Burten v. Milton Bradley Co.

763 F.2d 461 (1985)

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Burten v. Milton Bradley Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
763 F.2d 461 (1985)

RW

Facts

Allen Coleman and Roger Burten (inventors) (plaintiffs) came up with a concept for a board game. The inventors hoped to sell the concept to the Milton Bradley Company (defendant), a toys and games manufacturer. Before accepting the inventors’ proposal for consideration, Milton Bradley made the inventors sign a disclosure agreement stating that (1) the inventors voluntarily submitted their proposal, (2) no relationship between the inventors and Milton Bradley was implied by Milton Bradley’s willingness to review the proposal, (3) Milton Bradley assumed no obligation to accept the proposal, and (4) the inventors retained their rights under federal patent laws. Milton Bradley did not buy the inventors’ concept. Some time later, however, Milton Bradley released its own remarkably similar game. The inventors sued Milton Bradley in federal court, under Massachusetts tort law, for trade-secret misappropriation. The jury returned its verdict for the inventors. The judge, however, accepted Milton Bradley’s argument that there was no issue of fact to submit to the jury regarding the parties’ understanding of the disclosure agreement. The judge entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict for Milton Bradley. The inventors appealed to the First Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Coffin, J.)

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