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Monster Cables picked the wrong guy to threaten

Monster Cables, which makes extremely high-priced stereo cables, has apparently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Blue Jeans Cable, alleging various kinds of infringement. Bad move – the president of Blue Jeans Cable, Kurt Denke, is a former litigator who responded pretty forcefully:

… Once I have received the above materials and explanations from you, I will undertake to analyze this information and let you know whether we are willing to accede to any of the demands made in your letter. If my analysis shows that there is any reasonable likelihood that we have infringed in any way any of Monster Cable’s intellectual property rights, we will of course take any and all action necessary to resolve the situation. If I do not hear from you within the next fourteen days, or if I do hear from you but do not receive all of the information requested above, I will assume that you have abandoned these claims and closed your file.

As for your requests for information, or for action, directed to me: I would remind you that it is you, not I, who are making claims; and it is you, not I, who must substantiate those claims. You have not done so.

I have seen Monster Cable take untenable IP positions in various different scenarios in the past, and am generally familiar with what seems to be Monster Cable’s modus operandi in these matters. I therefore think that it is important that, before closing, I make you aware of a few points.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1985, I spent nineteen years in litigation practice, with a focus upon federal litigation involving large damages and complex issues. My first seven years were spent primarily on the defense side, where I developed an intense frustration with insurance carriers who would settle meritless claims for nuisance value when the better long-term view would have been to fight against vexatious litigation as a matter of principle. In plaintiffs’ practice, likewise, I was always a strong advocate of standing upon principle and taking cases all the way to judgment, even when substantial offers of settlement were on the table. I am “uncompromising” in the most literal sense of the word. If Monster Cable proceeds with litigation against me I will pursue the same merits-driven approach; I do not compromise with bullies and I would rather spend fifty thousand dollars on defense than give you a dollar of unmerited settlement funds. As for signing a licensing agreement for intellectual property which I have not infringed: that will not happen, under any circumstances, whether it makes economic sense or not.

I say this because my observation has been that Monster Cable typically operates in a hit-and-run fashion. Your client threatens litigation, expecting the victim to panic and plead for mercy; and what follows is a quickie negotiation session that ends with payment and a licensing agreement. Your client then uses this collection of licensing agreements to convince others under similar threat to accede to its demands. Let me be clear about this: there are only two ways for you to get anything out of me. You will either need to (1) convince me that I have infringed, or (2) obtain a final judgment to that effect from a court of competent jurisdiction. It may be that my inability to see the pragmatic value of settling frivolous claims is a deep character flaw, and I am sure a few of the insurance carriers for whom I have done work have seen it that way; but it is how I have done business for the last quarter-century and you are not going to change my mind. If you sue me, the case will go to judgment, and I will hold the court’s attention upon the merits of your claims–or, to speak more precisely, the absence of merit from your claims–from start to finish. Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.

(Emphasis added; hat tip: Jeff Nolan at Venture Chronicles.)

I can relate to Denke’s final comment quoted above …. I wonder what the attendant publicity is doing for his sales.

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