When Jim Grote opened the first Donatos Pizza back in 1963, he had a vision to make the best pizza and to treat others the way he would like to be treated. Similarly, when Kegler Brown was founded a year later, we set out with the same simple, yet powerful attitude toward our clients. For both of these organizations, the last 45 years has seen continued improvement in the way we’ve done business, while staying true to the original visions upon which our companies were founded. Kegler Brown’s attorneys have now served as trusted business advisors and proactive legal counsel to Donatos for many years and, over that time, our organizations have grown together and developed a rare trust in one another.
When broken down to the most common denominators, all the world’s greatest companies began with one thing -- an idea. Whether offering professional services, touting the latest gadget or selling high-quality pizza, the intellectual property behind any company’s product is the driving force behind its eventual success or failure. Kegler Brown has always recognized the immense value in protecting the intellectual property of its clients and knew that the ideas that had led to the overwhelming success of Donatos needed to be protected and defended aggressively and proactively.
When Kegler Brown attorneys first heard that a well-known national pizza chain was planning to unveil a new product in an upcoming Super Bowl advertisement, they recognized immediately that the product was nearly identical to Donatos’ innovative, trademarked Edge to Edge® process of topping its pizzas and that immediate action was required to protect our client’s intellectual property investment. Though specific details of the litigation are confidential*, Kegler Brown was able to achieve the most favorable outcome possible for Donatos and succeed in protecting the value of its intellectual property. According to Grote, “the team at Kegler Brown acted quickly, responsibly and proactively,” and that made a “ton of difference” to his company. We believe that this landmark case in our relationship with Donatos reflects one of the firm’s defining characteristics- we strive to identify problems before they arise and work tirelessly to resolve them for the greatest benefit of our clients.
*Donatos Pizza, Inc. v. Pizza Hut, Inc., Civil Action No. C2-97-1148
The Art of the Deal(s)
For many, the sale of a business is the reward for years, if not decades or generations, of hard work, and this process can often be intimidating and overwhelming. When Jim Grote made the highly-publicized decision to sell Donatos Pizza to McDonald’s Corporation in 1999, he knew that one of the keys to the process would be relying upon a team of legal counselors in whom he had unwavering trust. Realizing that the potential deal could have far-reaching financial and emotional implications that would resonate throughout Grote’s organization, Kegler Brown attorneys knew it would be important to act not only as strong negotiators and creative planners, but also as thorough advisors, careful technicians and precise craftsmen for what would be one of the most important transactions of our client’s business life.
Through proactive safeguarding of their financial interests and a careful structuring of the deal, Donatos was sold to McDonald’s Corporation in a transaction that was mutually beneficial to all parties. And in 2003, when McDonald’s decided to focus on their core business (hamburgers), Jim Grote and Kegler Brown worked together to purchase the company back from the fast food giant. Though terms of the deal are confidential, the transaction was designed for the greatest benefit of our client.
A Relationship Founded on Trust
In his book, The Trusted Advisor, David Maister, who is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the management of professional service firms, asserts that “getting hired is about earning and deserving trust.” When Kegler Brown was founded more than 40 years ago, it was with this same concept in mind that we set out to serve our clients. Forty years later, this principle is still the driving force behind everything we do, and has defined our relationship with Jim Grote and Donatos. Possibly the most telling factor in that relationship is that our firm has become trusted enough to be proactive. From the first time our attorneys took a proactive role in intelligently defending our client’s intellectual property investment, we had proven to Donatos’ executive management that we were operating in a true partnership- their goals became our goals and the results were entirely positive. Throughout our partnership with Donatos, our organizations have grown together, both personally and professionally, and it all started with earning, and continually deserving, their trust.