Multi-Year Royalty Dispute Victory on Appeal
Akerman represented an international oilfield services client in a high-dollar, multi-year royalty dispute with two owners of wireless pipe recovery technology (used during drilling operations). The owners made millions of dollars in royalties from our client for over seven years. However, after consistently invoicing our client a combined total of 25 percent for seven years, the owners claimed that the 25 percent royalty stated in the two separate agreements (providing for a 25 percent royalty “for you only”) meant for “each” of the owners (i.e., that the royalty was really 50 percent total). When the client stood its ground and stuck to the terms of the contracts, the owners sued, seeking close to $20 million. Among other defenses, Akerman argued that the owners had waived their claims by consistently and unequivocally invoicing the client for years using the exact royalty percentage it had always been paid under the contracts at issue.After two separate cases, multiple summary judgments, mandamus proceedings, a trial, a bankruptcy, and the judge losing his seat during an election, the parties ultimately appealed multiple findings in the two separate cases. On appeal, the client’s position won outright with the appellate court determining last week that the Akerman trial team had established at trial – as a matter of law – that the owners had waived their claims in full. To put a final nail in the coffin, the appellate court went out of its way to note that the owners had never complained about payments of a combined 25 percent royalty rate, and that the self-serving trial testimony of one of the owner’s principals that he was afraid to complain and “[he] had left a voicemail message or two for the [CEO of the client]” some six years before filing suit was no evidence to support the owners’ new arguments that they had been under duress when invoicing the client. The client, along with the Akerman litigation team, fought for five years to obtain this convincing win.