Nike trade secrets sold from a tent
The AP is reporting that a man in Portland, Oregon who lived in a tent by the airport, attempted to sell information from 2008 Nike catalogs to Nike’s competitors. According to the FBI he had taken the catalog from the printing and binding shop where he worked. He has been charged with theft of trade secrets. See the article here.
The FBI was tipped off when one of Nike’s competitors who received photocopies of unreleased Nike products sent the unsolicited information to Nike’s CEO Mark Parker because it contained a claim that the information was available to the highest bidder and had been sent to four other shoe companies competitive with Nike.
T o his credit, Richie Woodworth, President of Saucony, Inc., forwarded the information because, in his own words, “Although we’re very competitive and sometimes intensely competitive, I just didn’t think that was sort of the right way to do things.” It’s good to see the head of a major company still believes in fair play.
This case raises interesting legal issues and we will watch closely to see how they are resolved. First, was the information truly a trade secret since the catalog was meant for public viewing; and second, what is reasonable to protect your trade secrets when you send them off to third-parties like a printer–is it necessary to have the printer sign non-disclosure agreements?
In any event, this is not the typical situation with trade secret theft as most thefts of trade secrets are “inside jobs” done by employees who eventually leave to another competitive company. It is for this reason that a good trade secret protection strategy is an imperative part of any business plan that depends on the confidentiality of certain information to gain a competitive advantage.
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