The Abbott Files: How a Departing Employee’s Secret Theft was Uncovered

Trade secret stolen on USB drive

This recent case is interesting, not because a departing employee took thousands of files with him to his new employer, but rather how he was discovered!

Roger Tyre was a scientist at Abbott’s Nutrition division (maker of Ensure beverages) for six years and left to join the Better Nutritionals company (BN).  He copied thousands of Abbott computer files to USB drives before accepting the new job and resigning from Abbott.

Five years later, BN terminated Tyre for cause, and discovered two USB drives in Tyre’s office.  BN notified Abbott that the USB drives contained Abbott information, and that Tyre was now working as a consultant to other nutritional products companies.

Abbott sued Tyre (but not BN) for breach of contract, and violating DTSA and ITSA (Illinois trade secret act).  Tyre did sign an employment agreement including confidentiality provisions and return of Abbott’s property.

This lawsuit was just filed in May 2023, so we’ll have to see how it goes for Abbott and Mr. Tyre…

Lessons and observations:

Abbott was lucky to learn about the misappropriation five years after Tyre’s departure!

While BN acted honorably in informing Abbott about the USB drives, trade secret owners should not rely on the new employer to report any stolen assets.  It is better to have robust security and exit procedures to reduce risks of losing valuable trade secrets.

Read the Filing:

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