UPDATED, June 30, 9:36 p.m.: Ryan Slack, co-founder of PropertyShark and current CEO of real estate conference company GreenPearl, was ordered by a judge Monday to stop using a trademark invented by his ex-girlfriend to market fashion events.
Slack and his ex, Sandy Hussain, a Harvard graduate in urban planning, have been mired in a court battle since November, when Hussain first sued slack in Kings County Supreme Court for $44 million, claiming that he absconded with her idea for a fashion conference company branded under the name Fashion Digital New York. Slack was characterized as a manipulative philanderer who “survives off a steady diet of (New York City) women,” according a New York Post story published at the time.
Her original suit was dismissed, and the fight has most recently been playing out in federal court, where Slack sued Hussain to protect the trademark, and Hussain responded with counterclaims.
Hussain allegedly developed her idea under Slack’s auspices, accepting funding from GreenPearl and growing the Fashion Digital New York brand into a successful enterprise that hosted several events in New York and Los Angeles. But while Hussain claimed that the venture was an implicit partnership, Slack said that Hussain was employed as a contractor and developed Fashion Digital specifically as a branch of GreenPearl — not for her own independent purposes.
Following a bench trial, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni found in late May that neither Slack nor Hussain had proven themselves to be a reliable narrator.
Because there was no legally binding contract, the court ruled on its findings that Hussain was most responsible for controlling the brand behind the mark, was the mark’s inventor, and was recognized by the public as the force behind the mark.
“Fashion Digital was a joint endeavor between Hussain and GreenPearl; because the parties’ joint endeavor has disintegrated, and the Court cannot assign a portion of the mark to each party, the Court finds that the balance of equities weighs in Hussain’s favor,” Caproni wrote.
On Monday, the court permanently enjoined Slack from using the trademark or asserting any connection with it. Slack plans to appeal the decision, according to his attorney Richard Jacobson of Colucci & Umans.
Marc Held of Held & Hines, the attorney representing Hussain, declined to comment.
“The court called the case close on the facts, but ultimately — since we couldn’t both be owners of the same trademark — the judge needed to assign the trademark to one of us going forward. The judge decided to award the trademark to Sandy Hussain,” Slack told The Real Deal in an emailed statement.
“While we don’t agree with this aspect of the case, the decision vindicated our position that Ms. Hussain was never a legal partner of ours and that GreenPearl had the legitimate right to use the Fashion Digital trademark up until the court’s ruling.”