Alleged patent quotas spur whistleblower suit by fired L'Oreal in-house lawyer
A former in-house lawyer claims in a whistleblower lawsuit that L’Oreal USA forced him to choose between satisfying quotas for patent applications and ethics rules.
The lawyer, Steven Trzaska, says he was fired from his position overseeing patents and business development for L’Oreal in December 2014, the New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. He says he lost his job because he complained that patent quotas led to applications for patents on products that were not patentable.
The quota in 2014 was 40 patent applications in the U.S. research division and 500 applications worldwide, according to details of the suit covered by the New Jersey Law Journal. The company then put “patent pending” claims on products in an effort to persuade consumers and shareholders its products were innovative, the suit alleges.
Trzaska’s suit says the patent quotas put him at risk of violating rules barring lawyers from bringing frivolous proceedings and making false statements to a tribunal. His suit, filed in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, based on diversity grounds, alleges violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
A spokesperson for L’Oreal told the New Jersey Law Journal that the company “strongly denies these allegations and intends to vigorously defend itself. … We stand proudly behind the quality of the more than 35,000 patents that we have been granted globally.”