Many Twin Cities companies protect their rights to unique products, technologies, and services by registering trademarks, filing patents and obtaining copyrights. Companies also may ask their employees to sign non-compete agreements in order to protect a business from being undermined by competitors. In some cases, even when a company has all of the proper copyright and trade secret protections in place, a competitor may still find a way to illegally slant the playing field.
For example, a Minneapolis-based company recently took a Wisconsin competitor to court for allegedly misappropriating confidential business information. A jury has now found that the competitor did illegally access the Minneapolis company's trade secrets, and that it went on to use that information to compete against the company.
Both of these companies design and manufacture equipment for the food and dairy processing industry.
A jury found that two of the Minneapolis company's former employees, in violation of their non-compete agreements, went to work for the competitor and brought along confidential formulas and drawings for cheese-processing equipment.
The jury awarded the Minneapolis company $22.8 million, but the two companies are reportedly working together to negotiate a settlement agreement, according to a news report.
This case is a reminder that even when companies shield intellectual property by implementing non-compete agreements and other tools, it is still sometimes necessary to take legal action to protect a company from unfair competition or to remedy harm that has already been done. Minnesota companies should seek legal counsel in order to protect intellectual property and ensure that their non-compete agreements are legally enforceable.
Source: Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, "Marshfield company to pay $22.8 million for stealing business secrets," Marisa Cuellar, Nov. 14, 2013