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TV personality Bo Dietl plans to sue Ford for slander

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Bo Dietl has a beef with Ford Motor Co.

The television personality, former New York detective and private investigator who was recently a pitchman for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, told The Detroit News on Tuesday he plans to file a lawsuit against the Dearborn automaker after he alleges Ford slandered his investigative company in an ongoing lawsuit against a Texas-based software company.

Texas-based Versata is suing Ford for more than a billion dollars for allegedly stealing its trade secrets to develop Ford’s own in-house computer program that Versata had previously supplied. Versata in May hired Dietl’s New York-based investigative firm, Beau Dietl & Associates, to investigate whether Ford subcontractors who knew of the Versata software also worked on Ford’s version.

At the end of June, Ford filed motion for a protective order against Versata; it alleged Dietl’s firm harassed third-party witnesses. Dietl denies those claims.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to have Ford, GM or whoever they are put lies on a court affidavit,” Dietl said. “I’m really very, very upset that they think they can just, because they’re a big multi-billion dollar company, say anything they want about anybody. They’re not going to say a lie about Bo Dietl.”

Ford on Tuesday referred comments to what it wrote in the protective order. In one instance in that filing, Ford says two investigators dressed in black suits from Dietl’s team “barged into” a witness’s apartment without invitation “like FBI agents,” instilling fear in the witness’s family.

Dietl says it can prove each of Ford’s harassment claims are false, and Versata in July filed an opposition to that protective order.

“I don’t want my guys to be looked at as goons,” Dietl said. “We conduct investigations in the most professional way, and that’s an affront to me and I’m not standing for it.”

The judge is expected to rule on the order in the next few weeks. Dietl said he plans to file his own lawsuit against Ford in the southern district of New York in the coming days.

Dietl said, before the investigation was stopped, it was able to find about 33 people worked on both Versata and Ford’s computer software programs.

The software in question can gather every possible configuration of an automobile — engine sizes, optional features, etc. — and determine which ones would be unfeasible (for example, a car with a sunroof couldn’t have rear air conditioning ducts on the roof). Versata says it’s invested about $300 million to develop the technology and that it saves Ford significant time and money. Ford began working on its own software in 2010, Versata says.

The automaker said in a statement last month, “Ford’s patented software does not use or infringe any Versata intellectual property and Versata has provided no basis for their claims against us. We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in this case and we look forward to the opportunity to present our evidence at trial.”

Ford is requesting a trial in Michigan, while Versata is requesting a trial in its home state of Texas. A judge is expected to make a decision on the matter in September.

“It’s really not a complicated patent case,” said Robert Gemmill, an attorney with Levick Communications, hired by Versata. “There was a specific clause in the contract with Versata that it’s Versata’s software, (Ford) could not use it as their own, and they did. That’s the whole case right there.”

Versata has made a point of publicizing the case in the media, hiring high-profile attorney Lanny Davis, who previously served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and Dietl. In July, Versata staged a press conference with Davis and an elaborate fake brick wall with a hole in it, symbolizing the allegation that Ford workers worked on both the Versata and Ford software.

“I’m a brand,” Dietl said. “You don’t make up lies.”


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