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21 March 2024Big PharmaLiz Hockley

J&J sues former employee for 'stealing' 1,000+ files for use at Pfizer

Pharma giant says defendant initially concealed new role at competitor | Employee allegedly took “vast amounts” of confidential information and accessed it while employed by Pfizer.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has accused a former employee in New Jersey of stealing “vast amounts” of highly confidential information and using it in a directly competitive new role at Pfizer.

In a complaint filed on Monday (March 18) at the New Jersey district court, J&J alleges breach of contract, misappropriation, and violation of the Trade Secrets Act.

J&J said that the defendant, who had a 24-year career at various J&J subsidiaries including Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, “misappropriated vast amounts of highly confidential information by clandestinely and maliciously downloading over a thousand files onto external storage devices”.

This information had then been accessed after he had left J&J for a new position at direct competitor Pfizer, the pharma giant claimed.

J&J alleged that the individual initially attempted to conceal that he was leaving the company to work for Pfizer, and after this had been disclosed, he said he would not be working in the same therapeutic area or doing the same type of strategy work that he had done at J&J.

However, his role at Pfizer was “directly competitive”, J&J claimed, and was a position in which his use of its confidential information advantaged Pfizer and disadvantaged J&J.

The pharma firm told the court that competition between itself and Pfizer was “particularly fierce” in the area of oncology treatments, and that in one role at J&J, the defendant had supported new indication launches and strategy assessments in cardiovascular and oncology medicine, for products such as prostate cancer drug Erleada.

The individual had held various positions at J&J, including director of global pricing strategy for oncology, and director of trade channel strategy in J&J’s strategic customer group, according to the court filing.

These roles had given him access to J&J’s confidential, trade secret, and proprietary information across its portfolio, the firm said, including highly confidential business plans known as Market Access Readiness Reviews (MARRs).

‘Security alert triggered’

According to the complaint, the defendant “secretly downloaded” more than a thousand of J&J’s files to a personal external storage device, three weeks before leaving the firm in August 2023.

These were “intermixed with files containing personal information and photographs” seemingly so he could avoid detection, the complaint went on, and had been accessed during his employment with Pfizer.

This activity had triggered a security alert, J&J said, which showed that a large number of files had been downloaded.

J&J referred to a number of contracts allegedly signed by the former employee, including noncompetition agreements and an employee secrecy agreement.

The company asked the court for an order enforcing these agreements, including an injunction prohibiting the defendant from working for Pfizer for 18 months in any position that he could use J&J’s confidential information; an order requiring him to return any proprietary information he still held; compensatory damages; an order requiring him to submit his devices and accounts for forensic examination; and further relief.

Blank Rome is representing J&J in the matter, with a team including Leigh Buziak, Stephen Orlofsky, and Anthony Haller.

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