Corporate Espionage for Dummies

October 21, 2010 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS

Prison Sentences for Michael, Dwight, and Jim: Up to seven years for interception of oral communications plus up to seven years for attempted theft of trade secrets. There may also be criminal conspiracy prosecutions against Meredith, Oscar, and Ryan.

Litigation Value: Danny Cordray’s action for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Dunder Mifflin and several individuals = $250,000. Osprey’s action against Dunder Mifflin and several individuals for misappropriation of trade secrets = an injunction and damages to be proved at trial.

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Promotion and Self-Promotion

October 01, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: No liability to Dunder Mifflin/Sabre, but plenty of room for improvement in behavior, as always.

In the second week of Season 7 of The Office, Sabre miraculously escaped without an obvious lawsuit. For this shocking development, I’m inclined to credit the fact that Michael Scott spent most of the episode locked in the break room, being counseled by HR manager Toby Flenderson and unable to wreak havoc on the rest of the business.

Now although this counseling arrangement hasn’t led to catastrophe (yet), I think it’s an absolutely terrible idea. No matter how qualified Toby is, and I think we can all agree that with a degree in social work and time spent in a seminary he is qualified, Michael hates him. I was amazed that Toby was as successful as he was, considering that Michael sincerely believes Toby is his arch-nemesis.

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Who Wanted to Be a Millionaire?

December 03, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: From Dunder Mifflin’s corporate perspective, likely $0, though it might find itself having to defend claims that it should be liable for Michael’s tuition promise. Michael on the other hand . . . but you can’t get blood from a turnip, right?

Just how long has Michael Scott been wreaking havoc on the greater Scranton area? From this episode of The Office, Scott’s Tots, we learn that he’s been at it for at least 10 years, when he promised a group of third graders — Scott’s Tots — that he would pay their college tuition should they graduate from high school. Oh those heady days of 1999, when Michael thought he’d be a millionaire by age 30, 40 at the latest. Well, it’s 2009 now and the chickens have come home to roost. In a series of cringe-inducing scenes, Michael tries to avoid facing the music at all, then reluctantly comes clean, but only after letting the kids sing his praises.

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The Envelope, Please

June 04, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Litigation cost: $0 – $50,000

Even though NBC is taking a break from The Office this week, we aren’t. The latest webisode, “Blackmail,” may be short but it packs a potential punch for Dunder Mifflin.

Creed wreaks quiet havoc by gathering his colleagues’ best-kept secrets and using them to extort favors or a paltry $6 from each of them. Nonetheless, it’s blackmail. So far, even though Creed appears to be violating the law, Dunder Mifflin can probably skate by without liability since there is no indication that anyone in a supervisory position had reason to know or should have known about the nefarious plot unfolding in the workplace. And, Creed was not acting within the scope of his duties.

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All’s Not Fair in Love and War

April 17, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $250,000

Things escalated quickly during the “Heavy Competition” episode of The Office. Michael Scott ratcheted up his sales efforts by trying to get Dwight Schrute to give him some of Dunder Mifflin’s customers. But when new Dunder Mifflin boss Charles Minor gained Dwight’s respect (with a well-appreciated handshake –- “it’s firm!”), the deal was off, and the gloves came off, too.  Who could be liable to whom, and for how much?

First, Dunder Mifflin could do very well in a suit against Michael and his company. Michael tried to steal Dunder Mifflin’s customers, and might have done so unlawfully. Like we talked about a couple of weeks ago, although individuals can compete with their former employers, there are some restrictions. One such restriction is that you can’t conspire with a current employee to steal trade secrets. The only question is the amount of damages –- that’s difficult to determine because we don’t know how successful Michael has been. Let’s call it $50,000 for now.

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That’s Not the Ticket

March 13, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $25,000 – $50,000

Michael was unusually evil in the Golden Ticket episode of The Office. Juries don’t like evil managers, so Dunder Mifflin is probably looking at another judgment, this time in the range of $25,000 – $50,000.

Michael’s outrageous conduct in getting Dwight to fall on his sword (not literally this time) for Michael’s failed golden-ticket idea was unabashedly wrong. If Blue Cross hadn’t saved the day by making Dunder Mifflin their exclusive office supply provider, Dwight would have been fired (or as we call it, constructively discharged), and his claim against Dunder Mifflin would have been even higher.

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Hot or Not?

January 23, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 5 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $0

In the Prince Family Paper episode of The Office, the employees of Dunder Mifflin Scranton act inappropriately and potentially create liability for the company on two different fronts. But fortunately, as seems to be the case quite often this season, no one does anything to definitely create liability for the company. That doesn’t mean we approve of their conduct, though, as literally everyone in the office was in on the shenanigans.

First, let’s deal with Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute. Like in the 8th grade, Michael and Dwight’s spy mission to Prince Family Paper was inappropriate, awkward, and just felt wrong. However, as legitimate competitors, Dunder Mifflin is entitled to compete with Prince Family Paper, even if they’re slimy about it. And the customer list Michael and Dwight got from Mr. Prince could have been a trade secret –- if he hadn’t just given it to Michael so freely. So, at the end of the day, Michael’s and Dwight’s behavior might not have been ethical, but it was probably legal.

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