Becoming slippery from lawsuits
March 5, 2006 9:37 PM Subscribe
Is it possible to anonymize my business somewhat to make it a more slippery target for frivolous B2B lawsuits?
posted by chef_boyardee to law & government (11 answers total)
I am a small-peanuts sole proprietor software developer, and I do almost all my business online. I learned that a medium-sized company (50-100 employees) in a related market threatened one of my competitors, another small-peanuts developer, with a cease & desist. I took a look at some of the large company's patents, and they've patented surprising things like basic trigonometric formulas, rudimentary graphical displays of information, and so forth. They cater to a certain industrial market. In this instance I think they were afraid that the small-peanuts guy was on their turf (since he was building a program for hobbyists that did something like what the big corporation sells to their big clients).
The idea of defending myself in a frivolous lawsuit is laughable. A small developer CANNOT match financial resources with a big corporation, who can just wear the little guy down until he can no longer afford an attorney. It seems to me the advantage of the "little guy" is he can be slippery and elusive if he so chooses, unlike a brick-and-mortar whose contacts are all listed in Dun & Bradstreet.
So I am wondering if there's a good way to pre-emptively anonymize my business, such as by establishing a "P.O. Box" type address, shifting my company name slightly to something that makes it harder for databases to match, refusing certified letters, and so forth. Or setting up ghost corporations and becoming some sort of "vapor company" that can't be found.
It seems to me that one step would be to make my SSN difficult to match up to the business name. My main concern here is the merchant account and DBA bank account that I have, because my SSN is tied to those.
In short, I want to make it expensive or difficult for a company to take me to court, obtain a judgement, or collect. I also might be interested in disputing filings that might bite me later, however that's done, perhaps anonymously so that they don't turn and seem revenge. Also it seems that it might be too costly for a small company to follow up on the lawsuit, especially if they'd have to do it in my jurisdiction (this company that concerns me is 1500 miles away).
I know my competitor had no interest in intruding on the big company's products. Neither do I... I'm not interested in their market or copying any of their products. But I am certainly not interested in bowing when they get the whim to expand their little monopoly into my area.
My other thought is to defend myself in court (yeah, i know, "only a fool", but only a fool would throw away money on lawyers when they'll just have to do it ad nauseum), and if that doesn't work, let the judgements fall on me (with no intention of paying; I am comfortable enough where I don't need credit) and continue business as usual.
Obviously I can't do anything rash right now without having an effect on my business -- I'm sure some steps would cost an unacceptable amount of money. I'm not expecting any cease and desists in the near future. But I do want to start weighing all my options BEFORE something bad happens. Maybe there's something I can do to put a card up my sleeve. Or am I just fuxxored if they file suit no matter what I do?