Theft of Intellectual Property
Fortune 100 Company Cleared of Wrongdoing
Late on a Friday night we were contacted by the chief legal counsel of a Fortune 100 Company where a new high-level executive they had recently hired was accused of misappropriating his previous employer's intellectual property. A lawsuit was filed in another state by his previous employer [which happened to be another Fortune 100 company] seeking an injunction on all activities of the firm involving the division where the executive lead. The client stated that court documents were alleging that, before his departure, the executive had copied the plaintiff's trade secrets to an external drive and had emailed close to one hundred critical documents to his personal Yahoo email account. Based upon our previous experience with this client, we knew that they tolerated no such violations as they themselves had been victim of such acts in the past.
We asked them to forward us all court papers filed to determine the validity of the allegations. We immediately reviewed the documents and quickly determined that the allegations had merit. The plaintiff had retained a competent computer forensic examiner who performed a very thorough analysis of the employee's computer and his forensic findings were totally valid. The lawsuit named the executive and our client as defendants.
We had a client that was being held accountable for the actions of an individual who they had just hired. They had nothing to do with his actions yet they were facing very serious financial consequences for someone else's misconduct. We worked into the late hours of Friday to formulate a response plan in order to contain the incident and be prepared to walk into the court Monday morning with satisfactory evidence to prevent the injunction from being granted.
Our suggestion was to dispatch a team of investigators to the location first thing Saturday morning and seize all home and business computers, email accounts, and external storage devices of the newly hired executive. The plan was to take custody of all misappropriated trade secrets and return them to the plaintiff. The defendant was basically told that he would either cooperate with our team or the client would not provide any legal representation for him and he would immediately be terminated. Under the circumstances, he had no choice but to cooperate. Our team of investigators arrived before noon at the location and immediately seized his personal Yahoo email account, his personal computers, all external storage devices, his office computers, and his corporate email account. By Sunday, we took control of all the data that was taken from the plaintiff. On Monday morning, our client's attorneys briefed the judge on the actions we had taken over the weekend. They informed the judge that, immediately after being made aware of the situation, they retained Cyber Diligence, Inc., which specializes in theft of intellectual property investigations, and followed our recommendations on the response plan.
The judge denied the application of injunction stating that as a result of the quick and decisive action of the defendant (our client), the plaintiff did not suffer any actual damage and proceeded to instruct Cyber Diligence to isolate the executive's personal data from the data that clearly belonged to the plaintiff. We had extracted his personal data from all storage devices and his email accounts and copied them to a new media. The plaintiff's data was likewise retrieved and returned to them. All original media was wiped by us and returned to the owner. We eliminated all of the plaintiff's data from his personal email account before returning the control of the Yahoo account back to him. The case was closed with a minimal impact on our client's operations.Back to Case Studies