CHEYENNE — The previous CEO of American Certified Brands, an agriculture company using blockchain technology, has relinquished his rights to the company and its subsidiaries, according to a settlement of a federal lawsuit.
But if the two parties can’t work out the details of language in a press release announcing the settlement, it may not be finalized.
Robert Jennings was initially accused of using the BeefChain trademark after he was voted out as American Certified Brands CEO in an “attempt to defraud existing and potential customers and clients of American Certified Brands.” That’s according to a suit filed by his former business partners, which include Crook County lawmakers Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance.
Jennings, a founding member of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, has agreed to release his stake in the company and rights to BeefChain’s intellectual property as part of the settlement.
The terms of the settlement from the lawsuit were reached in December, though the parties are still carrying out the agreed upon conditions.
Jennings’ attorney, Jeffrey Boldt, pointed to a common saying used by lawyers – “You know it’s a good settlement when both sides go away unhappy.”
In the lawsuit, American Certified Brands was seeking damages of $250,000 for Jennings’ actions, and Jennings, in turn, sought to recover costs he incurred as the company’s CEO. In the settlement, American Certified Brands waived the claim for all damages and awarded a $15,000 payment to Jennings, which is reflective of his initial investment in the company.
The settlement outlines that American Certified Brands will remain the exclusive owner of its subsidiaries – Wyoming Certified Beef, BeefChain, ACB-Canada, BeefChain PVP and BeefChain Africa.
Jennings originally certified Wyoming Certified Beef with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office, but an operating agreement was later drafted between Wyoming Certified Beef and American Certified Brands. From the agreement, it was decided that Jennings would maintain a 20% share of Wyoming Certified Beef, with the other 80% belonging to members of American Certified Brands.
In the settlement, Jennings waived his rights to Wyoming Certified Beef or any other subsidiaries of the company. Jennings, the registered agent for AgCert, will also turn AgCert’s 20% stake in American Certified Brands back to the company.
American Certified Brands will also maintain the rights to any intellectual property associated with BeefChain technologies.
BeefChain is a technology that marries Wyoming’s history in ranching with its current pursuit of becoming the nation’s leader in blockchain technology. With an increasing focus on locally sourced food, BeefChain allows Wyoming farmers to track their cattle from birth and get paid premium prices for premium beef.
However, the agreements reached in the settlement came to an impasse when the two parties were drafting a news release together as part of the agreement.
The court ordered American Certified Brands to draft the release, which would then be reviewed by Jennings. But after emailing back and forth, the parties couldn’t agree on what information to include. Jennings responded to American Certified Brands’ initial release with edits, which were deemed unacceptable, according to American Certified Brands attorney Jared Olsen, who also is a state representative from Cheyenne.
That’s when Boldt, representing Jennings, filed a motion Monday to enforce settlement with the court. According to the motion filed, the drafted release “was not in accord with the parties’ agreement and, in fact, contained inflammatory language which was entirely unacceptable and contrary to the spirit of the settlement.”
Further, the motion claimed “ACB’s continued blind insistence on its own language underscores that ACB is acting in bad faith in this regard.”
Also included in the motion are a series of emails between Boldt and Olsen regarding the news release. Olsen suggested Jennings can either agree to the release sent or send over language different than his first suggestion.
“We believe that ACB did not complete its obligations to go through with the settlement,” Boldt said.
American Certified Brands has to submit a formal response to the motion, but an evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for April 8.
Olsen could not immediately be reached for comment.