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Accounting firm accused of stealing trade secrets

In many California intellectual property cases we have discussed on our blog, allegations of malfeasance are usually between two companies that are in the same industry. For example, scientists who are accused of stealing trade secrets usually do so with the intent of sharing those secrets with a rival scientific company.

However, from time to time, the intellectual property of one company might be attractive to another company that isn't strictly a competitor -- at least when the alleged data compromise took place. An example of this is playing out between Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits management company, and the accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Representatives from Express Scripts contend that a partner from Ernst & Young has been illicitly entering its headquarters and sending emails -- to a private Gmail account, in fact -- containing documents that were accessible to a consultant from Ernst & Young.

The information that was allegedly emailed contained documents regarding Express Scripts' strategies for merger and integration strategies. A judge ruled that there could be significant harm if Ernst & Young were to share that information with a competitor of Express Scripts. The judge ruled that the two sides should litigate the issue, rather than go to arbitration, as Ernst & Young had proposed.

While technology and health care might be particularly prone to having trade secrets stolen, they are not the only industries where this could happen. Any business could potentially benefit from consulting with an intellectual property attorney to make sure their trade secrets are properly protected and safeguarded.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Express Scripts wins first round in trade secret theft case," Jim Doyle, Dec. 11, 2013

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