such a product, that information is not especially unique or
secret. In fact, it appears that such general information is
consistent with what is known throughout the industry. The
information discussed by Reiss and the information he obtained
from others on the Prowler project was very general and related
to work that was, and still appears to be, in the very early
stages of development. Much of what Reiss discussed involved
general items relating to the proposed design of the machine and
none of that seemed very concrete or significant. Much of the
information that PSC suggests was highly confidential appears to
be modest design alterations to the existing U-Scan® product.
Many of the cases which have applied the inevitable-disclosure
doctrine "involved the potential disclosure of trade secrets by
employees who had expertise in highly technical industries."
International Paper Co. v. Suwyn, 966 F. Supp. 246, 258
(S.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing cases). In Suwyn, the court denied a
claim for injunctive relief, noting that "the businesses at
issue — wood and building products — are comparatively
low-technology industries," and that the defendant employee's
"work at International Paper was driven by general managerial
expertise as opposed to the application of highly technical,
proprietary, or secret information." Id. at 259. The court
also stated that "much of [the allegedly proprietary information
that the defendant was alleged to have taken with him] was
available through other sources in the industry." Id. at 258.
I accept and credit Wechsler's testimony that the surface
design and configuration of a self-scanning unit is of only
marginal importance. What is crucial is the internal "guts" of
the machine, especially the computer software system. What makes
the system beneficial to customers is whether it "works," not
how it looks. I also credit Wechsler's testimony that Optimal
has little interest in the design configuration of PSC's
potential competitive product. What makes Optimal's product
successful and has given it the lion's share of the market is
its effectiveness, something that PSC has yet to demonstrate in
its supposedly competing product.
Furthermore, Reiss's connection with the design and
construction of the Prowler unit is extremely remote. The proof
demonstrated that Reiss, who lives in Florida, had made only one
or two visits to PSC's headquarters in Webster, New York during
the time this project was being developed. There was also only a
handful of telephone calls or written communications on the
subject, and they were all of a very general nature.
It is also difficult to see how the meager information that
Reiss had obtained constituted trade secrets. Some of the items
that Miller stated were confidential were merely goals that PSC
hoped to achieve over time in developing its new product. Miller
insisted that these goals and new additions or "hooks" would be
beneficial to a competitor, especially since PSC by its present
contract with Optimal could not directly compete in the
self-scanning business until after December 31, 2000, I am not
convinced that such is the case, especially concerning Optimal,
an established player in the industry.
I am not convinced that PSC has demonstrated irreparable harm
which justifies the drastic remedy sought here. I believe that
the meager information that Reiss had obtained about the
proposed Prowler system would be of limited benefit to a
competitor. Furthermore, it seems to be the case that the
information would have provided virtually no benefit to Optimal,
the leader in the market, since it already had hundreds of units
in place and was in no particular need to develop a new product.
There is also evidence that prior to Reiss's departure,
officials at PSC shared with Optimal's officials their general
goals relative to creating a competitive product. Certainly
Reiss's knowledge of those same
goals is no reason to enjoin him from working for Optimal as a
It is also a stretch to conclude that Reiss would have to
"inevitably disclose" his so-called confidential information
during the course of his new employment with Optimal. I am not
persuaded that such will be the case. Reiss's efforts for
Optimal will be to continue doing what he has been doing for
years — sell the Optimal U-Scan® equipment. It is his existing
knowledge of that product which will be of importance in his new
sales efforts. It is hard to see how his modest knowledge of
what PSC hopes to put together in a competing product will be of
any assistance to Reiss in marketing Optimal's existing product.
Of course, in a few short months, when PSC launches its product,
all of the supposed confidential matters will be on display for
all to see.
Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining
defendant Martin J. Reiss from employment with Optimal Robotics
Corporation (Dkt. #4) is in all respects denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.