Most civil lawsuits end, as T.S. Elliot said, “not with a bang, but a whimper." Case in point -- in May, Topps was sued for allegedly marking its Ring Pops with expired patents.
On the surface, the action looked intriguing. Millions of Ring Pops—a childhood treat enjoyed by most—were possibly marked with patents that had been dead for years. These alleged false markings could have stopped competitors from making their own Ring Pops, thereby potentially keeping the Topps' Ring Pop prices artificially inflated.
Topps had some interesting defenses too, including challenges to the constitutionality of the false marking statute, and the fact that Congress was racing in to potentially change the false marking law to help out big businesses and hurt consumers. I even wrote an article about the suit, explaining the basis of the action, what could happen, and possible results.
Since lawsuits move slowly, I decided to not check back for a little over a month. And what do you know? There was action. In late June, the plaintiff's attorney filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.
The relevant portion of the Notice stated:
What? We were looking forward to a long court battle. But, the suit was resolved almost immediately. And by a conversation? That's it? I mean, I was not expecting Casey Anthony-type testimony, but I was expecting more than:
“Hi, how are you? We're Topps, and this is why the case should go away."
“You've convinced me. Sorry for the inconvenience."
Welcome to the world of practicing law. Most times, lawsuits just fizzle out (or melt away like a Ring Pop). More than 90 percent of cases settle, often confidentially so the public never gets to know what really happened.
Here, we at least know that all it took to resolve the case was a phone call or two. That's probably why non-criminal law isn't normally a spectator sport.
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