Investigation continues in trade secrets case between National Fish and Tampa Bay Fisheries
A federal judge declared that a forensic examination of Tampa Bay Fisheries’ data in the National Fish and Seafood trade secrets case can proceed.
This is the latest development in the case, in which NFS has accused Tampa Bay Fisheries and Kathleen Scanlon, the former head of research, development, and quality assurance for National Fish, of stealing trade secrets.
NFS has alleged that Scanlon stole proprietary company information, including the clam production process for its Matlaw’s brand of stuffed clams, using data downloaded from NFS servers and stored on her cellular phone.
In September, U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin, who is overseeing the case, ordered Scanlon’s phone to be searched. Both NFS and Tampa Bay Fisheries filed motions attempting to set the terms of the search process. National Fish wanted to extend the deadline to complete the investigation, while Tampa Bay alleged that NFS has not let Tampa Bay’s third-party investigator conduct the forensics investigation NFS requested and that NFS wants to investigate files and equipment that do not pertain to the trade secrets case.
“Tampa Bay has invited Ankura [third party firm] to search for every file NFS claims that Ms. Scanlon downloaded, both by ‘hash value’ – the metadata signifier that identifies and accompanies every file – and by ‘file name,’” Tampa Bay said in a recent court filing. “Despite Tampa Bay’s good faith efforts, Plaintiff has frustrated the Order by preventing Ankura from conducting a forensic examination as directed by this Court.”
However, Sorokin denied both NFS and Tampa Bay’s motions and said the forensics investigation should continue. An independent expert must complete the forensic examination and disclose the results simultaneously to all parties involved no later than 12 October, Sorokin ruled.
“National Fish has proposed a protocol that would allow the examiner to use search terms to located responsive files and emails. This request is denied,” Sorokin wrote in the order. “The terms proposed are overly broad and far exceed the grounds for which the Court has ordered the examination. The search protocol shall be limited to file names and hash values.”
In another development in the case, court documents revealed that Vernon, California, U.S.A.-based Red Chamber, which owns Tampa Bay, attempted to buy NFS last year.
NFS subsequently added Red Chamber as a defendant in the lawsuit, which seeks civil seizure of the property that contains NFS’ trade secrets, a monetary award of three times NFS’s actual damages, and a court order limiting Tampa Bay from expanding its stuffed clam business – the focal point of the allegedly stolen trade secrets.