In a case highly watched by trade secret lawyers and others, Robert O’Rourke, a 30-year salesman for cast iron products manufacturer Dura Bar, went on trial last week in Chicago (Northern District of Illinois) for allegedly stealing Dura trade secrets before leaving to work for a Chinese competitor. According to the government, O’Rourke was a highly respected salesman at Dura until he became disgruntled with Dura management and decided to leave Dura for a Chinese competitor. Over a two year period, O’Rourke met with the Chinese competitor (the identity of the Chinese company has not been disclosed) and eventually accepted employment with the competitor. Before resigning from Dura, O’Rourke downloaded 1,900 files that contained Dura trade secrets and subsequently attempted to board a flight to China with the trade secrets in hand. O’Rourke was stopped at the gate by the FBI and subsequently charged with 13 counts of trade secret theft.
O’Rourke’s defense team acknowledged in opening statements that O’Rourke downloaded the 1,900 files and was in possession of the files at the time of his arrest. The 1,900 files, according to O’Rourke’s attorney, however, were not trade secrets because Dura did not take “reasonable measures” to keep the information confidential. Thus, it appears that this case will be determined by whether Dura took reasonable steps to protect its trade secrets/confidential information. The trial is expected to last about three weeks—we will continue to monitor the trial, so please check back for updates.