Home » Stites & Harbison attorneys obtain unanimous verdict in $80M trade secret case

Stites & Harbison attorneys obtain unanimous verdict in $80M trade secret case

After five-week jury trial in New Jersey federal court

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Feb. 12, 2014) Stites & Harbison attorneys, Thad Barnes and David Owsley, successfully defended fragrance company Mane USA Inc. in New Jersey federal court against allegations that the company conspired with perfumer James Krivda to misappropriate over 600 trade secret formulas from Swiss fragrance giant Givaudan Fragrances Corp.

David Owsley
David Owsley

Krivda was a highly successful and respected perfumer at Givaudan who left the company to join Mane in May 2008. While at Givaudan, he created well-known perfumes such as Britney Spears Fantasy, Celine Dion Enchanting, Jennifer Lopez Deseo and Ralph Lauren Ralph Wild, according to a press release from Stites & Harbison.

Givaudan alleged that on the eve of Krivda’s departure, he printed and stole hundreds of formulas from Givaudan with the intent to use them at Mane. Givaudan alleged in court filings that “Krivda and Mane have attempted one of the greatest heists of trade secrets this jurisdiction may have ever seen” and “[t]his case involves one of the most egregious thefts of trade secrets by a departing employee ever witnessed in New Jersey.”

Givaudan claimed that the “stolen” formulas were “the lifeblood of Givaudan’s business” and were worth more than $80 million. Givaudan sought punitive damages against both Mane and Krivda. In pre-suit demand letters, Givaudan’s general counsel threatened criminal prosecution against Krivda.

Thad Barnes
Thad Barnes

Mane and Krivda vehemently denied the allegations, but were forced to defend against the claims through highly contentious litigation spanning five years. Givaudan is the largest flavor and fragrance company in the world, with annual revenue in excess of $4 billion. Givaudan hired lawyers from four national law firms to prosecute the case.

On Oct. 25, Mane obtained a partial summary judgment dismissing the majority of Givaudan’s claims on the grounds that Givaudan refused to inform Mane what formulas it claimed were taken. That decision received national attention as an important case regarding trade secret liability for subsequent employers.

The remainder of Givaudan’s claims was decided in a five-week jury trial. On Feb. 6, an eight-member jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Mane and Krivda on all counts.

“The verdict was a complete vindication for Mr. Krivda and Mane, who had their reputations marred by Givaudan’s baseless accusations for years,” the press release from Stites said. “There was never a shred of evidence of conspiracy or misappropriation. The jury agreed.”

Barnes and Owsley worked closely with a team of lawyers from two other law firms, including co-counsel for Mane, John D. Shea of Litchfield Cavo in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Krivda’s counsel, Adam Saravay of the Newark office of McCarter & English.

This is the second time Stites & Harbison has successfully represented the Mane family of companies in New Jersey federal court.  In December 2011, Stites obtained a $40 million settlement in favor of Mane’s parent company, V. Mane Fils, as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against a competitor for claims of patent infringement, false advertising, unfair competition and tortious interference. V. Mane Fils is a 140-year-old family owned company based in the south of France.  It ranks seventh in world-wide market share.

Stites & Harbison is a full-service business and litigation law firm with 240 attorneys in ten offices in five states – Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and Virginia