Field Turf Builders, LLC v. Fieldturf USA, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets
  • Date Filed: 10-14-2011
  • Case #: 03:09-CV-671-HZ
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Hernandez
  • Full Text Opinion

One cannot claim a trade secret if it was not maintained as a secret.

Field Turf USA (“FTUSA”) is an Oregon business, who manufactured synthetic grass turf, and was a 5% minority owner of Field Turf Builders, LLC (“FTB”), who leased to FTUSA the use of their Wilsonville, OR, facility along with some equipment and business records. FTUSA and FTB were entertaining the idea of a merger, but FTUSA became nervous after discovering that the IRS had imposed a $994,447 lien against FTB for unpaid taxes. Believing that the leased facility might be seized by the IRS, FTUSA removed all of FTB’s equipment and business records from the facility. FTUSA eventually returned some of FTB’s files, but nothing else. Amongst other claims, FTB filed a trade secret claim against FTUSA for misappropriation of FTB’s customer lists, contacts, and other proprietary information. FTB also argued that FTUSA obtained trade secrets from a former FTB general manager. FTUSA moved for summary judgment, arguing that FTB never maintained their trade secrets by actually keeping them secret. The Court found dispositive the fact that FTB never required confidentially for their business records, and that FTB made no effort to keep their trade secrets occluded from FTUSA’s view. As for the former GM, the Court found that the employee’s knowledge permissibly “[arose] from the general know-how… gained while employed by a [a prior employer],” not a trade secret. Thusly, the Court GRANTED FTUSA’s motion for summary judgment on the trade secret claim.

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