Boston Beer Corp. yesterday sued a former West Coast sales executive and the rival California brewer he went to work with to try to keep him from spilling any of its trade secrets.
In 1998, the California Supreme Court ruled other states could not enforce their non-compete clauses on its residents, because such clauses are illegal there. However, Boston Beer sued Judd Hausner and Anchor Brewing of San Francisco in US District Court in Boston, a state that allows non-compete clauses in employee contracts.
In its lawsuit, the Jamaica Plain-based brewer asks a judge to bar Hausner from hopping to Anchor for one year, under a non-compete clause in his contract. Boston Beer says it would be impossible for Hausner to bottle up any of the proprietary information he had about Boston Beer in general - and its "secret" 2012 plans for new products in particular - in his new sales and marketing job at Anchor.
This confidential information included Boston Beer's secret plan for introducing new products in 2012, as well as sales and pricing numbers for the customers served by the entire Western Division of the Company (extending through the western states of the United States and into Canada). These secret plans and confidential data were disclosed to Hausner to enable him to compete more effectively against direct competitors such as Anchor.
Suddenly, Hausner is now an employee of this direct competitor. He knows Boston Beer's plans to defeat Anchor in the highly competitive Better Beer market. To properly do his job for his new employer, Hausner cannot help but use the Confidential Information and trade on his customer relationships he was paid to develop for Boston Beer. It must inform his decisions about pricing strategies with particular customers, and introducing new products or new promotions to counter what he knows Boston Beer is planning. The fact that everything he knows about the beer business was learned from Boston Beer makes this transfer of information even more likely.