Appeal, No. 236, Jan. T., 1960, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 2 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1958, No. 1143, in equity, in case of Spring Steels, Inc. v. Peter Molloy et al. Decree affirmed.
Theodore Voorhees, with him Thomas C. McGrath, Jr., and Barnes, Dechert, Price, Myers & Rhoads, for appellant.
George A. D'Angelo, with him Michael C. McManus, for appellees.
Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO.
Spring Steels, Inc. deals in spring steels, as its name would at least suggest. It maintains an establishment at York and Philips Streets in Philadelphia where it cuts and edges already manufactured spring steel to its customers' specifications.
On March 11, 1958, a competing corporation, entitled Industrial Spring Steel, Inc., came into being and later went into business at 115 West Huntington Street, only four blocks away from the Spring Steels warehouse. The president of the new company, Peter Molloy, had been, until October 3, 1958, the vice-president of Spring Steels. On that day he left that company, taking with him four of its key employees: salesman, shop foreman, warehouseman, and office manager.
Spring Steels brought an action in equity in the Court of Common Pleas No. 2 of Philadelphia County against Industrial Spring Steel and its five former employees, charging unfair competition and averring specifically that the new company was using the plaintiff's customers list; that it was making use of the knowledge and skill gained by the two defendants Petrilla and Forte who had been machinists with the plaintiff company; that it was operating a cutting and filing machine patterned after a similar machine used by the plaintiff corporation; and, in doing so, was making unlawful use of a trade secret; and that it had adopted a corporate name which was deceptively similar to the plaintiff's name. The plaintiff prayed the Court to enjoin the defendants from continuing their operation and to assess damages for losses allegedly sustained by the plaintiff.
The defendants filed answer, denying the pertinent averments, and the case went to trial. After the taking of extensive testimony the chancellor dismissed the
complaint and entered a decree nisi. Exceptions were filed and argued and the decree made final. The plaintiff has appealed.
It is the contention of the plaintiff company that the individual defendants, while still its employees, conspired to effect an organization which would cripple and perhaps wreck Spring Steels, Inc. Whatever may be the principle of ethics involved, in the act of employees planning to set up a rival organization to the one to which they at present owe economic fealty, is not in issue here. Certainly from a philosophical point of view one might well wish that employees give fullhearted and undeviating allegiance to the organization which puts the bread on their table, but, on the other hand, there is no ...