Herff Jones judgment against Jostens upheld

Herff Jones, a division of Varsity Brands, announced the Alabama Supreme Court has upheld its unanimous verdict rendered a year ago in its favor in significant litigation against its biggest competitor, Jostens, Inc. The Alabama Supreme Court’s finding definitively resolves this matter and affirms the jury’s finding Jostens conspired and stole confidential and trade secret information, and interfered with Herff Jones’ contracts with its sales representatives, the company said.

According to a report on IBJ.com, Herff Jones won the jury ruling April 12, 2019, in a case involving two sales representatives who worked for a Herff Jones distributor, Brent Gilbert of GradPro Recognition Products, from the mid-2000s until 2016.

An article in the Dothan Eagle reported the sales reps, John Wiggins and Chris Urnis, began negotiating employment contracts with Jostens in the fall of 2015. Wiggins worked for Gilbert’s company until April 1, 2016, and Urnis resigned May 31, 2016. The suit alleged Jostens and one of its authorized representatives, Scott Moore, in the case hired five other employees from Gilbert’s company to solicit orders; soon Gilbert lost 47 accounts throughout South Alabama following the two defections.

The original jury found Jostens conspired and stole confidential and trade secret information, and interfered with Herff Jones’ contracts with its sales representatives. The jury ordered Jostens, Wiggins, and Urnis to pay nearly $1.9 million in compensatory damages to Herff Jones and another $580,000 in compensatory damages to Gilbert, according to Indiana Intellectual Property Law News. It also assessed punitive damages of $650,000 against Jostens, $25,000 against Wiggins, and $10,000 against Urnis.

“Schools across the country deserve to know that companies selling products to them are doing the right thing, acting as responsible stewards and behaving with fundamental fairness in mind,” says Steve Down, president, Herff Jones. “These attributes are at the heart of any ethical business, and they are more important now than ever as schools look for trustworthy partners to help them navigate this new e-learning landscape. We appreciate the judicious and well-considered affirmation from the Alabama Supreme Court.”

The case, which was filed in the Circuit Court of Mobile, Ala. is styled as Herff Jones and Brent Gilbert v Jostens, John Wiggins and Chris Urnis, Circuit Court of Mobile County, Alabama, CASE NO. CV-16-901415.

In other Varsity Brands news, the company’s  Varsity Spirit division – a leader in cheerleading, dance team and band apparel, camps and competitions, and a division of Varsity Brands – announced a partnership with CaptainU, a self-managed recruiting software tool that connects high school athletes and college coaches.

Through this partnership, Varsity Spirit athletes will receive a free CaptainU bronze recruiting profile account, which allows them to post skills and highlight videos, store academic information, and search for college coaches to identify the programs that best suit them. Additionally, the CaptainU recruiting ecosystem assists college coaches in managing the recruiting process, identifying talent and building championship teams.

Other Varsity Spirit partners include Gatorade, Fabletics, BAND, EZ Flex Sports Mats, and more.