Monday, January 25, 2010

Bimbo Bakeries goes after former exec on secrets of Thomas' English Muffins

Not everyone in the United States may be familiar with the extent of the brands held by Bimbo Bakeries USA. They hold Entemann's. Of relevance to a recent trade secret case, captioned Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. v. BOTTICELLA (filed 15 Jan 2010), they hold Thomas' as in Thomas' English Muffins.

The present venue in the case is ED Pennsylvania, pursuant to the confidentiality agreement between Bimbo and (and now former Bimbo executive) Botticella, although the wombletradesecrets blog points out that this may not hold up.

The case is about trade secrets. Botticella, according to the complaint, is VP of operations for Bimbo's Western Region, and, as such, is one of fewer than ten people in the world with full knowledge of how to produce Thomas' English Muffins. Bimbo acquired George Weston Bakeries, including Thomas' on January 21, 2009. As to the secrets relating to Thomas' English Muffins, Botticella executed a confidentiality agreement on March 13, 2009.

Boticella submitted his notice of resignation on January 4, 2010, with intent to depart on January 15, 2010. On January 13, 2010, rumors began that Boticella was going to work for a Bimbo competitor, Hostess, a unit of Interstate Bakeries.

In Count I of the complaint by Bimbo, Bimbo asserts that Botticella has announced his intent to repudiate sections 3 and 5 of the confidentiality agreement. Bimbo seeks injunctive relief.

Of the venue business, wombletradesecrets wrote:

But Bimbo's arguments are ones that might not make legal sense in California, which is where Botticella resides and where he was performing the work for Bimbo and, logically, where the trade secrets reside.

We'll keep an eye on this one for you but we predict Botticella's legal response may involve a challenge to the venue of this case and his attorneys may study California's historical treatment of foreign jurisdiction injunctions and judgments that offend the public policy of California as represented in Business Code Section 16600 of that state.

Perceptive readers of IPBiz will recall an earlier discussion of Bimbo: Trademark in "Bimbo" , showing that the trademark "Bimbo" is used in the United States.

Victoria Slind-Flor covered this matter for Bloomberg on January 25, 2010. The same January 25 piece also mentions that General Patent has placed a video debunking the patent troll myth on its website:

General Patent Corp., an IP-licensing and enforcement organization, posted a video on its Web site debunking what it calls “The Myth of the Patent Troll.”

The term “Patent Troll,” first used by Peter Detkin when he was head of litigation at Intel Corp., is a pejorative term used to describe patent owners who don’t make products covered by their patents and sue others who do make products. Another term frequently used is “non-practicing entity.”

Detkin is now a vice chairman at Intellectual Ventures, a company based in Bellevue, Washington, that has amassed a large number of patents and does not itself make any products.

Sadly, Slind-Flor repeats the "urban legend" that the term "patent troll" was first used by Peter Detkin. That is not true.
Refer to the IPBiz post
The convenience of not remembering history when discussing patent reform
which refers to an earlier error on this point by the Patent Baristas blog:

As a separate matter, PatentBaristas repeated the "urban legend" about Detkin coining the name troll. Apart from the fact it wasn't actually Detkin at Intel who first used troll at Intel, the real problem is that it wasn't first used at Intel at all. Baristas wrote:

Like the troll of lore who lived under a bridge and extorted money from travelers, the so-called “patent trolls” are patent holders that do not make products but only threaten other companies with patent infringement lawsuits in order to extract money. (Ironically, Peter Detkin, former assistant general counsel at Intel is credited with coining this term and he now works for Intellectual Ventures LLC, a company that has been spending millions to buy up patents for licensing.)

But see

Intel folks did NOT invent the term "patent troll"

The general irony here is that people who purport to write so profoundly on invention don't seem to investigate "prior art" at all.


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