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Alarm Over ‘Cutting-Edge’ Basketballs

CHICAGO (CN) - Wilson Sporting Goods asked a judge to stop a senior engineer from disclosing "cutting-edge design, technology and manufacturing" secrets on basketballs and footballs to his new employers at Nike.

Wilson sued William R. Woessner - but not Nike - in Cook County Chancery Court.

Woessner worked for Wilson from 2006 to 2012.

"At the time of his resignation, Woessner was a senior engineer of research and development and was responsible for Wilson's development of projects relating to cutting-edge design, technology, and manufacturing of basketballs and footballs," according to the complaint.

"Upon information and belief, Woessner resigned his position with Wilson to become a senior development manager for Nike Inc., a direct competitor of Wilson's, where he will focus on product creation and commercialization of basketballs and footballs." Wilson claims Woessner signed an employment agreement in 2006, agreeing that "for a period of one year after the termination of his employment with Wilson, Woessner would not accept employment with one of Wilson's competitors in a capacity where his confidential Wilson information would be useful to that competitor."

The agreement "contained a confidentiality provision, pursuant to which Woessner agreed to keep Wilson's documents and information confidential and that he would not disclose any such documents or information to anyone outside the company," states the complaint, which cites the full text of the noncompete provision.

Upon Woessner's resignation, Wilson says, its general counsel sent him a letter reminding him of the agreement.

Woessner responded "that he could fulfill his duties at Nike without improperly disclosing or using Wilson's confidential information because his new position at Nike would focus on 'product creation and commercialization of basketballs and footballs,' whereas his most recent employment at Wilson did not involve the research and development of ball technology. ... He claimed, instead, that he had been working on designing protective equipment and plastic tennis ball containers," according to the complaint.

Wilson says that's not so: "Contrary to Woessner's claims, Woessner's work at Wilson extended far beyond designing protective equipment and tennis ball cans. Rather, Woessner's work specifically focused on 'product creation and commercialization' of sports balls, including basketballs and footballs.

"Wilson was directly involved with designing specific technology to modify Wilson's basketballs and footballs, and became privy to numerous confidential and trade secret facts and plans relating to those items. Woessner worked closely with Wilson's manufacturing team to develop new technologies relating to sports balls."

Wilson claims Woessner copied a Technology Review Proposal from one of Wilson's a science and engineering consultants that was marked "Proprietary and Confidential," and which included "innovative work that the consultant was preparing to perform for Wilson to create prototype sports balls."

The complaint continues: "The documents that Woessner had placed in his backpack on the day of his resignation contain Wilson's proprietary information that Wilson uses to design, develop, manufacturer, and market its products.

"Woessner's possession of a copy of his hard drive in his backpack on the day of his resignation serves as an indication that he intends to use confidential information that he gained while working at Wilson in his new, related, position at Nike."

Wilson seeks damages for breach of employment agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets, and an injunction preventing Woessner from disclosing Wilson's proprietary information and from accepting a position with Nike for 1 year.

Wilson is represented by Nicholas Gowen with Schopf & Weiss.

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