Stenstrom Petroleum Services Group, Inc. v. Mesch

874 N.E.2d 959 (2007)

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Stenstrom Petroleum Services Group, Inc. v. Mesch

Illinois Appellate Court
874 N.E.2d 959 (2007)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Robert Mesch (defendant) prepared job bids for Stenstrom Petroleum Services Group, Inc. (Stenstrom) (plaintiff). Stenstrom installed and maintained petroleum equipment. Mesch originally worked for Precision Petroleum, Inc. (Old PPI) but was employed by Stenstrom after Stenstrom acquired Old PPI. As part of Mesch’s employment, he signed a confidentiality agreement. With relevant modifications, Mesch used the same bid spreadsheet he had created to prepare bids for Old PPI to prepare bids for Stenstrom. Mesch’s spreadsheet was an Excel-based spreadsheet containing all the information Mesch needed to prepare bids, including general industry information and Stenstrom-specific information like discounts and preferred profit margins. Mesch resigned from Stenstrom after three years and took a similar position at Precision Petroleum Installation, Inc. (New PPI) (defendant). Like Mesch did when he started at Stenstrom, Mesch modified his existing bid spreadsheet to prepare bids for New PPI. Stenstrom sued Mesch and New PPI for violations of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act and sought a permanent injunction, arguing that Mesch’s bid spreadsheet was a protected trade secret Stenstrom had acquired when it bought Old PPI. Stenstrom argued that the bid spreadsheet was commercially valuable, that it took substantial time and effort to create, and that Stenstrom took affirmative steps to protect the bid spreadsheet physically and digitally. At a hearing, Mesch testified that he could reproduce the bid spreadsheet in less than three days and that most of the information used to create the spreadsheet was publicly available from suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers. The only company-specific information included were Stenstrom’s preferred profit margin and the discounts Stenstrom received from manufacturers. The trial court dismissed Stenstrom’s claim, holding that Stenstrom failed to prove the bid spreadsheet was a trade secret. Stenstrom appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Callum, J.)

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