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dhdye
White Belt
White Belt

Joined: 16 Jun 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Tukwila

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:41 pm    Post subject: Can we really be sued? Long post but need help!! Reply with quote

Happy to find your site of like minded individuals.
Long story short my husband has been training under a reasonably new style (25-30 years) under his father. He has been the main instructor/manager/face of the school for approx. 10 years. Everyone knows him and loves him - just as it should be. The school has struggled financially over these years causing huge frustration on our part with missing pay, bounced checks, wage theft, etc. But for my husbands love and respect for the martial arts and our extended family he has hung on strong. The master of the school, his father is an unstable individual and things have been progressively worse in the past year. Many BB and parents have asked him when he was going to start his own school (this was an excuse for many cut backs and due increases-so he could have his own school) They were unhappy with how he was being treated and said they would go wherever he went. About 10 weeks ago his father fired him and told him to never come back. He loves teaching martial arts - it is his true gift so we decided to start his own school. We did everything right, new school name, new location, new logo, new patches, new gi's, our own insurance, etc.
He did not call any current students-he only called students that have since left because they do not like they way his father was treating the students. Students with life time memberships now pay him just so he can train their family. Families have actually sought him out looking for him or called around to see where he is. We have a big following and they are all very happy now to train with him in a new place.
My question is - his father is constantly telling everyone and texting my husband he will sue him for Infringement and stealing his clientele. He has said again and again he has contacted an attorney and will sue us for damages. He has told friends of ours that he is sending a cease and desist order because he is not allowed to continue in Martial Arts.......it breaks my heart that things have come to this - this is not at all what Martial Arts is all about.
Has anyone dealt with a situation like this? Can he actually sue us for teaching a variation of his style if it is not trademarked?
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Nidan Melbourne
KF Sempai
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Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 2202
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

First off Welcome to the forum.

That is unfortunate circumstances for you in this case. Since you were fired and taught a variation of his style you are fine.

He can't get a cease and desist to make your husband discontinue martial arts. That is cold hearted and no judge would allow it unless there was some extreme reason why.

Every style is derived from other styles. So really no one martial art is all that original.
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Nidan Melbourne
KF Sempai
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Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 2202
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plus you can't steal students from another school. They left his school to train somewhere else! That is what I did a couple of years ago. Your husband did the right thing by ONLY contacting those who had left the school. They probably still wanted to train in that style just not with your husbands father.

How the heck is he wanting to sue him for infringement? Students will leave and train with those they feel like they can really learn something from. In this case it is your husband.

If every style of martial art was trademarked then any variation of it would be screwed! even his own style would be liable to be sued.

What has the father done to make things worse as an unstable person other than the threats of suing his own son?

Also how is your new school running as well? are there lots of students and more wanting to join?
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Archimoto
Purple Belt
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Joined: 12 Apr 2014
Posts: 548

Styles: JKD / Muay Thai / TKD

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nidan Melbourne wrote:
First off Welcome to the forum.

That is unfortunate circumstances for you in this case. Since you were fired and taught a variation of his style you are fine.

He can't get a cease and desist to make your husband discontinue martial arts. That is cold hearted and no judge would allow it unless there was some extreme reason why.

Every style is derived from other styles. So really no one martial art is all that original.


Unless her husband signed a non-compete agreement. Many schools will have instructors sign these indicating, for example, that if they leave they may not start a school or teach martial arts within X miles (usually 50) and may not contact or speak directly with students for a period of X months (usually 12) after their departure. There are many iterations of non-competes out there. He should know if he signed one.
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 26961
Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just stating the obvious here, but this forum is not a replacement for legal advance and can't be taken as legal advice. What you'll hear is a lot of opinions. Legal advice should be sought from attorneys.

With that out of the way, yes, you can be sued. The simple truth is that anyone can sue for anything. It doesn't mean they'll be successful, of course. But they can sue you.

People threaten lawsuits all the time. Most who threaten never do anything, they are just trying to intimidate.

As far as stealing customers, this seems like a good read: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/167128

As far as "trademark," if that is what your husband's father said, that just illustrates he doesn't know what he's talking about. The area of law that would impact this is copyright, which is different. Can a martial arts curriculum be copyrighted? I don't see why not. Choreography can (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl119.html). Not to compare the martial arts to dance, but it seems fairly applicable. But I'm not a lawyer, so could be wrong.

It sounds like you are uneasy and looking for advice on what to do. If I were you, I would do one of these or both:

1. Ignore him. Block him from texting your phones or calling you. If he gets through, ignore him.

If the story is as you say, your husband's father is damaging his own credibility, not just your husband's. He might have some passionate supporters, but most people don't wish to be apart of family drama, especially when it isn't their family.

Your husband should have an answer in mind when people ask him about it. I would say that answer should be polite and should not get into personally attacks. "My father and I had a falling out. Unfortunately, he fired me. It is a difficult situation for me and my family. I didn't want to give up the martial arts, so I decided to start my own school." Something like that.

2. If you are really worried, contact an attorney. It may cost you some money, but will probably give you some piece of mind. If you want, you could have the attorney send a letter to your father demanding that he stop the threats to you and your new business.

Does that help your family situation? Probably not. So only you can decide what course to take here.

Not an easy situation, either way. Best of luck.

Patrick
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ps1
Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 09 Nov 2004
Posts: 3024
Location: NE Ohio
Styles: Chuan Fa, Shotokan, JJJ, BJJ

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Archimoto wrote:
Nidan Melbourne wrote:
First off Welcome to the forum.

That is unfortunate circumstances for you in this case. Since you were fired and taught a variation of his style you are fine.

He can't get a cease and desist to make your husband discontinue martial arts. That is cold hearted and no judge would allow it unless there was some extreme reason why.

Every style is derived from other styles. So really no one martial art is all that original.


Unless her husband signed a non-compete agreement. Many schools will have instructors sign these indicating, for example, that if they leave they may not start a school or teach martial arts within X miles (usually 50) and may not contact or speak directly with students for a period of X months (usually 12) after their departure. There are many iterations of non-competes out there. He should know if he signed one.


Even a non-compete is usually null if the person is fired. Otherwise it would be easy to take advantage of it.
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dhdye
White Belt
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Joined: 16 Jun 2014
Posts: 5
Location: Tukwila

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you guys - you all have been most helpful.

We have been very respectful when people want to know all of the details - we simply say that it was too bad things happened they way they did but we are happy to celebrate this new chapter and that they are here to share it with us, etc.

One of the parents has offered to pay for any legal help when and if we need it. He did sign a contract, we need to somehow get a copy but most likely won't be able to unless we are taken to court and have our attorney request it. As far as he remembers it was within 10 miles and it just so happens the new place is 10.01 miles or something like that.

We have acquired two contracts with the two nearby cities to be listed in their Parks and Recreation catalog - we will be the only martial arts instruction provided so we hope the fall brings in new younger beginning students - we are a bit top heavy with higher ranks and upper belts.

The families we have are so happy to be a part of this and can't wait to welcome new families.

We will keep you posted with any future news - if anyone knows of others who have taken the steps to venture out on their own I would love to hear from them........and again thanks so much!
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Archimoto
Purple Belt
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Joined: 12 Apr 2014
Posts: 548

Styles: JKD / Muay Thai / TKD

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ps1 wrote:
Archimoto wrote:
Nidan Melbourne wrote:
First off Welcome to the forum.

That is unfortunate circumstances for you in this case. Since you were fired and taught a variation of his style you are fine.

He can't get a cease and desist to make your husband discontinue martial arts. That is cold hearted and no judge would allow it unless there was some extreme reason why.

Every style is derived from other styles. So really no one martial art is all that original.


Unless her husband signed a non-compete agreement. Many schools will have instructors sign these indicating, for example, that if they leave they may not start a school or teach martial arts within X miles (usually 50) and may not contact or speak directly with students for a period of X months (usually 12) after their departure. There are many iterations of non-competes out there. He should know if he signed one.


Even a non-compete is usually null if the person is fired. Otherwise it would be easy to take advantage of it.


Maybe, maybe not. As with all agreements it's all in the fine print. I'm simply pointing out one example. Anyone can make or file a claim - it's the circumstances and the documents/agreements that are in place, among other things, that would be weighed.
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ps1
Black Belt
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Joined: 09 Nov 2004
Posts: 3024
Location: NE Ohio
Styles: Chuan Fa, Shotokan, JJJ, BJJ

PostPosted: Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dhdye wrote:
Thank you guys - you all have been most helpful.

We have been very respectful when people want to know all of the details - we simply say that it was too bad things happened they way they did but we are happy to celebrate this new chapter and that they are here to share it with us, etc.

One of the parents has offered to pay for any legal help when and if we need it. He did sign a contract, we need to somehow get a copy but most likely won't be able to unless we are taken to court and have our attorney request it. As far as he remembers it was within 10 miles and it just so happens the new place is 10.01 miles or something like that.

We have acquired two contracts with the two nearby cities to be listed in their Parks and Recreation catalog - we will be the only martial arts instruction provided so we hope the fall brings in new younger beginning students - we are a bit top heavy with higher ranks and upper belts.

The families we have are so happy to be a part of this and can't wait to welcome new families.

We will keep you posted with any future news - if anyone knows of others who have taken the steps to venture out on their own I would love to hear from them........and again thanks so much!


Most states require that, when a contract is entered, the contractee is provided a copy. If he doesn't have a copy of it...that could be a helpful point for you. As an example: all my enrollment agreements are signed in duplicate and a copy is given to the enrollee. There's even a place for them to sign and say they received it.
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Nidan Melbourne
KF Sempai
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Joined: 21 Aug 2013
Posts: 2202
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Styles: Goju-Ryu, BJJ, Balintawak Arnis

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ps1 wrote:
dhdye wrote:
Thank you guys - you all have been most helpful.

We have been very respectful when people want to know all of the details - we simply say that it was too bad things happened they way they did but we are happy to celebrate this new chapter and that they are here to share it with us, etc.

One of the parents has offered to pay for any legal help when and if we need it. He did sign a contract, we need to somehow get a copy but most likely won't be able to unless we are taken to court and have our attorney request it. As far as he remembers it was within 10 miles and it just so happens the new place is 10.01 miles or something like that.

We have acquired two contracts with the two nearby cities to be listed in their Parks and Recreation catalog - we will be the only martial arts instruction provided so we hope the fall brings in new younger beginning students - we are a bit top heavy with higher ranks and upper belts.

The families we have are so happy to be a part of this and can't wait to welcome new families.

We will keep you posted with any future news - if anyone knows of others who have taken the steps to venture out on their own I would love to hear from them........and again thanks so much!


Most states require that, when a contract is entered, the contractee is provided a copy. If he doesn't have a copy of it...that could be a helpful point for you. As an example: all my enrollment agreements are signed in duplicate and a copy is given to the enrollee. There's even a place for them to sign and say they received it.


I think 95% of places require it. I think in this case the copy of the contract would be important. Especially if it had any extra clauses in it.

My old sensei from my previous dojo who was the owner trademarked the format of the syllabus book we used. But not the actual content. He has sued in the past.
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