Tampa Bay Fisheries downplays trade secrets claims made by National Fish and Seafood

Published on
September 10, 2018

Tampa Bay Fisheries is disputing allegations that its CEO and other executives stole National Fish and Seafood’s trade secrets – specifically, its Matlaw’s clam production process.

National Fish and Seafood (NFS), based in Gloucester, Massachusetts, filed a complaint against Tampa Bay Fisheries on 20 July, alleging that its former employee, Kathleen Scanlon, “unlawfully acquired NFS’ confidential information and trade secrets” involving its proprietary clam production process.

In a new court document, Tampa Bay asked the U.S. District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, to deny NFS’s request for a preliminary injunction and says it primarily focuses on products that are more profitable than stuffed claims.

“Plaintiff National Seafood seeks an unsupported, unjustified injunction based on a fish tale about 'the one that got away,’” Tampa Bay said in the complaint. “In plaintiff’s account, Kathleen Scanlon – a churchgoing, 59- year-old quality assurance manager with no technical skills whatsoever – masterminded a plot to bring to Tampa Bay Fisheries, Inc. documents about an unprofitable product that Tampa Bay has no interest in, in exchange for a reduction in salary.”

In addition, Tampa Bay calls NFS “a bankrupt company run by investors and still reeling from its top executives’ criminal convictions, seeking a pretext to undermine Tampa Bay’s legitimate success.” Tampa Bay is referring, in part, to former president Jack Ventola’s guilty plea in April 2018 for tax fraud.

Plus, NFS’s owner, Pacific Andes, filed for Chapter 11bankruptcy protection last October, and a judge ordered the sale of NFS.

There is no evidence that Tampa Bay obtained or used NFS’s trade secrets, according to the “Opposition to Plaintiff’s Preliminary Injunction” document. There are only three “useless” documents that have already been returned to NFS.

In fact, it is Tampa Bay reputation in the market that has suffered harm, the company said.

“[Tampa Bay] has been maligned as a direct result of NFS’ spurious allegation. NFS has slandered Tampa Bay’s reputation for excellence that was hard-earned over decades,” Tampa Bay said.

Tampa Bay focuses primarily on shrimp and fresh fish, according to the court filing. 

“As a courtesy to customers seeking one-stop shopping, Tampa Bay also provides stuffed clams – the product at the heart of NFS’ allegations – though these are typically a ‘throw-in' on a truck. Stuffed clams are a low-margin, low-revenue, low-profit item,” the document said. “The ingredients for stuffed clams are expensive, as are freight charges, because suppliers must pay for the product’s entire weight, but they cannot charge the customer for the weight of the inedible clam shell.”

While NFS alleges that Scanlon downloaded numerous NFS quality assurance documents regarding its Matlaw’s clam production process, Scanlon is “admittedly technically inept,” according to the court filing. As a result, Tampa Bay Information Technology Director Mike Marsh offered technical assistance and then wiped all data from her device, the company said.

Contributing Editor

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