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The complexity of commercial litigation

Commercial litigation encompasses a broad range of legal disputes involving business entities and corporate law. In California, a litany of laws regulates business partnerships and fairness practices.

It’s rare for these matters to have simple answers. Most arguments are complex. But there are common matters in commercial litigation. Here are a few.

Patent disputes

Patents protect innovation. They ensure businesses, inventors, and entrepreneurs are legally safeguarded. The laws ensure third parties do not capitalize off patent-owner portfolios.

Earlier this year, VLSI Technology took Intel before a Texas jury. VLSI convinced the jury the computer chip giant infringed on eight of its chip-development patents. VLSI won an award that’s the country’s second-largest. It was the third time in history a defendant (Intel) had to pay over $2 billion in damages. 

Contracts law

One can produce an airtight agreement and things will still go awry. But a contract is only legally enforceable if it aligns with applicable law. While legalese can get complicated, a contract contains two essential elements: offer and acceptance.

Macy’s took rival J.C. Penney to court, dragging Living Omnimedia and its founder, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, into the mix. Stewart and Macy’s had an exclusive agreement regarding Stewart products. When other products by Stewart ended up on J.C. Penney shelves, Macy’s claimed J.C. Penney interfered with Macy’s contract. Macy’s won, getting a $200 million judgment.

Executive employment litigation

Noncompete contracts, CAs, agreements that protect trade secrets, fiduciary guidelines, creating unfair competition, and more are only a few items executives and employers might put on paper. The goal is to protect both parties and maintain a competitive edge. It doesn’t always work out.

In Shachoy v. Conrades (2019), an executive and employer verbally agreed to a modification to the employment contract. The executive later argued the modification was null and void because all changes — as per the written agreement — needed to be “in writing and signed” by both parties. 

The court sided against the defendant, arguing how any portion of an executive employment contract is modifiable, but modifications are subject to a set of principles no one followed.

Now, describing these commercial litigation cases can make them seem simple on the surface, but each case is subject to a litany of laws. Each law is a guideline for how to construct executive contracts and further complicates scrutiny. When any party disputes the agreement, it can take years and untold amounts of money to rectify the matter.