Ge Betz, Inc. v. Conrad

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets, Misappropriation
  • Date Filed: 12-03-2013
  • Case #: NO. COA13-239
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court of Appeals of North Carolina
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 N.C. App. LEXIS 1294
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 6236374
  • Full Text Opinion

Trade secret misappropriation was found when plaintiffs alleged misappropriation with sufficient particularity and defendants could not provide evidence of properly acquiring the information.

Opinion (Hunter): Employees of GE Betz, Inc. ("GE") had signed employment agreements with the company stating that they were restricted from soliciting GE’s customers with whom the employees had any contact with for eighteen months after their employment with GE ended. This agreement included a prohibition on disclosure of GE’s confidential information and trade secrets. After accepting new employment with competing companies, several previous GE employees were sued by GE for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of their employment agreement. The North Carolina definition of a trade secret is any business or technical information that derives independent commercial value from not being generally known and is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. In order to show misappropriation of trade secrets, plaintiff must show that a defendant: (1) knows or should have known of the trade secret,; and (2) had a specific opportunity to acquire it for disclosure or use or has acquired, disclosed, or used it without consent of the owner of the trade secret. A trade secret misappropriation must be alleged with sufficient particularity to enable a defendant to delineate that which he is accused of misappropriating and to allow a court to decide whether misappropriation has occurred. The Court found that GE had shown the documents in question (customer lists and product formulas) with sufficient particularity to constitute trade secrets. The Court also concluded that, because there was no evidence of defendants acquiring the information properly, GE had proved its claim of misappropriation. The Court AFFIRMED the trial court’s finding that defendants misappropriated GE’s trade secrets.

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