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Plaintiff, an Oregon LLC having its principal place of business in McMinnville with a show room in Portland, is a domestic supplier of recaptured antique wood. Plaintiff acquires recaptured antique wood from old barns, buildings and derelict warehouses, then resaws the wood and repurposes it into flooring and similar building materials. Plaintiff operates under the assumed business names of Pioneer Millworks and New Energy Works.

Pioneer ScreenIn August 2010, Plaintiff hired Defendant Burtness and gave him access to confidential business information and trade secrets, including Plaintiff’s client lists, wholesale price lists, contact information for suppliers of reclaimed antique wood, business marketing plans, methods and means of resawing reclaimed antique wood, and Plaintiff’s financial information.

In the middle of 2012, while still employed by Plaintiff, Defendant Burtness allegedly launched a competing company under the name “Surface Theory.” Upon leaving Plaintiff’s employ in November 2013, Surface Theory allegedly posted several of Plaintiff’s photographs on a website, along with a list of Plaintiff’s clients and projects. Defendant Burtness and Surface Theory are accused of misappropriating Plaintiff’s trade secrets to obtain a competitive advantage.

Businesses, this lawsuit should serve as a warning to have your employees sign all necessary confidentiality, non-solicitation and non-compete agreements PRIOR to sharing your valuable trade secrets. Another common avoidable mistake in this lawsuit was to allow a salesman to use his personal cell phone as his client contact number, rather than a business number.

Sockeye Timberframing LLC v. Surface Theory LLC et al

Court Case Number: 3:14-cv-00649
File Date: Friday, April 18, 2014
Plaintiff: Sockeye Timberframing LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: Travis W. Hall of Bateman Seidel Miner Blomgren Chellis & Gram PC
Defendant: Surface Theory LLC, Ross Burtness
Cause: Copyright Infringement, Work Made For Hire, Lanham Act Violations, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Trade Secret Violations, Intentional Interference with Economic Relations
Court: District of Oregon
JudgeJudge Michael W. Mosman