Re-Claiming Credit

By Bill Wright

When an employee leaves and sets up a competing business, may he or she claim experience for work done by the former employer? The Seventh Circuit recently considered whether an architect – a former employee of a firm – is entitled to advertise his personal experience “designing” the firm’s high profile projects. The issue arose under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). The court allowed the claim against the architect to go forward – for all the court could tell from the complaint, the architect might have been falsely claiming involvement in the project, or might have been falsely claiming to be the principal designer or one of the principal designers. The court ruled however that, when the facts fit, a former employer might have a Lanham Act claim against a former employee who falsely claims credit for the employer’s work. Truthfully claiming the experience probably does not raise a Lanham Act claim. M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc. v. Strabala, No. 12-2256 (7th Cir. Aug. 21, 2014).