Once upon a midnight dreary, in the annus horribilis of 2000, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado issued its terrifying decision in what is the seminal artificial vampire fangs case entitled Nutting v. RAM Southwest, Inc., 106 F. Supp. 2d 1121 (D. Col. July 10, 2000).
The plaintiff in this chilling tale, Mr. Nutting, was the inventor of a creepy artificial vampire fang product called “Custom Dracula Fangs.” The defendants, Mr. and Mrs. Sheppeard, also sold and manufactured artificial vampire fangs, including a frightening product called “Original Fangtastics.”
Mr. Nutting and Mr. Sheppeard met at an abhorrent Halloween trade show and entered into a union whereby it was agreed that the Sheppeards would distribute Mr. Nutting’s “Custom Dracula Fangs.” As part of that agreement, the parties also signed (in blood?) a ghastly non-competition agreement covering the entire world (including, presumably, the underworld). As so often happens in cases involving artificial vampire fangs, bad blood soon brewed and the distributor relationship started decomposing after the Sheppeards began to package their “Professional Fangtastics” fangs (an evolution of their “Original Fangtastics”) in a coffin-shaped display box similar to that used for “Custom Dracula Fangs.”
Mr. Nutting then sued the defendants asserting gruesome claims for infringement of his trollish patent on the “Custom Dracula Fangs,” inducing infringement of the patent, deceptive trade practices, and breach of the bloody non-competition contract. In turn, the defendants asserted spooky counterclaims for interference with business and contractual relations and deceptive trade practices.
The defendants fiendishly moved for summary judgment on Mr. Nutting’s festering claim of breach of the non-competition agreement. Mr. Nutting cross-moved for summary judgment on the defendants’ ghoulish counterclaims. The court granted both motions without oral argument, sending the litigants’ claims to a certain doom.
The Haunted Non-Competition Agreement
The court thrust a wooden stake through the heart of the bloody non-competition agreement, holding it void as a matter of law because: (1) it was a naked restraint on competition that failed to protect a legally cognizable interest and, as such, was void against public policy; and (2) the scope of the restraint embodied in the agreement went beyond any protectable interest. In so ruling, the court essentially found that Mr. Nutting’s argument that his patented vampire fangs was a trade secret “sucked.” Finally, the court proclaimed that the non-compete was horrifyingly overbroad, both as to time and geographic scope, and therefore pronounced dead on arrival.
Defendants’ Putrid Counterclaims
The court completely gutted the defendants’ rotting counterclaims. The court dismembered the claim for interference with business or contractual relations, finding that no reasonable juror, dead or alive, could find for the defendants because they failed to present competent evidence in support, including that Mr. Nutting had any evil intent. The court also held that defendants’ claim for deceptive trade practices, based on the plaintiff’s alleged disparagement of their vampire fangs, did not survive the light of day.
Fun size take home
I’m being deadly serious when I say that this case is an oft-cited case of first impression under Colorado law addressing the reasonableness of a perpetual and worldwide covenant not to compete.
Happy Halloween! Remember to brush your fangs after candy!