Muffin Man is Toast (PA)

We have previously reported on the case of Bimbo Bakeries and Thomas’s English Muffins — http://www.wcmlaw.com/blog/Default.aspx?g=posts&t=492 and http://www.wcmlaw.com/blog/Default.aspx?g=posts&t=509.

As you may recall, Bimbo Bakeries USA, the company that owns Thomas’ English Muffins, sued former executive Chris Botticella in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Bimbo alleged that Botticella is one of few people in the world who knows the secret recipe (i.e., nooks and crannies) for Thomas’ English Muffins, and signed a confidentiality agreement in March 2009.

Botticella later accepted a position at Hostess, and Bimbo claims that Botticella “will inevitably disclose to Hostess” details of the recipes involved in the confidentiality agreement. Such disclosures would cause irreparable damage to Bimbo, and Bimbo argues that they should not have to sit around and wait to see “nooks and crannies” in Hostess products before seeking relief from the courts.

A preliminary injunction was issued, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld the District Court’s injunction barring Chris Botticella from taking a new job at rival bakery Hostess Inc.

The preliminary injunction, issued in February 2010, was set to expire in two months but Boticella’s attorneys appealed the injunction in the interim arguing it was based on an unreasonable application of the “inevitable disclosure” doctrine. The 3rd Circuit, however, found the evidence showed Botticella continued to work for Bimbo for several months after accepting his new job with Hostess and attended high level strategy meetings. In addition, Botitcella downloaded sensitive trade secret documents to an external drive just before his departure from Bimbo.

The 3rd Circuit, applying Pennsylvania law, found that in granting injunctive relief in a trade secret case, a highly fact-specific inquiry must be made. Here, the case specific facts demonstrated a substantial threat of trade secret misappropriation and therefore the Court had the authority to bar Botticelli from beginning his employment with Hostess.

http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/101510p.pdf

Thanks to Chris O’Leary for his contribution to this post.

If you would like further information about this post or WCM’s IP practice, please e-mail mbono@wcmlaw.com