Friday, March 23, 2007, 3/23/2007 08:46:00 AM

Trade Secrets and the Chicken Fryer

A Friday homage from the Louisville Courier-Journal in the form of the obituary of Neal Thompson, 83, who invented a chicken fryer and then spent the rest of his life suing Kentucky Fried Chicken for stealing his trade secrets and violating his patent.

According to the story, "Thompson patented an automatic fryer he called the Thompson Pulse-Purge Cooker in 1971 that speeded up the cooking time and reduced the amount of grease absorbed by the food."

Thompson claimed in litigation that KFC offered to buy the cooker, but instead put off the deal and began using Thompson's trade secrets while misleading him about possible future deals from 1971 to 1984. Thompson fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1994 let stand lower court rulings in favor of KFC, saying that Kentucky's five-year statute of limitations had expired when Thompson filed the suit in 1985.

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