In 2016, Learn Build Earn discovery experts were hired by the second leading stone veneer manufacturer in the United States to confirm the client’s suspicions that one of the client’s former engineers had misappropriated trade secrets including company formulas, manufacturing processes, quality control documentation and training materials. When the engineer started his own stone veneer manufacturing business a few months later, learn build earn computer forensic experts in our electronic discovery practice were hired to perform a forensic investigation of the engineer’s old hard drive.
An examination of the engineer’s computer led to the discovery that he had burned a CDROM of more than 27 folders, one titled “Core56Rancho”, and 600 files that included company formulas, manufacturing processes, quality control documentation, and training materials. LBE computer forensics experts also found trade secrets on this computer from another former employer of the engineer. Our client sued the engineer, his new company and related parties for misappropriation of trade secrets in December 2016
The defendant company was required to turn over three computers to Learn Build Earn new tools; the engineer’s first and current work computers, and his home computer. Evidence discovered by Learn Build Earn computer forensics experts was used to contradict key testimony at trial. For example, our confirmation that one of the engineer’s work computers and his home computer had both been reformatted and the operating system reinstalled at the same time in February 2005, permitted us to contradict opinion testimony from the opposing computer forensics expert. In addition, although the engineer testified at trial that he not taken any CDs from our client, Learn Build Earn experts were able to establish the existence of shortcuts on the engineer’s first computer to a folder named “Core56Rancho” that tied the computer to the client’s trade secrets. We also established at trial that 85 of the defendant company’s complex formulas (that would each normally take days or weeks to create) were created within minutes of each other and had metadata to indicate they had originally been created on a laptop. When asked to produce the laptop that was the source of the formulas, the engineer said he had borrowed it from a friend; the laptop froze and was thrown out without an attempt to fix it or to return it to its owner.
Even though two main pieces of evidence were missing, Learn Build Earn computer forensics experts were still able to demonstrate at trial that folders on the defendant company’s computers linked back to the engineer’s burn session at the manufacturer. After 1 ½ days of deliberation, the jury found the defendant company and its individual directors guilty of misappropriation of trade secrets and awarded damages of $15,000,000 with an additional $1,859,775 for intentional interference. They also awarded punitive/treble damages of $3,600,000 million against the company; $225,000 against the engineer; and $125,000 against one of the founding shareholders.