Fair Competition News: Do You Know the Muffin Man? (redux)

Back in January, I wrote about Bimbo Bakeries USA Inc. having sued a former executive who left for competitor Hostess Brands Inc. (The story appears on the Trade Secret / Noncompete Blog, which I had created for my prior law firm.)

Bimbo claims that the former employee is one of only seven people in the world who know the secret recipe for Thomas’ English Muffins, including, according to the Huffington Post’s detailed account (here), “how much dough to use, the right amount of moisture and the proper way to bake them.” Apparently relying on the inevitable disclosure doctrine (a doctrine by which a court can stop an employee from working for a competitor of the former employer even in the absence of a noncompetition agreement, but more on that in a later post), Bimbo argued that if the former employee were permitted to work for Hostess, he would inevitably use or disclose that recipe to Hostess. The United States District Court in Philadelphia was persuaded and enjoined the employee from working for Hostess.

The employee – who is now not able to work for Hostess until his case is resolved – has appealed the ruling, raising the question of what quantum of likelihood of disclosure is required by the inevitable disclosure doctrine. This is a significant issue, as there is a dearth of cases – especially at the appellate level – accepting, much less applying and analyzing, the inevitable disclosure doctrine. Accordingly, this will be an important case to watch. Stay tuned!

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