A former engineer at Philips Medical Systems in Illinois allegedly transferred confidential trade secrets and then tried to destroy the evidence, the company said in a lawsuit filed last week.
The U.S. unit of Dutch healthcare conglomerate Royal Philips (NYSE:PHG) accused Jose Buan of downloading a large trove of proprietary, confidential information around the time he left the company in December 2017. According to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, Buan worked as a design engineer for OEM X-Ray maker Dunlee Corp. in Aurora, Ill., from 1997 until Philips bought it in October 2001, working on the Philips 2XXX family of X-ray tubes used in Philips’ CT scanners and sold to external OEM customers.
“As an employee working and then managing CTR2150 X-ray tube projects, Buan had unfettered access to myriad documentation of Philips’ trade secret and confidential business information relating to all aspects of the 2XXX project X-Ray Tube, including design, design history, specifications, manufacturing techniques, quality systems, and process improvement. Buan’s log-on credentials provided Buan with access to the entire design, manufacturing, quality and marketing files related to the Philips 2XXX X-ray Tubes in addition to other Philips products,” Philips alleged.
Buan left the company in late December 2017, but not before allegedly copying more than 740 files to a temporary desktop folder and copied them to a USB thumb drive. The next day Buan allegedly transferred another trove to the temp folder, this time of some 70 documents, to another thumb drive, including “Philips’ confidential electron optics simulation models used to simulate the focal spot size of an X-ray tube,” according to the complaint.
“These models contain trade secret information regarding the function and design of X-ray tubes that Philips developed over a period of many years,” the suit alleged.
Two days later – Dec. 29, 2017, according to the suit his last day with Philips – Buan allegedly copied those files to a second thumb drive, then shut down the computer and used a magnet to try and wipe its hard drive “to conceal and/or destroy evidence of his misappropriation of Philips’ trade secret and other confidential business information,” the company alleged.
A forensic examination of Buan’s computer after his departure “recovered at least a substantial portion of the data” on the hard drive, according to the suit.
Buan joined his new employer, Aurora-based GL Leading Technologies, the month after its December 2017 inception as a senior manager of engineering & projects to lead an 11-member design & prototyping team, Philips said.
“Buan and GL Leading are using unlawfully misappropriated Philips’ trade secret and other confidential business information to develop a knock-off of at least some models of the Philips 2XXX X-ray tubes,” the lawsuit alleged, providing GL Leading “with a decades-long head start in commercializing a knock-off.”
“Information on Philips designs, design history, specifications, and manufacturing techniques cannot be revered engineered from a sample Philips 2XXX X-ray Tube. For example, the materials, circuitry, controls, and other features of the design were refined over years of development and commercial use,” according to the complaint. “On information and belief, without having misappropriated such trade secrets and other confidential business information relating to aspects of design, design logic, and process controls, GL Leading would not have been able to so rapidly progress in its development of a commercial knock-off.”
The suit brings two counts of misappropriation of trade secrets, a count of breach of contract against Buan, and counts of unjust enrichment against him and GL Leading. It seeks permanent injunctions, damages, doubled exemplary damages and legal costs.