ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The best thing about his $26 million victory in federal court, according to Jordan Fishman, is that he can now devote his full time to what he does best—designing unique, asymmetrical underground mining tires for clients worldwide.
“When you're dealing with a company that has a billion dollars, such as Shandong LingLong, it's difficult,” said Fishman, CEO of Florida-based Tire Engineering and Distribution L.L.C., which also does business as Alpha Mining Systems and Alpha Tire Systems. “How do you split your time? But now we can run a business instead of a lawsuit.”
A jury before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled for Fishman and Alpha on all counts July 15 in their lawsuit against Chinese tire makers Shandong LingLong Rubber Co. Ltd. and Dubai-based tire distributor Al Dobowi Tyres Co. L.L.C. The jury found Shandong LingLong and Al Dobowi liable for conspiring to steal Fishman's proprietary mining tire designs.
Both companies received Fishman's blueprints from former Alpha executive Sam Vance in 2005, according to the complaint. Shandong LingLong planned to manufacture the tires from the purloined designs, and Al Dobowi planned to distribute them, it said.
Representing Fishman was Gilbert L.L.P., a Washington law firm with a long history of making foreign companies accountable in U.S. courts for patent and trademark infringement.
“If it wasn't for the Gilbert firm and what they did, this trial would never have come about in the first place,” said a spokesman for the company. “For them it was a cause.”
Alpha's victory over Shandong LingLong and Al Dobowi was “a case of David beating Goliath,” the spokesman said.
Fishman said the behavior of Vance, Shandong LingLong and Al Dobowi was a total shock to him.
“I grew up in a different era,” he said. “I started in the scrap rubber business, and you did business with people in an atmosphere based on trust. That's how I learned what to do and how to do it.
“I trusted Sam Vance. I'd known him 20 years, and he was like family. Then one day I woke up and found he'd taken everything I'd worked on since I was a kid.”
A Sarasota County, Fla., circuit court ordered Vance to pay Fishman more than $59 million in damages in May 2008. In April of this year, however, a state appeals court vacated the judgment.
The Florida and Virginia cases have no bearing on each other, Fishman said. As for the Florida case, it was struck down strictly on procedural grounds and will be refiled soon, he said.
Of all the things that shocked him about the case, Fishman said, the most shocking was the attitude of Shandong LingLong and Al Dobowi.
“It was like, 'What is he going to do to us in Dubai?'” he said. “And also, 'He's an old man, so he'll die soon!' Well, I guess I didn't die.”
“This case is not only about tires, but about doing business today and the difficulty firms have in doing business overseas,” Fishman said. “We were able to get them into the U.S. justice system, and perhaps this time the good guys won.”