UNDERSTAND Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.
I can’t tell you how many times I have warned people about signing a contract without complete understanding of the terms. Unfortunately, people still make the same mistakes over and over by signing contracts that are not in their best interest. Often these mistakes can cost a person everything they worked for.
Here is just another unfortunate case that proves my point.
The Camellia Grill, a landmark New Orleans restaurant, popular with both locals and tourists for nearly 70 years was severely damaged by hurricane Katrina and remained closed for over a year, when owner Michael Shwartz decided to sell it in 2006. The sale was finalized with 3 separate contracts, one of which was the “bill of sale.”
READ Those Agreements BEFORE Signing.
The new owner, Hicham Khodr, also signed a contract for a licensing agreement regarding the use of the iconic Camellia Grill trademarks and logos. The contract agreed on a payment of $1 million, as well as ongoing royalties. This contract was contested, and eventually declared null and void by a Louisiana court. This ruling then led to a slew of other lawsuits between the two parties.
With the licensing and royalties contract terminated, the seller filed a lawsuit against the new owner claiming trademark infringement, since the restaurant continued using the original name, signage and logos. The new ownership contended that the use of the logos and trademarks was covered in the “bill of sale” contract.
When the smoke from the lawsuits finally cleared in July of 2015, the court ruled that the new ownership had complete rights to the name, trademarked logos and all materials specified in the bill of sale. The contract specified transfer of all “tangible personal property located within or upon” the Camellia Grill.
Michael Schwartz argued that intellectual property was not part of the “tangible personal property.” However, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that the language in the bill of sale was “clear and unambiguous.”
Obviously, Michael Schwartz and his attorneys did not cover all the bases in regards to the specific language of the bill of sale contract. They assumed that the licensing contract covered the trademarks, but when that contract was voided by the court, the bill of sale became the primary documentation of the terms.
When you sign a contract on the dotted line, you had better be absolutely sure that the terms are exactly as you want them, with all avenues and possibilities considered, especially when dealing with multiple contracts for the same deal.
Please don’t enter into a contract that can affect your livelihood and future without seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney who specializes in the field. Not all lawyers are created equal. Your real estate lawyer is ill-equipped to counsel you on intellectual property law issues, and truly not your criminal lawyer. One oversight on the contract can lead to devastating consequences.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles.