Trade secret lawsuits are not uncommon, but a recent lawsuit has caught the attention of the mainstream media. Louis Vuitton North America has gone to court in New York, alleging that a former VP transferred sensitive files from her company laptop onto external storage devices before resigning to take a position with Coach, a luxury handbag company that is looking to move in a more upscale direction.
Joon Ma, the employee named in the lawsuit, had worked for Louis Vuitton for several years as the Vice President for Canada and Bermuda. Leaving her position on April 4th, she moved directly over to Coach. Her position at Coach was not immediately made available.
Louis Vuitton North America alleges that Ma had access to strategic business information as well as global strategy information for the brand. They also allege she stole sensitive files that could be used to help further the Coach brand. According to the lawsuit, Ma has also violated a non-compete agreement she signed when she became employed with Louis Vuitton. The agreement states that Ma would not work for a direct competitor for six months after her resignation from the company. Coach is considered a direct competitor of the high-end brand.
The move seems to be a strategic and telling one. Coach, who is considered a "low-end" luxury brand and sells their handbags for between $200 and $800, has recently made public plans to change the course of their brand. The plan is to delve into the high-end luxury space with handbags retailing up to $5,000; the space is currently occupied by Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands.
The lawsuit asks for Ma to return the documentation that was taken from her work laptop. Additionally, they have asked for Ma to resign from her position for the next six months to honor the non-compete. Finally, the company is seeking monetary damages of greater than $500,000.
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