Each year around 300 trade secret cases are heard in state level courts. Additionally, about 25 cases are tried in federal court as a criminal offense. This just goes to show that intellectual property theft is a very real real issue. With that being said, the following three cases have garnered media attention and brought light to the world of trade secrets, and just what companies could potentially lose, if their secrets were to be shared with the competition.
Pacesetter vs. Nervicon
Pacesetter, a division of St. Jude’s Medical Center, develops medical devices that are utilized as lifesaving measures. But in 2011, an employee took information about an implantable medical device and shared the information with Nervicon, a China-based company offering similar services. Pacesetter filed suit claiming the defendants had taken the trade secret and were poised to take advantage of a potentially large market using the technical specs, which are considered trade secrets. The jury agreed with the plaintiff and awarded Pacesetter $2.4 billion in damages.
IBM vs. Mark Papermaster
Mark Papermaster had worked as IBM’s Vice President of the Blade Development Unit until he quit with the intention of taking a job with Apple. IBM filed a preliminary injunction to stop Papermaster from working for Apple, claiming he had breached his contract with the company and had misappropriated private, IBM trade secrets. Papermaster had, according to IBM, violated a non-competition agreement he signed when taking over the post at IBM. The lawsuit was brought about in 2008 and was considered settled by January of 2009. Papermaster took over his post at Apple, under a sealed settlement agreement, and an agreement that he would testify in court that he would protect the IBM trade secrets he was privy to.
Coca-Cola vs. Trio of Employees
Coca-Cola brought suit against three employees who allegedly conspired to steal and sell trade secrets from the company to its competitor, Pepsi. The three individuals (Joya Williams, Ibrahim Dimson, and Edmund Duhaney) were arrested in July of 2007 during a sting operation. The trio offered Pepsi samples of the new Coca-Cola, currently in development at the time, for $1.5 million. Pepsi subsequently tipped off Coke that they had been offered insider information, and an FBI sting arose. The trio were convicted of conspiracy, among other charges, and sentenced to prison terms, as well as restitution valuing around $40,000.
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