JOPLIN – A Missouri manufacturer and distributor of vitamins and nutritional additives to the animal feed industry petitioned for an immediate injunction against two former employees and a competing company in a recently filed federal suit alleging theft of trade secrets.
Nutra Blend, which is based in Neosho and is a subsidiary of Land O' Lakes, accuses the three defendants, former employees Andrew Noah and William Millikin and their current employer, Consumers Supply of South Dakota, of unlawfully stealing trade secrets in the suit filed Oct. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The company wants the court to order a bar on Noah working for the competitor, a halt to any further secrets being leaked, and the forensic destruction of all information already allegedly passed on.
"If an injunction does not issue, defendants will misappropriate, use, or otherwise disclose confidential and trade secret information, any of which will result in immediate and irreparable harm to Nutra Blend," Nutra Blend argued.
In its complaint, Nutra Blend describes itself as a manufacturer and distributor of "vitamins, trace minerals, and antibiotic premixes for the feed industry in the United States." It also provides support to customers.
Consumers Supply, it is stated, is attempting to build up its business as a direct competitor distributing agricultural and animal nutrition products. The company opened a distribution center in Rogers, Arkansas, one hour drive from Nutra Blend’s headquarters.
"Rather than grow its business and new facility fairly and legally, Consumers Supply instead is misappropriating Nutra Blend’s highly valuable confidential, proprietary and trade secret information," the complaint states.
Noah, who worked as customer and consumer affairs supervisor for Nutra Blend, was hired by the competitor in September, according to the complaint. He had access to Nutra Blend customer sales data and a prediction tool that identifies potential sales opportunities.
"On Sept. 12, Noah resigned his employment with Nutra Blend to join Consumers Supply. His last day at Nutra Blend was Sept. 13," the complaint states. His emails were reviewed amid concerns that Noah took confidential information.
"The general manager discovered that, not only did Noah send Nutra Blend confidential and proprietary information to himself at his personal email address, he also sent Nutra Blend’s most confidential and proprietary information directly to Consumers Supply just days before he left Nutra Blend," it is alleged. "In one email, he sent himself a spreadsheet detailing all of Nutra Blend’s customers, their addresses, and the Nutra Blend sales representative assigned to each of the accounts. This spreadsheet has 8,274 entries within it."
Millikin and Consumers Supply are attached to most of the counts against Noah, including misappropriation of trade secrets and violation of Missouri's computer tampering act. They are all accused of unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy, while Noah is accused of breach of loyalty.