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Boston-area brewers squabble over beer recipes, other property

| Feb 3, 2020 | Intellectual Property |

An intellectual property dispute between two Boston-area beer companies has come to a head.

Two men, partners in a brewery, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, contending their former partner wasn’t authorized to take proprietary assets with him when he left the company.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, the two men argue that their ex-partner – the former president and chief executive officer – walked off with beer recipes, artistic elements for packaging, social media information and contact lists. They contend he has incorporated those assets into his new, competing brewery.

Before they split up, the two sides went to mediation, and the third partner agreed to give up his seat on the board though he still owns a share of the company. They agreed to a buyout agreement in December 2019.

The two men said they have evidence that their former partner accessed a password-protected file last November that contained the recipes and that he had no reason to get into the file for company business at that time.

In a counter-motion, the former partner said that agreement allows him to own a competing company. And he said he didn’t steal recipes for his beer and has permission from the unaffiliated recipe owner to use them. He also said he was “in the process of doing” what the lawsuit requests – or had already done it – and there was no need for the men to sue.

The owners of the first company are asking the court to require the new company to stop selling the beer and to recall from stores any product currently on the market and pour it out. They also want him to get rid of – such as by shredding documents or deleting electronic files – any trade secrets.

A company’s livelihood depends on proprietary information. This will be an interesting case to watch as it progresses through the court system.