This odyssey began with a company owner being fired because his three co-owners suspected he was sharing company secret with competitors. Representing the company and the other three owners, we sued in Texas, asking that the court determine ownership of the company and the technology, and seeking damages for misappropriation of trade secrets. We also filed actions in New York and Illinois to obtain business records from industry competitors we believed might have been contacted. The fired owner claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy, that he had been defrauded, that he owned a majority interest in the company, that his signature had been repeatedly forged, and that he invented the technology. He claimed damages of $10 Million.
As it turned out, a key piece of evidence was already in our possession. During our investigation, we found a received e-fax forwarding a non-disclosure agreement between the fired owner and a competitor. The e-fax was on the company’s server because the fired owner provided the wrong fax number. We followed up by subpoenaing e-mails and documents from the fired owner and from competitors, and taking depositions as needed. We eventually learned that while still employed, the fired owner had created a competing company and was trying to duplicate the technology. Based on the evidence we uncovered, including tax records that directly contradicted the claim of majority ownership, we were able to persuade the court to find that the fired owner owned only a fraction of the company and that the company owned the technology. Shortly after these rulings, the fired owner became a former owner.
Electronic data, including e-mails and texts, is a rich source of information in a lawsuit. Always keep in mind that today’s e-mail or text could become tomorrow’s smoking gun in a lawsuit.