s lucky) a non-disclosure agreement. Oftentimes, when people pitch shows or ideas, the programming executive refuses to sign non-disclosures on the chance that they are pursuing a similar themed show already. These cases are notoriously hard to prove because of the passage of time and the difficulty of getting the right witnesses–is Lazzo still working for Cartoon Network (the article is unclear), and what documents still exist at Cartoon Network that might support McGee’s claim?

Another question, is it going to be worth it for McGee? This is not a question to be taken lightly. Even though you may have been wronged, a good business person will always, always conduct a cost-benefit analysis of pursuing a claim. If the damages aren’t great enough, there is little sense in filing a lawsuit and paying a lawyer lots of money just to achieve the satisfaction of knowing that a court of law agrees that you were wronged. A simple maxim: If the damages aren’t there, it is rarely worth it to litigate.

In this case, I see little reason to pursue this claim. Even if McGee were to win in spectacular fashion, the odds that an animated feature on the Cartoon Network that lasted for only two years will have generated enough profit to justify an award of $2 million is debatable.

We’ll keep you posted on this one.

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December 12, 2008 Posted by | Intellectual Property, misappropriation, non-disclosure agreement, trade secret theft, Trade Secrets | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment