Judge Harold Baer

NextSelection owns trademarks to musician Leslie’s name and performances. Leslie’s laptop computer and hard drive—containing valuable intellectual property, including music and videos related to Leslie’s records and performances—was stolen. In videos, news articles and online postings Leslie said he’d pay $20,000, later raised to $1 million, to anyone who returned the property. Augstein sued to collect the reward. Leslie refused to pay, arguing that the intellectual property for which he valued the laptop was not present on the hard drive when it was returned. Augstein claimed Leslie caused the drive to be erased. The court granted Augstein judgment deeming Leslie’s videos and other activities, taken together, a valid offer of a reward and not, as Leslie argued, an invitation to negotiate. The court also granted Augstein sanctions for Leslie’s—and his team’s—negligence in the hard drive’s erasure. Leslie was on notice that the information on the hard drive might be relevant to future litigation, and thus had an obligation to preserve that information. The court imposed an adverse inference sanction, assuming the desired intellectual property was present on Leslie’s hard drive when Augstein returned the drive to police.