Monday, October 10, 2011, 10/10/2011 02:03:00 PM

Apple-Stacking Trade Secrets

From the Royal Oak (MI) Daily Tribune an interesting – and fundamentally sad – story about a 51 year-old produce clerk who’s being kept from his next job by the contention that he would unfairly reveal his former employer's trade secrets.

We talk a lot about how trade secrets – as a legal concept – goes far beyond classic technical information such as the secret formula for Coca-Cola. And rightly so.

The flip side of that issue, though, are the occasional forays into court by former employers seeking to enjoin employees who really can’t possibly have information that fits the category.

Knowing only what’s in the newspaper story, this appears to fall into the latter category.

The facts are that Anthony Settipani left his job with Randazzo Fruit Market after being turned down for a supervisor’s job. He decided to go to work for a competitor, Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market.

Now Randazzo’s is trying to enforce a territorial non-compete against Settipani based on trade secrets.

Settipani’s lawyer, Elizabeth Sokol, was trenchantly quoted:

It’s ridiculous. They’re claiming that they are trying to protect trade secrets, proprietary information. (But) there’s no trade secrets on how to stack apples. They seemed to think he was involved in pricing decisions. The only pricing he’s involved in is he put price stickers on product. I haven’t been able to pin anyone (Randazzo representatives) on, ‘What are these trade secrets?’

A typical case like this one ends up with the former employer not succeeding in court, but with the former employee out of a job just because of the swirl of the litigation.

Oh, and what was Settipani paid by Randazzo’s? $9 an hour. Sad.

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