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Employees accused of stealing company secrets from Nike

Maryland businesses may be interested in a newly filed business litigation between two sportswear companies over the poaching of employees in violation of employment agreements. The employees left to join a competitor, but their original employer is alleging the stealing of company files and breach of non-compete agreements.

In September, Germany shoe manufacturer Adidas AG announced that they would be opening a new shoe design studio in Brooklyn, NY. This studio would be staffed primarily by three former designers from Oregon-based Nike, an Adidas competitor. Now, Nike has filed a lawsuit in an Oregon court, alleging over $10 million in damages and accusing the employees of violating their non-compete agreements and stealing trade secrets.

According to the complaint, Nike alleges that the three employees formulated the new studio in April. The company claims that the three designers began to consult with Adidas while still at Nike. This, they say, was in violation of their non-compete contracts. These agreements bar the employees from working with Adidas during their time with Nike and for one year after their employment ends.

Nike also alleges that the three designers took sensitive confidential information from Nike computer servers, including unreleased designs for new shoes. The complaint asserts that the designers attempted to hide their actions by deleting emails and other communication on their Nike-provided computers and cellphones. Nike says that Adidas was aware of the existing non-compete agreements and claims that Adidas told the designers they would pay for any legal fees involved.

Understanding the implications of non-compete agreements and how to defend against violation of trade secrets can be difficult without the help of an attorney. The attorney may be able to analyze commercial disputes and recommend the best course of action, whether it is commercial litigation or settlement negotiations with the other party.

Source: Reuters, " Nike accuses former shoe designers of taking secrets to Adidas", Andrew Chung, December 09, 2014

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