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People v. Pribich
California Court of Appeal
21 Cal. App. 4th 1844, 27 Cal. Rptr. 2d 113 (1994)
Boris Pribich (defendant) was hired by a company called Aquatec to work on a new type of water cooler using a thermal chip that Aquatec had patented. Pribich fell behind schedule, and Aquatec permitted him to work from home on his personal computer to try to catch up. Ultimately, Aquatec brought in another employee to assist Pribich and asked Pribich to come to the office and bring all his project files to get the new employee up to speed. Pribich was very upset and while speaking to the new employee, deleted some files he said belonged to him and not Aquatec. Pribich also quit his job. Aquatec asked the Los Angeles Police Department to get involved, and the police served a search warrant on Pribich, obtaining computer printouts from Pribich’s personal computer. The printouts included copies of Pribich’s work schedule in addition to some product concepts that were at least partially in the public domain. The State of California (plaintiff) filed criminal charges against Pribich, asserting theft of trade secrets. At trial, Pribich’s former boss at Aquatec testified that he believed that the information on Pribich’s personal computer would be of great interest to competitors and that he would not want them to have Pribich’s work schedule. Pribich hired an expert, who testified that none of the information found on Pribich’s computer would give anyone a competitive advantage and that, regardless, current scientific principles meant it was impossible to make an energy-efficient and marketable water cooler of the type Aquatec wanted Pribich to build. After a jury trial, Pribich was convicted of theft of trade secrets and appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Boren, J.)
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