Preliminary Injunction Granted After Proof Defendant Lied To Court
In H&H Industries, Inc. v. Miller, No. 2:13-cv-907 (SD Ohio, December 27, 2013), the court resoundingly supported plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction when forensic computer evidence demonstrated defendant had repeatedly lied to the court. The plaintiff, H&H Industries, Inc., brought a motion for preliminary injunction against former employee Eric Miller, the defendant, alleging Miller violated his confidentiality agreement by taking valuable trade secrets to business competitor Polar Rubber Products.
Based on the evidence provided during three days of evidentiary hearings, the court believes defendant Miller lied to the court, concealed evidence and took H&H trade secrets, thereby violating his confidentiality agreement. The court granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, barring Miller from working for Polar Rubber Products.
Forensic Computer Examination Reveals Proprietary Information Taken
The court had three days of evidentiary hearings, spread over October and December of 2013. In the December hearing, the court specifically heard evidence from forensic computer experts. This evidence showed Miller had at least four proprietary information files belonging to H&H in his possession after leaving the company and ran a program designed to conceal copying files. The evidence also showed Miller duplicated this proprietary information onto computers at his new employer, Polar Rubber Products. The expert believes a flash drive was used on both plaintiff and Polar Rubber Product computers, but defendant did not produce this flash drive to the court.
To grant a motion for a preliminary injunction, the court considers four factors:
1) The likelihood of success on the merits,
2) The irreparable injury absent an injunction,
3) The substantial harm to others caused by the injunction, and
4) The public interest served by granting the injunction.
In H&H v. Miller, the court found plaintiffs demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of the case, based on extensive evidence showing defendant Miller breached the confidentiality agreement and misappropriated trade secrets. The court defined misappropriation of trade secrets as 1) the acquisition of a trade secret by improper means, and 2) the disclosure of the trade secret without consent. Using this definition, defendant’s copying of proprietary files from plaintiff’s computers to Polar Rubber Product computers is likely to meet the misappropriation claim, breaching the confidentiality agreement.
The court also found plaintiff H&H suffered economic harm because of Miller, and absent an injunction, Miller would likely continue to cause H&H irreparable injury. While Miller’s family will be substantially harmed by the injunction, the court notes this harm is due solely to defendant’s actions. Also, the court found the public interest was served by stopping trade secret theft, therefore in balancing the four factors, the court granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction.