Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Spanish Countryside

The city of Valencia disappeared behind me, replaced by the vibrant green of the Spanish countryside. I sat in the car’s passenger seat, wondering whether I had made a mistake in agreeing to the trip.

The year was 1997. I represented the owner of a famous trademark for towels and bedding in litigation involving the manufacture of counterfeit goods in Spain. I had traveled to Valencia to take the deposition of the Spanish manufacturer, whose plant and warehouse were situated outside the city. The deposition would begin the next day at the Melia Hotel, where my opposing counsel and I were both staying. On this day, I had agreed to travel with the manufacturer and his attorney to the plant to review documents and observe the operation.

We drove for more than an hour, the manufacturer behind the wheel, my opposing counsel directly behind me. We would occasionally comment on the beauty of our surroundings: a sea of green extending in all directions, with occasional villas visible on the horizon. Despite the soothing panorama, I could not relax. I stole occasional glances at the defendant behind the wheel and half-seriously wondered whether I would mysteriously disappear and never make it to the next day’s deposition.

We eventually reached our destination, a large, box-shaped building in the middle of nowhere. The manufacturer insisted that the lawsuit was a mistake, that he did not engage in the manufacture of counterfeit merchandise. He was short for words, however, when an employee inadvertently opened a door into a room that contained counterfeits of not just my client’s products, but of many other famous trademarks, as well.

After several hours of documents and explanations, the manufacturer drove us to an outdoor restaurant at an old hotel situated near the base of a medieval castle wall. The location was breathtaking and the food delicious. The conversation soon turned to the case, with the manufacturer again insisting, despite what we had seen at his plant, that he did not manufacture counterfeits. I responded that, while I appreciated his hospitality, I intended to come down hard on him. It was all very pleasant, but with an underlying feeling of unease.

I spent the next two days grilling the manufacturer and confronting him with the evidence of his activities. At the conclusion of the deposition, we sat down at a café in a medieval section of Valencia and spent several hours negotiating a settlement.

Two days later, I boarded a plane for Madrid, where I would catch my connecting flight back to Miami. The trip had proven successful – I had been able to negotiate a settlement very favorable for my client. Yet what I remember most about the case, and what keeps it fresh in my mind fifteen years later, are not the legal issues, the eventual settlement or even the personalities involved (many were quite flamboyant). Rather, the images that most vividly remain are those of medieval castle walls, ancient countryside hotels, and a long car ride into the Spanish countryside with the possibility of no return.

1 comment:

  1. Far better images to keep in memory than some arcane legal theory, no?