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Trade Theft Claim on Cool Beer System

BALTIMORE (CN) - Ex-employees stole trade secrets about a gizmo that lets people serve themselves draft beer at a table while letting management monitor their alcohol intake, a company claims in court.

Ellickson USA sued Innovative Tap Solutions, Josh Goodman and Declan Duggan, in Federal Court.

Ellickson, based in Timonium, Md., "is the industry leader in 'at the table' draft beer solutions, which allow patrons of bars and restaurants to serve themselves draft beer while simultaneously enabling the management to monitor customer alcohol consumption and to comply with applicable regulations," the company says in its complaint.

Ellickson claims that Goodman and Duggan quit working for it 2012 after it rebuffed their demands for a majority stake in the business. They founded the competing business Innovative Tap Solutions in November 2012, Ellickson says.

"Unbeknownst to Ellickson's shareholders, Goodman and Duggan then took a coordinated series of steps over the ensuing months to usurp Ellickson's business opportunities, misappropriate the company's trade secrets and intellectual property, spy on the company's lead-generation system, harm its ongoing marketing efforts, and create a directly competing business while still employed, respectively, as Ellickson's CEO and Director of Sales and Marketing," according to the complaint.

Ellickson claims the men rerouted its sales emails to a different address and edited promotional videos to confuse potential customers.

While still working for Ellickson, the company claims, "defendants instructed Ellickson's web development company, WebpageFX, to alter the Ellickson website's 'contact us' form such that they could monitor and intercept the leads generated by it. When a prospective customer submitted contact information through the form, the website generated an e-mail message to a designated Ellickson mailbox. The defendants set up a mailbox that had no connection to Ellickson ... and the WebpageFX technician altered the website such that a blind copy or 'bcc' of the email generated by the form was sent to that mailbox."

Ellickson also claims the men also copied its promotional video about the "Mobile Beer Wall" system, and "then edited out sections of the video that mentioned Ellickson by name, although they left in extended segments in which Duggan demonstrated the use of Ellickson's 'Mobile Beer Wall' draft system. The defendants then uploaded this copied and altered video to the YouTube account 'PourMyBeer.' This altered video is embedded on the pourmybeer.com website. Text on the website holds out Ellickson's product depicted in the video as 'The Pour My Beer System.'"

On its own website, Ellickson describes itself and its "Mobile Beer Wall" as "the world leader in 'personal pour' draft beer tables ... [which] gives your customers the unique experience of pouring their favorite beer in a responsible, measured and controlled manner."

Ellickson claims it has sold and installed more than 600 of the units.

It seeks compensatory and punitive damages for fraud, tortious interference with business relationships, unfair competition and violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

It is represented by Joshua Treem, with Brown, Goldstein and Levy.

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