Some time ago, we wrote of Bimbo Bakeries USA Inc. and their efforts to prevent a former employee, Chris Botticella, from working for Hostess, Inc. As we previously noted, Mr. Botticella is allegedly in possession of secret information relating to the creation of the highly advertised “nooks and crannies” in Thomas’ English Muffins.
A trial court entered a preliminary injunction barring Mr. Botticella from employment at Hostess, pending a trial on the merits of the case. Rather than proceeding to trial, which would have occurred in two months, Mr. Botticella has elected to appeal the grant of the preliminary injunction, a process which has already taken four months.
On appeal, Mr. Botticella is arguing that the Court applied the wrong standard when it granted the preliminary injunction. The standard should be proof that it would be “virtually impossible” for the employee to perform his duties for his new employer without divulging trade secrets of his former employer. The Court, in fact, had applied a much more lenient standard, namely that there was a “substantial likelihood or substantial threat” of disclosure.
While we breathlessly await the appellate court’s decision on this matter of momentous importance, we may consider the following newly disclosed – but apparently NOT secret – facts. Thomas’ English Muffins generates approximately $500 million annually for Bimbo. The “secret of the nooks and crannies” — this only sounds like a Hardy Boys mystery – is, allegedly, THREE secrets: the recipe, the engineering (we are not making this up) and the process.
Mr. Botticella is one of only 7 people in the whole world with knowledge of all three. Bimbo paid him $250K per year plus bonus. Although this seems like a lot of “bread” for a baker, we believe it is actually justified because possession of this classified information made him a target for espionage agents of unfriendly foreign powers. Just imagine the result if Iran or North Korea gained access to this information. The supermarkets of the free world could be flooded with counterfeit English muffins!
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Knowledge of trade secrets can be a heavy burden.