Friday, November 02, 2007, 11/02/2007 11:24:00 AM

"Take Off, Hoser - But Leave the Beer Secrets Here"

By Todd
The authors of this blog love Canada. Canadians love beer. This is one of the reasons the authors of this blog love Canadians because we love beer, too. Canadian-based Sleeman Breweries has sued Canadian-based Mill Street Brewery and one of their new employees for allegedly stealing secrets about his former employer, see http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071102/brewery_lawsuit_071102/20071102?hub=Canada.

Punctuated by unusually strong language, Sleeman's $3-million lawsuit against former regional sales executive David Mitchell and his new employer, Toronto-based Mill Street Brewery, demands that he return "stolen confidential documents."

Describing Mr. Mitchell as a "successful salesperson and manager," Sleeman warned that the information he allegedly took -- everything from business strategy to customer incentives -- is crucial for the country's third-largest brewer to stay on top of its game.

"The Canadian beer industry is highly competitive," says the 10-page claim filed recently in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. "There is little, if any, data and information about the industry (in particular the size of the market and the relative market share of various competitors) that is publicly available to all competitors.

"Mitchell downloaded confidential and sensitive business documents from Sleeman's computer systems regarding, among other things, marketing data and analysis, business and sales plans and customer information. Mitchell had no legitimate purpose for accessing this information."

Even after Mr. Mitchell gave notice that he was leaving, the sales manager "continued to download the Stolen Confidential information from Sleeman's proprietary data management system in gross violation of his contractual obligations, fiduciary duties and duties of confidence to Sleeman," the suit reads.

None of Sleeman's allegations has been proven and Mr. Mitchell filed a notice that he intends to defend the suit.

"If you had invested all that time, money and resources trying to build your business and somebody leaves with all your secrets, you'd be pissed off," said Gerard Seijts, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business. "Let's not pretend that business is a friendly game."

We like professors that tell it like it is, too. Straight-talkers, those Canadians. We'll keep an eye on this one.

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