Friday, January 22, 2010, 1/22/2010 11:54:00 AM

Motorola Sues Departed Executive Asserting Inevitable Misappropriation of Trade Secret Theory

By Todd

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Motorola has sued former mobile phone executive, David Hartsfield, as a response to his resignation and new employment with Nokia, a Finnish mobile phone manufacturer. Motorola sued the case in Cook County state court and Mr. Hartsfield apparently removed that case to federal court.


Motorola's filing said that as a vice president in the mobile devices business, Hartsfield had "access to Motorola's most competitively sensitive information" and was responsible for phones using Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA, technology. In the U.S., Verizon Wireless and Sprint use the CDMA standard.


Hartsfield resigned from Motorola effective Dec. 2, 2009, to become vice president of Nokia's global CDMA business, the court filing said. It called this move a "violation of various agreements" the executive had with his old employer. Motorola said that it was at risk of losing competitive information about CDMA strategy and marketing to Nokia and that Hartsfield's new job "inevitably will require him to use and/or disclose Motorola's trade secret information."


In a response filed Jan. 15, Hartsfield's attorney called Motorola's request "grossly inadequate." CDMA technology is an industry standard, not "secret proprietary information," and Motorola has not specified any wrongdoing by the executive, the filing said. The response also said the alleged non-compete clauses referenced by the company were buried in documentation about Hartsfield's stock options."We are confident we will show the court that Mr. Hartsfield has not disclosed any confidential information to his new employer," said Kevin O'Hagan of O'Hagan Spencer LLC, which represents the executive. "Mr. Hartsfield was not hired by Nokia for Motorola's so-called 'trade secrets' -- he just happens to be a young, talented executive."


Folks, that's how these cases kick start. A competitor hires an executive who they claim is a "talented executive" and the former employer claims that the employment represents a risk to their secret sauce. Motorola is presumably utilizing a computer forensic expert to examine all of Mr. Hartsfield's computers and electronic devices to find some evidence that he engaged in tomfoolery in the weeks and months prior to his departure. Mr. Hartsfield is presumably preparing affidavits explaining how Nokia made clear to him that no information he formerly learned at Motorola is welcome or necessary at Nokia and his use or disclosure of the same will constitute a ground for immediate discharge. The parties will ask each other to disclose documents and produce persons for depositions. And the hearing will reveal what they've found or what they haven't found.


We'll keep an eye on this one for you. Have a good weekend.

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