Judge’s Widow Knows Her Rights

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A judge’s widow sued an intellectual property law firm, claiming it took her late husband’s name off a legal textbook to cheat her of royalties.
     Kathryn B. Duvall sued Kenyon & Kenyon LLP, in New York County Supreme Court.
     Duvall’s late husband, Donald Knox Duvall, was a chief judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Judge Duvall was “undisputed sole author of the early editions of the legal treatise entitled ‘Unfair Competition and the ITC: Actions Before the International Trade Commission under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930,'” the widow says in her complaint.
     Judge Duvall retired from the ITC and died of a stroke at 73, the Washington Post reported in his obituary.
     His widow says in the complaint: “In 1997, two years before Judge Duvall passed away, he made a deal with Kenyon & Kenyon that he thought would provide for his family for many years after his death. That agreement obligated Kenyon & Kenyon to share royalties derived from sales of the work Judge Duvall’s heirs for ‘so long as his name appears on the volume.'”
     Kenyon & Kenyon ducked this obligation by deleting Judge Duvall’s name from the 2012 edition, his widow says.
     “The obvious purpose of this agreement was to ensure that Judge Duvall’s family would continue to receive income from the work for so long as he remains an author of its content,” the complaint states. “Kenyon & Kenyon acknowledges this purpose. (In fact, it seeks to justify its wrongful decision to now cease paying royalties by falsely claiming that ‘there is virtually nothing left of the original work’ in the most recent edition.)” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Kathryn Duvall denied that. In fact, she widow, the firm made only “insignificant changes” to what it calls Duvall’s “de facto treatise.”
     “For example, in one section of over 900 words, defendant and its attorneys made a single edit – they changed ‘In a nutshell’ to ‘Briefly,'” the complaint states. “According to them, they have now authored the whole 900-word section.”
     In exchange for giving up her bequest, Kenyon & Kenyon recently offered her a so-called “gift,” in a Sept. 6, 2012 letter from an attorney, the widow says.
     It promised to provide her “for the remainder of her life, a like portion (one third) of the royalties [Kenyon & Kenyon] may receive in the future from sale of copies of the book in hard cover or trade paperback,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses and brackets in complaint.)
     That’s insufficient, Duvall says: “Of course, this ‘gift,’ if accepted, would have provided a benefit wholly inferior to those that plaintiff and Judge Duvall’s other heirs are currently entitled under the contractual agreement. Indeed, the ‘gift’ would provide benefits only to Mrs. Duvall ‘for the remainder of her life,’ while the agreement provides that royalties shall be paid to all of Judge Duvall’s heirs, including ultimately his two daughters. Moreover, the ‘gift’ is limited to royalties derived from ‘sale of copies of the book in hard cover or trade paperback,’ while Mrs. Duvall’s current rights entitle her to royalties derived from all sales (including sales of electronic copies).”
     Duvall claims the so-called gift “was designed to eliminate an impediment to Kenyon & Kenyon’s goal of wrongfully maximizing its profits derived from sales of the work, including by removing its obligation to share royalties with Plaintiff, her two daughters or any other of Judge Duvall’s heirs, as per Kenyon & Kenyon’s prior agreement.”
     She adds: “Now, after rejecting Kenyon & Kenyon’s disingenuous ‘gift’ (which, unlike most gifts, came with the condition that she waive all of her rights and claims against the giver), Mrs. Duvall has brought this suit to put a stop to defendant’s aggressive and wrongful tactics.”
     She seeks an injunction declaring her late husband the author of the treatise and damages for breach of contract, breach of faith and fair dealing, and tortious interference with contract.
     She is represented by David Pohl.

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