Abbott accuses one of its former scientists of trade-secrets theft in U.S. court

By Mike Scarcella

May 31 (Reuters) – Healthcare company Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) on Tuesday sued one of its former scientists, accusing him in U.S. court of “secretly downloading” sensitive corporate files containing competitive information about nutrition products.

The lawsuit in Chicago federal court alleged Roger Tyre committed “flagrant misconduct” prior to leaving Illinois-based Abbott, which sells the Ensure brand nutrition powders and shakes. Abbott said it learned of the alleged downloads of thousands of files in March.

Tyre, who worked at Abbott from 2012 to 2018, developed products and “supported Abbott’s existing products by troubleshooting and addressing any issues,” according to Abbott’s complaint. Formulations for products, the lawsuit said, “are valuable trade secrets and maintaining that secrecy is critical to Abbott’s business.”

“Companies could use the information stolen by Tyre to quickly and cheaply develop products in competition with Abbott’s current portfolio of nutritional products,” the lawsuit alleged.

Abbott’s lawyers argued the “misappropriation will cause Abbott irreparable harm by undermining Abbott’s competitive advantage in the nutrition market.” Abbott saw global sales last year of more than $43 billion.

Tyre was not reached for comment, and a lawyer had not yet appeared in the case on his behalf.

After leaving Abbott, Tyre worked at manufacturer Better Nutritionals LLC, whose website identified him as chief operating officer.

A spokesperson for Better Nutritionals and a lawyer at the company did not respond to requests for comment.

An Abbott spokesperson and a lawyer for the company also did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Better Nutritionals, according to the lawsuit, contacted Abbott in March after allegedly discovering two USB drives from Tyre’s office before his departure from the California-based company.

Abbott is seeking unspecified monetary damages, an injunction “prohibiting Tyre from using or disclosing Abbott’s trade secrets or confidential information.”

The lawsuit marked the latest effort by Abbott in the U.S. courts to protect trade secrets.

In 2020, Abbott claimed a breach of an employment agreement in a lawsuit against a vice president of global marketing in the company’s diagnostics business. The case settled less than a month after it was filed.

Abbott sued a senior clinical and regulatory senior director last year, and also settled that case within about a month.

The case is Abbott Laboratories v. Roger Tyre, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:23-cv-03381.

For Abbott: Ronald Safer of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila

For Tyre: No appearance yet

Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Leigh Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters