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Barilla America, Inc. v. Wright, No. 402-CV-90267 (S.D. Iowa, July 5, 2002). (1) On January 10, 2002, defendant Jerry Wright was hired by plaintiff Barilla America, Inc., a pasta manufacturer, to work as plant manager at the company's production facility in Ames, Iowa. Four months later, Wright left Barilla to take a job at American Italian Pasta Company (AIPC), a major competitor of Barilla, at a new production facility in Arizona. Because Wright was privy to substantial confidential information while employed by Barilla, some of which was physically removed by Wright and not returned to Barilla, the company brought the instant action to enjoin Wright from working for AIPC and from disseminating trade secret information.
Barilla is the world's leading producer of pasta, and since entering the U.S. market, it has become the top selling pasta retailer in this country. Barilla claims that its constant development and refinement of the pasta making process over the company's 125-year history has allowed the company to position itself as the market leader in quality, while other companies attempt to compete based on price.
Wright was hired by Barilla as new plant manager at its $130,000,000 manufacturing facility in Ames, because of poor employee morale after a failed attempt at unionization. At his time of hire, Wright was given a packet of new hire materials to be reviewed and signed. This packet included company policies and procedures, tax forms, an employee handbook, and a confidentiality and noncompete agreement. Wright did not immediately sign the necessary forms, and at one point a Human Resources employee went to his office to have him sign tax and benefit forms and to remind him to sign the other forms in the packet as well. The confidentiality and noncompete agreements were not mentioned, however, and Wright never signed them.
While employed by Barilla, Wright had access, because of the nature of his position, to a considerable amount of proprietary information. Thus, for example, Wright was sent to Italy for training concerning the company's manufacturing processes, and, while there, he took photos and made detailed notes of the Italian production facilities, which he placed in personal notebooks. Wright was given complete access to all of Barilla's technical information and much of its financial information as well.