Attack First Amendment
By Ronald J. Riley
In the last week of September 2000 I noticed a high number of visits on the InventorEd web site from friedman-law.com. The name seemed familiar but I could not place it so I entered www.friedman-law.com into my web browser. But there was no web site at that address so the next thing I did was a whois search for the domain. Low and behold it was a law firm in Pittsburgh, PA. Now that set off alarm bells because the biggest and most notorious invention promoter in the world, Invention Submission Corporation (ISC) is also located in Pittsburgh, PA (ISC's Web Site).
Normally I spend maybe five percent of my time on the invention promotion problem. There are just so many conflicting priorities that I flit from one to the other. One such priority was writing about the Neustel-ISC dispute. I had started to do so once before but had been side tracked. I had acquired a ton of the court pleadings in the case after Neustel told me he could no longer discuss it.
But digging the story out of an eight inch deep pile of legal documents is not the fun part of journalism
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Editorial Note: In an effort to be as open as possible and fully present both sides of the issues I have posted all the written correspondence. I leave it to readers to judge the merits of the arguments. I have also made it very clear to Mr. Edward B. Friedman that I am willing to correct any errors of fact and I am also willing to post his comments about the case. So far he has consistently demanded that the facts and any opinions based on those facts NOT be aired.
His threat to sue me, and a pattern of similar threats against others, are in my opinion legal thuggery and an abuse of the legal system. It is a clear attack on both the First Amendment rights of the public and the press. If such abuse continues I will pursue all available remedies.
so I simply kept putting it off. Seeing that friedman-law.com was racking up over a hundred hits a day on InventorEd, day after day - including weekends told me there was a very good story to be written. Digging into the daunting pile soon paid off. The RICO action filed by Neustel was fascinating and I soon broke the story. Just a few days after I published the RICO story (more RICO resources here) I received a demand letter from Edward B. Friedman. Their letter is here and the response is here.
The next day I received a call from Mr. Friedman. The gist of the call was that he wanted to disassociate the Friedman clan name from the ISC clan and wanted all references to the Friedman clan removed from the InventorEd web site. While his listing was factual I could most certainly understand why any attorney may not want their association with some clients to be common knowledge. And since he asked quite nicely I took his name off the caution list.
Then the second call came the next day. Now he wanted me to remove all mention of the RICO action from the web site. This was simply too much, for the RICO case names many people and companies and for that reason bears directly on public policy and legislative discussions, and I told him so. But I did offer a couple of possible compromises and he accepted one which is detailed in an email here.
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I am personally aware of two recent cases which are similar to this one, both of which were litigated. In each case the corporate bully was resoundingly defeated.
The second case, which is one where Inventor-Journalist Ronald J. Riley played a role by keeping censored material online is the Skippy Peanut Butter case. In this case CPC/Bestfoods obtained a court order forcing www.Skippy.com to remove large amounts of the history of the dispute over ownership of the Skippy trademark. During the time that the material was not available on the www.Skippy.com site Ronald J. Riley kept it on the web at www.Skippy-SCAM.org.
So I added and linked a few documents which Mr. Friedman had supplied to the web site and notified him that it was done by email, the text of which is here. Soon after I received an email claiming that Edward B. Friedman did not ask that this information be posted and returning to his original demand that all references to the RICO action should be removed.
At this point I was reasonably sure that Mr. Friedman was not dealing in good faith. I suspected this would be the case from the beginning but in the interests of fair play I felt I had to give him and ISC a chance.
Since I am not qualified to judge Mr. Friedman's legal arguments, and since they really seemed off base on what knowledge I do have of the issues at hand, I sought the advice of several attorneys and organizations. This cumulated in a conference call between Edward B. Friedman and another of his firm's attorneys and myself and an attorney from a well known public advocacy group.
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A nice fringe benefit of Friedman-law's interest in the InventorEd web site is that they are visiting it so often that they are single handedly raising the web sites rankings in search engines by at least 25%. And those rankings will then mean that more people will be channeled to those web pages than would have been the case otherwise. So I do thank them for helping expose inventors to the materials they need to make informed decisions when selecting service providers. And there is always the chance that the Friedman-ISC clan will actually absorb some of my teachings about how to market inventions and hopefully this will result in their clients enjoying a higher success rate.
The attorneys were totally at odds over the issues. Mr. Friedman and his attorney argued that they should be able to stop the publication of facts and that I should not be able to offer public opinions based on those facts because they felt such defamed them. The other attorney totally disagreed with their position.
In a 10-3-2000 email Edward B. Friedman said "Again, I insist that you immediately remove all references to Edward B. Friedman, Friedman and Friedman and the defamatory statements and innuendo relating to the Neustel litigation from your web site. If these references on your web site are not removed, I will have no choice but to seek my own legal remedies."
I always stand ready to correct error of FACT. I repeat my previous offer to publish Mr. Friedman's statement to give him a fair opportunity to present his side of the story. For the record I repeat that I will not remove the facts or the conclusions (opinions) based on my interpretation of those facts just because he and ISC do not like them.
Now lets examine his claims.
Mr. Friedman has threatened to take action against me if I do not stop discussing the FACTS. In fact ISC, presumably with the benefit of Edward B. Friedman's counsel, have threatened many people who speak publicly about the value of ISC's services.
Sealed ! !
On 10-11-2000 I decided to put some of the pleadings up on the InventorEd web site to save those who wanted to view them the trouble of joining the Pacer system. All I had were hard copies of the pleadings which had been passed to me as the case progressed. Scanning, proofreading, and then coding such into html is rather time consuming and tedious task. So I registered with the Pacer system to get the relevant documents in electronic form because using such is much less work than scanning those documents.
I only found one document, the Docket listing which I have posted here. I see that the very last word in this document is (seal). I assume that the court sealed the record which had been public up until the settlement of the case. In any event, I obtained the documents as the case progressed, before the settlement and the court's action sealing the records. I now understand why Mr. Friedman's reaction to my breaking the RICO story was so negative. He (and presumably his clients) no doubt thought that they had contained the RICO action, unaware that I and others had been following the case and retained documentation which they thought was safely locked away.
Ronald J. Riley www.InventorEd.org/
What I have learned from all of this is in part the same lesson I learned becoming an inventor, that history is the key. Even the most causal study of history has shown it is a big mistake to ever allow those who bully to have their way, for doing so usually only encourages them to make more and more demands. In my view this is most certainly what happened in this case.
It has been widely reported in the inventor community that invention promoters threaten those who speak out. By far the largest and most likely company to make such threats has been ISC. I am personally aware of at least four such threats made by the ISC team. Presumably, since Edward B. Friedman is counsel to ISC he is privy to all such correspondence.
In our correspondence I repeatedly counseled Edward B. Friedman that he and the ISC team must stop threatening critics and instead focus such energy on improving ISC's success rate. In my view, ISC's rate is at least ten times worse than the success rate of independent inventors who do not use an invention promoter and at least fifty times worse than the success rate of those inventors who have succeeded once and go on to repeat such success with subsequent inventions.
Based on the conference call I am discouraged, for I do not think that the ISC team will ever figure out that they can both make money and do the right thing by their clients. Since ISC has handled thousands of inventions it is reasonable to expect them to produce a higher success rate for their clients than we see from those who market themselves. In fact, I believe it is reasonable to expect ISC to come close to the success rate that repeat independent inventors enjoy.
But, I am sorry to say that it looks like they will continue on their current path of trying to bully everyone who is critical of the way they operate.
There is a silver lining in every cloud though. Before this ta-ta I spent five percent of my time addressing the invention promotion problem. I know that my efforts are a thorn to invention promoters. But now that Edward B. Friedman and ISC are threatening to sue me I am compelled to take a much greater interest in this problem. So for the foreseeable future I will be devoting much more time, both advocacy and journalistic, to this issue. At least a ten fold increase.
And their threat, when shown to wealthy inventors and other interested parties, has been instrumental in getting them to open their wallets. Their contributions are creating a defense fund and paying for expansion of InventorEd's services to inventors.
Are Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statutes the answer to reigning in invention Promoters?
Caution List - Companies
and People - Only You Can Decide If These Are
$10,000 to $20,000 Wasted money
Source FTC Jodie Bernstein