Boston Beer Sues Former Employee, Alleging He Took Trade Secrets to a Competitor

A lawsuit alleges that despite warnings, he jumped ship to a big cider rival.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Boston Beer Company, the Boston-based beverage giant that produces Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Angry Orchard hard cider, has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, alleging that he took confidential information with him when he started a new job at a competitor’s cider company.

According to the lawsuit, the employee — who Food & Wine is choosing not to name — allegedly left his position at Boston Beer to take a new role with Downeast Cider “despite multiple warnings” that accepting that job would be in violation of the employment agreement he’d signed with Boston Beer, which prohibited him from working for a direct competitor. The lawsuit also alleges that the employee connected a portable USB drive to his computer at Boston Beer and “accessed and/or downloaded Boston Beer’s confidential and proprietary information in the days after he submitted his resignation.”

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Boston Beer’s legal filing states that the employee was originally hired in May 2015, taking a role as a Senior Manager in its Business Analysis Department. At the time he voluntarily resigned in April of this year, he was working as a “Manager, IT Business Partner, Sales Brand & Business Analysis.” In his roles with Boston Beer, the company alleges that the employee had access to internal information including its sales and marketing data,business plans, and new product development strategies.

“Among many other things [the former employee] is armed with knowledge of Boston Beer’s plans to continue to grow Angry Orchard — a product directly competitive to Downeast’s primary products — in the highly competitive cider market,” the lawsuit states. “To properly do his job for his new employer, [he] cannot help but use the Confidential Information [...] It is inevitable that he will interfere with Boston Beer’s legitimate business interests in his new position with Downeast.”

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The lawsuit states that after he filed his resignation, the employee was warned that going to work for Downeast violated the employment agreement he’d signed when he was hired by Boston Beer. (As noted in the lawsuit, the employee allegedly argued that Downeast Cider was not a direct competitor of Boston Beer.) Boston Beer also contacted the founder of Downeast, to inform him that, if his company hired the employee, the employee  would be in breach of a pre-existing employment agreement.

Boston Beer has accused the former employee of breach of contract, intentional interference with a contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment. The company is asking a court to prevent the employee from working for Downeast for one year from the date of his last day with Boston Beer, and to prevent him from disclosing any confidential information to Downeast.

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