West Plains, L.L.C. v. Retzlaff Grain Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets
  • Date Filed: 02-26-2013
  • Case #: 8:13CV47
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Camp, Laurie Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Compilations of information may qualify for trade secret protection even if the information is publicly available.

Both parties are freight brokers, a business which entails matching freight carriers and freight shippers in such a way as to maximize efficiency and reap profits from the surplus gained by economic shipping arrangements. To achieve that end West Plains, doing business as CT Freight, developed data describing customer needs, pricing, and driver availability.
In 2012, CT Freight employee Bryce Wells (Wells) started his own freight brokerage company. Wells recruited several other CT Freight employees to work at his new company. Instant messenger history and testimony from CT Freight customers revealed that the departing employees attempted to copy CT Freight’s customer data and to poach CT Freight clients.
CT Freight sought a preliminary injunction under Nebraska trade secret law. The court found that: even if some of the information contained in CT Freight’s consumer data database was public information, CT Freight could still maintain the database as a trade secret because compilations of public information can qualify for protection; CT Freight had demonstrated a threat of irreparable harm because defendants had successfully shifted CT Freight business through the use of CT Freight’s trade secrets; the balance of harms weighed in favor of granting CT Freight a preliminary injunction; and that public interest weighed in favor of granting CT Freight a preliminary injunction.
For the foregoing reasons, the court GRANTED CT Freight’s preliminary injunction.

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