Brattleboro company's lawsuit is meant to eliminate competition, say attorneys
BRATTLEBORO — In response to allegations that a former G.S. Precision employee stole trade secrets and induced employees to come to work for him at a competitor in Northfield, Mass., attorneys contend G.S. Precision's legal actions are nothing more than an attempt to drive Sisson Engineering out of business.
The Brattleboro-based company's actual goal, wrote Edward Hewey's attorneys, is "the elimination of legitimate marketplace competition from a much smaller, and therefore more vulnerable, competitor."
Attorneys for G.S. Precision contend Hewey, who was an employee at Knappe & Koester before it was acquired by G.S. Precision in 2014, left his job shortly after the acquisition, taking with him knowledge about certain parts while encouraging other employees to leave their jobs at G.S. Precision. In October 2015, G.S. Precision filed a civil suit against Hewey in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, alleging he violated a non-disclosure agreement and that he violated Vermont's Trade Secrets law.
In an amended complaint, filed in late December, G.S. Precision alleged Hewey violated the non-disclosure agreement by using his knowledge to manufacture parts for Markem-Imaje, in Keene, N.H. G.S. Precision also contended transmission of documents by a G.S. Precision employee to Hewey was a violation of company policies.
"Plaintiff's new allegations are, without exception, illogical and meritless," wrote Hewey's attorneys. "Mr. Hewey has not used, is not using, and does not plan to use any of G.S. Precision's confidential, proprietary or trade secret information, and his employer, Sisson Engineering Corp. ... will not permit any such information to be used on its behalf."
Hewey's attorneys are asking the court to dismiss G.S. Precision's amended complaint "for lack of standing and failure to state a claim ..." and because G.S. Precision "has not adequately alleged a legally cognizable harm ... (and) ... also has failed to factually allege the elements of the three claims it brings."
The attorneys warned that if G.S. Precision's legal actions are not dismissed, Hewey and Sisson "will consider counterclaims ... against Plaintiff for its interference with Mr. Hewey and Sisson's business relations."
In the amended complaint, filed in late December, G.S. Precision contended Sisson was using proprietary information to manufacture a part for Markem-Imaje. But Hewey's attorneys contended "There are significant differences between the technology employed by (Knappe & Koester) and Sisson that render it impossible for Mr. Hewey to use information that may have been gleaned from K&K to make those parts."
"When K&K made parts for Markem-Imaje, it did so using horizontal milling technology. Sisson does not possess such technology, and has an entirely different set of machinery. ... As a result, any processes developed at K&K for making the parts for Markem-Imaje would be useless to Sisson, even if Sisson possessed them, which it does not. ... (I)n order to make printer parts for Markem-Imaje, Sisson developed its own processes specific to its own equipment and technology."
Hewey's attorneys wrote that an email message opened and read by G.S. Precision President Norm Schneeberger, "although it was clearly intended for Mr. Hewey ..." indicates the harm the "unfounded, defamatory allegations" are making to the reputations of both Hewey and Sisson. "As a result of Plaintiff's claims, Don Sporborg, a representative of (Markem-Imaje), wrote to Mr. Hewey seeking an explanation for the claims Plaintiff had made. Plaintiff's irresponsible allegations thus already are harming Sisson's business and Mr. Hewey's professional reputation, as demonstrated by this and by demands from Sisson's customers for explanations of Plaintiff's claims."
Hewey's attorneys also noted that K&K did not require its employees sign a non-disclosure agreement and any agreement signed after G.S. Precision bought the company doesn't protect the knowledge Hewey obtained prior to the acquisition. "Were Plaintiff's application of the NDA accepted, it would improperly prevent Mr. Hewey from using years' worth of general knowledge and experience, and unfairly prevent him from making a living using his skills. ... Plaintiff's insistence that its NDA covers far more than it does reveals its true motive: to gain a competitive advantage by depriving Mr. Hewey's employer of his services while preventing him from making a living using his general knowledge and experience."
Hewey's attorneys addressed a contention that Hewey misappropriated third-agency certification paperwork, stating G.S. Precision's claims were "facially invalid" because the certification paperwork Hewey received was "a publicly available form document written by a third party ..."
In addition, they wrote, Sisson hired Cathy Mayrand, who sent the certification paperwork to Hewey, as a consultant while Mayrand was still an employee at G.S. Precision. Because Hewey was not bound by any non-competition or non-solicitation agreement, "There was nothing improper about Mr. Hewey's hiring Ms. Mayrand to consult or offering employment to Plaintiff's employees or former employees, who were free to choose for whom to work ..."
The fact that G.S. Precision hasn't pursued legal actions against Mayrand proves G.S. Precision's sole motive is to eliminate Sisson from the marketplace, wrote the attorneys.
"Instead, Plaintiff intimidated Ms. Mayrand into cooperating with it, and now relies on her misstatements in pursuit of its actual goal ... Plaintiff's intimidating tactics have not been limited to its conduct against Ms. Mayrand ... Plaintiff also threatened another of its former employees, John Tallarico, that it would sue him within hours if he did not execute an affidavit Plaintiff's counsel presented, which was factually inaccurate and which implicated Mr. Hewey in misconduct."
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