Legal Briefing: Trade Secrets Hidden in Thomas's English Muffins

Legal Briefing: Trade Secrets Hidden in Thomas's English Muffins
Legal Briefing: Trade Secrets Hidden in Thomas's English Muffins

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Nooks and Crannies Trade Secret Puts Hire on Hold

The nooks and crannies of Thomas's English Muffins are so special it takes a recipe, a special process and unique engineering to make muffins that have them, and only seven people know all three of the trade secrets involved. Unfortunately for parent company Bimbo Bakeries, one of those seven quit to go work for rival Hostess.

Bimbo sued to enjoin the executive, Chris Botticella, from starting his new job on the grounds that he would reveal those secrets and others to Hostess. Noting among other things that Botticella copied secret files right before being escorted from the building, the judge found the trade secrets would likely be divulged and granted an injunction forbidding Botticella from working for Hostess for two months. Hostess appealed, and just lost, reports the Legal Intelligencer. During the two months, the judge will decide on whether or not a permanent injunction barring the job change is warranted.

(For more on the strange world of secret recipes, see "10 Make-or-Break Trade Secrets.")

GE Bribed Saddam Regime Under Oil-for-Food Program

Four GE subdivisions agreed to pay $23 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing Iraq to win business under its oil-for-food program. The $23 million represents disgorgement of profits earned from the bribes, interest and a $1 million penalty. The Department of Justice refused to file criminal charges, and GE's (GE) settlement with the SEC neither admits nor denies wrongdoing.

Former GE Bankers Indicted for Defrauding Cities

When cities raise money through bond issuances, they need to invest the proceeds until the time comes to spend the money. Such investments are supposed be made through a competitive process that gives the cities the best rate of return. The Department of Justice has just indicted three former GE bankers for allegedly rigging the process of awarding those deals to enrich their clients and defraud the cities. These indictments follow related indictments of others at the company.

Apple Sued Over Overheating iPads

CNet notes that it has received several complaints of the iPad overheating quickly when being used in the sun -- in as little as 10 minutes -- and now Bloomberg reports that Apple has been sued over the issue. First issues with the iPhone's reception, now the iPad's outdoor functionality ... is Apple (AAPL) losing its touch?

Sex Toy Patent Lawsuit

Apparently there's a substance called Elastomeric Gel that simulates human flesh so successfully that it's a valuable component of sex toys. The gel is patented, but sex toy manufacturers worldwide are using knockoffs of the gel and aren't paying royalties, leaving the patent-holders feeling so violated they've sued at the International Trade Commission, reports the National Law Journal.

Polygamist Cult Leader Warren Jeffs Acquitted of Rape

Depressing news regarding a real sexual violation: The Utah Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs for accomplice rape. Although pressure from Jeffs was the key reason a 14-year-old girl was married to her 19-year-old first cousin over her own objections, and the 19-year-old forced her to have sex with him, the court found that Jeffs couldn't be convicted unless he specifically intended the young man to have sex with his new wife against her will. At his trial the jury was allowed to convict Jeffs without finding that intent. The court felt so bad for freeing Jeffs it issued an unusual apology as part of the opinion. Given the legal standard at issue, Jeffs is unlikely to be retried.

And in the Business of Law...

Stanford Law School is on a mission to be ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report. That would mean overtaking Yale and Harvard, whose initial reaction seems to be "good luck." Too bad, as Above the Law notes, that the mission is likely to increase student costs above their already extravagant levels. Further, the ABA Journal notes that the American Bar Association has found the law school rankings hurt legal education.