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Berry Metal Co. v. Smith

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.

May 10, 2019

BERRY METAL COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
TODD G. SMITH, Defendant,

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Cynthia Reed Eddy, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         This civil action was initiated in this court on August 3, 2018 by Plaintiff Berry Metal Company (“Berry Metal”) against Defendant Todd G. Smith's (“Smith”) alleged misappropriation of trade secrets in connection with Smith's former employment with Berry Metal. Berry Metal asserts the following claims: breach of contract under Pennsylvania law (Count I); trade secret misappropriation under common law, the Pennsylvania Uniform Trade Secrets Act, 12 Pa.C.S.A. § 5301, et seq., and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1836, et seq. (Count II); and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage under Pennsylvania law (Count III). This court has subject matter jurisdiction over the controversy pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Presently pending before the court is Smith's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 12). For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that Defendants' motion be denied in its entirety.

         II. REPORT

         a. Background

         Berry Metal is a manufacturer of equipment for use in the steel manufacturing industry, including but not limiting to staves, manifold systems, lances, and other componentry for use in conjunction with or as a part of blast furnaces. Compl. (ECF No. 1) at ¶ 7. Smith was employed by Berry Metal from 1996 through 2015 including as a Director of Product/Process Development. Id. at ¶ 8. Berry Metal contends that this employment relationship was controlled by an employment agreement. Id. The employment agreement assigned to Berry Metal all of Smith's inventions, discoveries and improvements known during his employment and provided that Smith agreed not to divulge, publish or otherwise make known to others any confidential information related to the manufacturing and processing methods or products of Berry Metal. Id. at ¶ 9. The employment agreement's assignment provision provides:

I agree to communicated to Berry all inventions, discoveries and improvements made or conceived by me, solely or in collaboration with others, from the time of entering into this employment and for a period of six (6) months after termination of this employment, which relate to the business of Berry or its parent company, The Robins Group, or to any work to which I may be assigned, or to any subject matter of which I may become informed by reason of my employment, and I agree to assign and by these presents do hereby assign and transfer to Berry, all my entire right, title and interest in and to such inventions, discoveries and improvements, and upon the request of Berry, I agree to execute any and all documents which Berry may deem necessary to secure to Berry or its parent company, or their successors, assigns or nominees, the exclusive right, title and interest to said inventions, discoveries and improvements and any patents throughout the world issued therefor.

Id. at ¶ 10. Additionally, the employment agreement's confidentiality provision provides:

I further agree not to divulge, publish or otherwise make know [sic], either directly or indirectly, to any person, firm or corporation, during or at any time after the period of this employment, any secret or confidential knowledge, information or facts relating to the manufacturing and processing methods of Berry, inventions and discoveries, research and development data, reports and compilations, or any other secret or confidential knowledge, information or facts whatsoever relating to Berry or its business, or relating to Berry's parent company or its business, which I have acquired or may acquire in the court of and by virtue of my employment by Berry, unless I first obtain the written consent of an executive officer of Berry to do so. I understand that all documents, papers and drawings relating to Berry, its parent company, or their businesses, prepared or received by me in the court of or by virtue of this employment, and all copies and summaries thereof, shall be the sole property of Berry, and I agree to deliver all such materials to Berry upon termination of my employment.

Id. Specifically, Berry Metal claims that the employment agreement prevented Smith from divulging the following confidential information:

(1) processes, techniques, and methods for the design, installation, operation, improvement, and replacement of blast furnace staves, manifolds, supports, and monitors;
(2) manufacturing and configuration tolerances and techniques for refractory brick design, installation, operation, and replacement;
(3) processes, techniques, and methods for the design, manufacture, material selection, and componentry of blast furnace supplies, ...

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