Diagnostics company says ex-employees stole secrets

Published on September 26, 2018
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IDEXX logoA veterinary diagnostics company says former employees stole files and broke contracts when leaving for a competitor.

The competitor and at least one of those ex-employees deny the allegations. The latter's attorney indicated the lawsuit is related to competition.

Idexx Laboratories, based in Westbrook, Maine, is accusing Dean Leach and Agostino Scicchitano of stealing intellectual property worth millions of dollars and breaking agreements against working for competitors. The company also says the men's new employer, Vets First Choice, based in Portland, Maine, induced the men to break their contract.

In a complaint filed in August in the U.S. District Court in Maine, Idexx officials describe forensic analysis that they say shows Leach and Scicchitano used external storage drives and online storage accounts on their work computers to copy confidential company files as they prepared to leave for Vets First Choice.

"On November 30, 2017, the day before Leach's employment with IDEXX ended, he accessed a series of extremely confidential IDEXX documents pertaining to, among other things, IDEXX's internal processes and strategic decision-making documents, as well as a series of IDEXX documents pertaining to a series of products being developed for one of the largest animal food product manufacturers in the country," the complaint states. "None of the files that Leach accessed pertained to his IDEXX duties or responsibilities."

Rebecca S. Webber, an attorney for Leach, said in a message that her client stole nothing.

"He downloaded only his own documents, such as photos of his child, his friends, and tax forms," she said. "I have offered to show everything to Idexx's attorneys. The only documents he accessed were ones he needed for his job at Idexx, while still working there."

She said the lawsuit raised questions about how companies should handle competition, how they should restrict access to documents they claim are trade secrets, what noncompetition agreements are enforceable, and how current and prospective Idexx employees will view the complaint and company practices.

Bill Durling, vice president of corporate communications for Vets First Choice, provided a statement that the company's response to the complaint, due Oct. 1, will explain that Idexx's lawsuit is without merit.

"Given Portland's tight-knit and collegial business community, it is unfortunate that IDEXX has chosen this adversarial approach," he said. "Vets First Choice will vigorously defend itself against these allegations. Acting with integrity, including protection of intellectual property, data privacy and information security, is a core value at Vets First Choice."

An attorney for Scicchitano was not reached at press time.

The complaint filed in court indicates Leach worked at Idexx two years as a business analyst, which involved work to understand customer software needs and describe them to the software engineers who develop custom products. Scicchitano worked for the company eight years in several positions: diagnostic practice consultant, sales trainer, and a senior designer of sales training.

Idexx says the men agreed they would not work for a competitor for two years if they voluntarily left the company.

The court complaint alleges that Leach's supervisor told him in October 2017 that taking a job offer to be a business analyst at Vets First Choice would violate his noncompete agreement, so he said in November 2017 he had taken a job with a different company but declined to name it. Leach began work at Vets First Choice, and Idexx sent a cease-and-desist letter, the complaint states.

In April 2018, Scicchitano left Idexx without saying where he was going, but he told a fellow employee in a text message that he was going to build a training program at Vets First Choice, according to the complaint by Idexx. Again, Idexx sent cease-and-desist letters.

The lawsuit document also accuses Vets First Choice of interfering with contracts by telling Leach, Scicchitano, and other Idexx employees that the noncompete agreements were unenforceable.