Trade secrets are at the center of Hershey litigation

Glenn W. Peterson

For businesses here in Sacramento and elsewhere to remain competitive in the market, it is often necessary to closely guard some, if not all, aspects of the business. Keeping certain information confidential helps ensure that no one else discovers it. Trade secrets may not come with the same protections as patents or copyrights, but they also do not require the information to be divulged. Even large companies with patents, such as the Hershey Co., may also have some trade secrets.

Some people would say there is just one problem with this system — employees are the greatest risk to trade secrets. For instance, the Hershey Co. recently filed a lawsuit against the former president of its healthy snack brand, Amplify, alleging he left the company with trade secrets. According to reports, the company says the former president took numerous documents with him when he left the Hershey Co. and went to Kind LLC.

The complaint goes on to accuse the man of “covering his tracks” by erasing the hard drive of the computer he used to email himself more than 100 documents. In addition, the company accused the former president of lying. When he put in his resignation, company officials asked him directly if he already had another job and if he was going to Kind. The man said he did not have any specific plans.

Of course, in order to recover any restitution, Hershey will need to prove the former Amplify president actually took trade secrets with him when he left, just like any other company facing this scenario would have to do. These cases are often complex. Sacramento companies looking to file lawsuits against former employees believed to have taken sensitive information with them when they left would more than likely benefit from working with an intellectual property attorney.