Litigator Debbie Berman is co-chair of the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation, Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants, and Media and First Amendment Practices. She assists clients with complex commercial matters such as broken deals or business relationships and has deep experience in trade secrets matters as well as defamation and First Amendment-related tort cases, among other areas. During her career, Ms. Berman has provided extensive counseling services to clients and been involved in hundreds of litigated matters where she typically serves as first-chair.
Ms. Berman’s litigation experience extends to many areas of sophisticated, complex civil litigation. For example, she is lead international counsel for a series of interrelated matters against the client’s former senior executives and its former major distributors for conspiring to compete against it while they were still affiliated with the client. These matters include litigation in federal district and appellate courts, bankruptcy court, EUIPO and courts in Switzerland, Germany and Malta. In 2020, Ms. Berman’s efforts culminated in a three-week federal trial involving trade secret, Lanham Act, and contract claims that resulted in a jury verdict of approximately $114 million on behalf of her radio remote control manufacturer client (Click here for Reuters coverage and here for Law360 coverage). The district court later granted a worldwide injunction against the defendants. The Tenth Circuit, in an issue of first impression, agreed that the Lanham Act applies extraterritorially generally and in this case, and, therefore, affirmed the entire damages award and the injunction with a minor modification to all countries in the world in which the client markets or sells products (Click here for Reuters coverage; here for Law360 coverage; and here for Bloomberg Law coverage). The American Lawyer named Ms. Berman a “Litigator of the Week” finalist for the jury verdict, the worldwide injunction, and for the appeal as well.
In trade secrets and unfair competition matters, Ms. Berman also is known for litigating the seminal case on the inevitable disclosure doctrine for trade secrets, PepsiCo v. Redmond, 54 F.3d 1262 (7th Cir. 1995), both on the trial and appellate level. She represents clients in preliminary injunctions and other proceedings concerning the enforcement of covenants not to compete and related trade secrets issues and in Lanham Act and other unfair competition litigation. She counsels clients on trade secrets and unfair competition issues in non- and pre-litigation settings, including assisting clients in developing policies for protecting their trade secrets.
Ms. Berman also represents clients in a variety of government contracts litigation, including contract terminations, indemnification suits and complex tax accounting. She has represented defense contractors in other types of litigation against the US government as well as in litigation with other contractors, including issues related to teaming arrangements on major government contracts.
In the First Amendment and defamation areas, Ms. Berman has extensive experience in both state and federal courts. In particular, she has defended media and non-media clients in numerous defamation and defamation-related tort cases. In many of these cases, she has successfully obtained dismissals of these actions. Notably, she successfully defended Paramount Pictures in Muzikowski v. Paramount Pictures, et al., in which the plaintiff claimed the movie Hardball was based on his life and portrayed him in a defamatory manner. Ms. Berman initially defeated the plaintiff’s attempt to enjoin the movie’s release and then obtained summary judgment. A federal appeals court upheld the trial court’s summary judgment ruling. Ms. Berman also is defending a client in numerous class actions alleging violations of various state right of publicity statutes.
In addition to her practice leadership roles, Ms. Berman holds key roles in firm leadership as a member of the Management and Finance Committees, Chicago co-chair of the Pro bono Committee, and chair (emeritus) of the Women’s Forum Steering Committee. Reflecting her deep commitment to professional development of next generation lawyers, she also is chair of the firm’s Litigation Associate Assignment Committee and a member of the Associate Development and Evaluation Committee.
A recipient of numerous recognitions for her work, Chambers has ranked her in Litigation: General Commercial (Illinois). Ms. Berman is AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer recognition for ethical standards and legal ability. The JUF/Jewish Federation honored Ms. Berman with its coveted Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Award, which recognizes “young leaders who represent an ideal of dedication and service to the Jewish community.” Illinois Super Lawyers and members of the Leading Lawyers Network regularly name her among their ranks in the areas of business litigation, arts, entertainment and sports law, and civil rights/constitutional law. Legal 500 has recommended her in the area of intellectual property – trade secrets.