A U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as expected dismissed inventor Alan Amron's $400 million defamation complaint against 3M Co., which alleged the conglomerate stole his invention of the Post-It-Note, noting that a previous settlement agreement between the two parties in 1997 barred the action.
Amron filed the action against 3M in January seeking to force 3M to concede that he rather than its employees Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver had invented the sticky note. Amron claimed that he invented the sticky note after leaving a note for his wife affixed to the refrigerator with a chewed piece of gum.
He claimed that he understood that the 1997 settlement in which he accepted $12,000 in legal costs meant 3M had conceded that neither he nor 3M was the inventor of the sticky note. 3M's later statements that its employees Fry and Silver invented the sticky note allegedly defamed him and harmed his ability to get funding for developing other inventions.
While Amron never actually patented his invention, 3M patented the adhesive that made the sticky note commercially viable.
Judge James Cohn dismissed Amron's complaint with prejudice, saying efforts to amend the complaint would be futile, meaning he will face difficult odds in trying to revive it.
The "Court finds dismissal appropriate because the Settlement Agreement bars Plaintiff’s claims. The Court will therefore not address Defendants’ other arguments."
Judge Cohn noted that the settlement agreement resulted from a prior lawsuit that Amron filed against 3M in 1997 in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, which also was based on Amron's allegation that he invented the sticky note.
In the first lawsuit, Amron alleged that he created, developed, and offered for sale in 1974 a sticky note called the “Press-on Memo.”
Amron claimed that 3M falsely represented to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between 1977 and 1995 that it was the first to conceive of a repositionable sticky note with special adhesive. He asserted 3M had an obligation to disclose Amron's earlier invention. In addition, he alleged 3M engaged in unclean hands through its "false" patent filings and that he suffered financial injury due to 3M’s "false" patent filings.
"Shortly after Plaintiff filed the 1997 lawsuit against 3M, he alleges that 3M presented him with evidence that a Swiss patent was issued in 1968 for a sticky note. Faced with evidence that he was not the first to invent the sticky note in 1973, Plaintiff 'asked [3M] to just pay for [his] legal fees,' 3M agreed, and, as Plaintiff explains, 'we settled the case and it was done.'
The judge noted that as such Amron's prior lawsuit was resolved for $12,000 in exchange for a comprehensive release, which states: "AMRON shall and does hereby release and forever discharge 3M, its officers, agents, directors, owners, employees, successors, assigns, divisions and affiliated and subsidiary corporations and each of them from any and all claims, demands, obligations, debts, damages, agreements, promises, or causes of action of every nature, kind and description whatsoever, in law or in equity, whether known or unknown, and whether suspected or unsuspected that AMRON ever had, now has, or hereafter can, shall or may have against 3M arising out of, directly or indirectly, or related in any way to the subject matter of the Action. The Settlement Agreement also contains an integration clause stating that it contains 'all agreements' between the parties. It further states that Plaintiff relied on independently selected counsel in agreeing to settle and that he had 'not been influenced to any extent whatsoever in entering into the Agreement by any representations or statements obligations [sic] not expressly contained in the Agreement.'"
"Despite Plaintiff’s protestations that he is not now suing for 'exactly the same thing,' the subject matter of this lawsuit, like the 1997 lawsuit, is clearly the inventorship of the sticky note. Thus, by entering into the Settlement Agreement, Plaintiff released his instant claims against 3M, its agents, and employees, including Defendants Fry and Silver.
Judge Cohn further found that the settlement agreement validly released Amron's claims arising after the execution of the settlement agreement. "Plaintiff’s argument that a settlement agreement cannot release future claims is without merit."
He also noted that Amron cannot avoid the settlement agreement by arguing it was fraudulently induced.
Finally, the judge said nothing about Amron's request for a hearing into allegations by an unnamed attorney that 3M attorneys sought out his ex-wife in search of damaging or embarrassing information with which to discredit his case.
Mark Romance, a partner with Richman Greer in Miami, who represented 3M in the case, strongly denied the allegations and said in a court filing that Amron failed to turn over a sworn affidavit from the unnamed attorney.
Amron, who represented himself in the case, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.
Romance declined to comment.
Donna Fleming, a 3M representative, said the company was pleased the court agreed that Amron's complaint was without merit.
--To reach the reporter responsible for this story please contact Dan Lonkevich at 707 318-7899 or at firstname.lastname@example.org