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22 August 2018Americas

Farmers Edge defeats counterclaims in trade secrets dispute

The US District Court for the District of Nebraska has dismissed counterclaims made against Farmers Edge in its trade secrets dispute with a competitor, according to a statement shared by the Canadian company.

Farmers Edge provides growers and agriculture workers with data-driven technologies to improve the efficiency of agricultural operations.

In 2016, the Canadian company accused its US competitor Farmobile and three ex-employees of violating the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). The three individuals had worked at Crop Ventures, which has since been purchased by Farmers Edge.

“This is a case of reaping what others have sown,” the complaint said.

The ex-employees allegedly “wrongfully took the innovations, technologies, and goodwill” developed by Crop Ventures and used them to start Farmobile.

They “conspired to betray Crop Ventures”, upon realising that the technology used at the company would “revolutionise” the collection and analysis of agricultural data, Farmers Edge claimed.

The individuals allegedly quit their jobs at Crop Ventures in 2013 after discovering that the technology used at the company could be “very profitable”. Farmers Edge said the ex-employees started Farmobile two months later, in direct competition with Crop Ventures.

At Farmobile, they proceeded to “exploit” the connections they acquired at Crop Ventures and “brazenly even sought to patent Crop Ventures’ technology as their own”, the complaint said.

The Canadian company requested injunctive and monetary relief for the misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract, among other claims.

Farmers Edge also asked the court to assign it the patent application made by Farmobile.

In July 2016, Farmobile filed counterclaims accusing Farmers Edge of failing to properly compensate one of the ex-employees, and retaining the benefits of that employee without payment.

Farmers Edge denied the allegations.

In May 2018, the Nebraska court awarded summary judgment in favour of Farmobile. The court rejected Farmers Edge's claims of trade secrets theft and declined to assign it the patent application.

Farmobile's counterclaims were scheduled for trial in the same month, but the parties told the court that they had settled their remaining disputes.

Senior District Judge Joseph Bataillion then ordered the parties to file a stipulation of settlement and, on August 14, Farmobile submitted a motion to dismiss all pending claims with prejudice.

Yesterday, Farmers Edge said that the court had dismissed Farmobile’s counterclaims relating to the award of attorneys' fees.

Terms of the settlement have not been made public.

Speaking to LSIPR, Joan Archer, general counsel at Farmobile, said: "The most recent ruling does not alter the court’s prior decision granting summary judgment in Farmobile’s favour. The court’s most recent ruling only relates to Farmobile’s counterclaim under the DTSA alleging that Farmers Edge acted in bad faith such that Farmobile should be awarded its attorneys’ fees related to the case."

On Monday, August 27, Farmobile's lawyers said the company still has two pending suits against Farmers Edge in Nebraska, one for unjust enrichment and the other for civil conspiracy, filed in response to Farmers Edge's complaint. An additional suit accuses Farmers Edge of patent infringement in Canada.

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