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Northern Benefits of Maine, LLC v. Mower

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

August 5, 2014

NORTHERN BENEFITS OF MAINE, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
VERONICA MOWER, and ATENTO INSURANCE SERVICES, LLC, Defendants

ORDER ON MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

Joyce A. Wheeler, Justice

This matter is before the court on plaintiff Northern Benefits of Maine, LLC's (" Northern") motion for a temporary restraining order. The court heard arguments from counsel and testimony from defendant Mower on July 31, 2014. The parties also stipulated to the original of the employment agreement between Northern and Veronica Mower (Mower), which is a two-sided document of twelve numbered-pages. For the following reasons, plaintiffs motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Mower was employed as a Benefits Manager at Down East Insurance Agency[1] (" Down East") when plaintiff Northern purchased the company on December 2, 2013. As part of the purchase, Northern agreed to offer Mower a 90-day trial period of employment. On the day of the purchase, Mower signed an assignment of her employment agreement with Down East to Northern and a separate employment agreement between her and Northern. Both agreements contained non-competition and non-solicitation provisions. Down East's agreement included acceptance provisions as well.

In February 2014, Mower was terminated from Northern. She then began working for defendant Atento Insurance Services, LLC, which is one of Northern's competitors. Northern alleges that Mower has violated the non-solicitation provision in her employment agreement and seeks injunctive relief and money damages against Mower and Atento.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed a verified complaint seeking a temporary restraining order on July 7, 2014. Defendants received notice of the action, filed a brief in opposition to the motion, and presented arguments and evidence at the July 31, 2014 hearing before the court. Because both sides had sufficient notice, the court will treat the motion for a temporary restraining order as one for a preliminary injunction. See Clark v. Goodridge, 632 A.2d 125, 127 (Me. 1993) (" A hearing on a TRO may be treated as a hearing on preliminary injunction . . . when there is sufficient notice and when the parties are in a position to present evidence and legal arguments for or against a preliminary injunction.").

DISCUSSION

1. Trade Secrets

Plaintiff argues that defendant Mower has misappropriated a trade secret, which entitles plaintiff to injunctive relief.[2] See 10 M.R.S. § 1543 (2013) (" Actual or threatened misappropriation may be restrained or enjoined."). Trade secret is defined by statute as:

[I]nformation, including, but not limited to, a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:
A. Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and
B. Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

10 M.R.S. § 1542(4). The court must examine the following five factors to determine whether the information in this case constitutes a trade secret:

(1) The value of the information to the plaintiff and to its competitors;
(2) The amount of effort or money the plaintiff expended in developing the information;
(3) The extent of measures the plaintiff took to guard the secrecy of ...

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