You might think of making popcorn as a fairly simple process: you pop the popcorn, coat it in your flavor of choice, package it and sell it. But the fact is that snack food manufacturers invest an incredible amount of time, money, and resources into crafting recipes that are perfectly addictive, then test and retest those recipes before they start putting them on shelves.
Garrett Popcorn Shops says it guards the secret to its popcorn recipes so closely that only three employees are given access to the recipes and they have to prove their identity with a fingerprint scan before they can access the recipes.
Aisha Putnam was one of the three employees with access to Garrett Popcorn Shops’ incredibly valuable recipes in the four years she worked as the company’s director of research and development. She was fired in early March of this year, but she got a heads up that she was going to be fired and so she allegedly stole more than 5,400 files using a USB drive and her personal email. The files allegedly contained everything that had ever been shared with her and/or stored on her computer: from the company’s top secret recipes and production processes to pricing information, supplier information, distribution agreements, and market research.
Putnam allegedly took all this confidential information with her despite having signed multiple confidentiality agreements throughout her career with Garrett Popcorn Shops and signed another one saying she had deleted all files from her computer before she left work there for the last time. Now Garrett Popcorn Shops alleges she violated the terms of those contracts by stealing sensitive data from her work computer and transferring it to her personal computer, either through her personal email address and/or through the use of a USB drive.
Putnam’s attorney said the lawsuit is completely unnecessary since Putnam has either returned or deleted all the files she stole from her former employer, but Garrett Popcorn Shops claims it has reason to believe that might not be the case. Putnam allegedly refused to allow her former employer to conduct a forensic review of her electronic devices, which the company says gives them enough reason to doubt her honesty when she claims she no longer has any of the stolen data in her possession.
If the popcorn chain seems to be a bit paranoid when it comes to maintaining the secrecy of their recipes, they have very good reason to be. If people learned they could get the same delicious popcorn from another company for a lower price, Garrett Popcorn Shops alleges its business would be ruined. If the information Putnam allegedly stole were ever to be shared with anyone, the lawsuit alleges the effect could be catastrophic for the popcorn chain and there would never be any way for them to undo that damage.
Putnam signed a confidentiality agreement promising she did not share any of the secret information with anyone and her attorneys say that should be good enough for Garrett Popcorn Shops. If it’s not enough, they say they don’t believe a forensic review of her electronic documents would do anything to appease the giant popcorn company.
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