Sirote Lawyer Julian Butler’s Recent Trade Secret Case Receives Statewide Notice
Sirote’s Julian Butler was one of six attorney’s featured in an article titled “Corporate War Stories” in the December 2012 issue of Business Alabama magazine. Corporate defense litigators were asked to share some of their most interesting and challenging cases. Butler, a civil litigator in the firm’s Huntsville office, shared details of his resolution of a trade secret case that helped a textile manufacturer defend itself against unfair competitive practices by a former employee.
Mr. Butler has a robust civil trial practice in which he represents clients in corporate defense, labor and employment issues, and legislative and government affairs. The Martindale Hubbell A-V rated attorney is recognized as a Best Lawyer in America for Commercial Litigation and was selected as an Alabama Super Lawyer for Business Litigation. Mr. Butler served as the county attorney for Madison County, Alabama for 35 years.
Mr. Butler’s “Area Rug Heist”
A multicolored area rug is an inexpensive way to give a room an instant makeover, so there’s a big market for them in bold stripes, geometric patterns and other eye-catching designs. A North Carolina-based textile manufacturing company devised a cost-effective coloration process for its area rugs.
Julian Butler, a lawyer in Sirote & Permutt’s Huntsville office, represented the North Carolina company in its suit against an Alabama textile manufacturing company that was using a similar dyeing machine. The Alabama company purchased the machine from a former employee of Butler’s client. While in the company’s employment, he was on the team that developed its innovative dyeing machine.
“This was a classic trade secret case, which falls under unfair competition,” Butler explains. “He left the company, then manufactured a similar machine and sold it to the Alabama company, giving them a competitive advantage.”
Companies can keep their confidential information from competitors by requiring employees to sign non-compete or non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them from disclosing trade secrets. Misuse of trade secrets is considered a form of unfair competition, and state and federal laws protect them from disclosure. Butler’s case was resolved in mediation rather than going before a jury. He says about 90 percent of corporate cases are handled in this manner.
“Neither side was totally happy with the outcome, but it was less expensive than litigation even if we had won in court,” adds Butler. “Most corporations don’t like to be in litigation. Of course, you always have to be prepared for the possibility of litigation but it’s in the best interest of your client to avoid it. Any time a business is in court, the company is losing money.”