By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
PINE TOWNSHIP —
A Pine Township company has filed a civil racketeering and conspiracy suit alleging an ex-employee downloaded company information, including customer lists, software instructions and internal drawings, and gave the information to his new employer, a competing firm.
Pine Instrument Co.’s ex-employee, Gordon Baker, said he downloaded the information while still employed by Pine to work on projects related to his job with Pine, and never gave any Pine information to his new employer, Controls USA Inc., of Georgia.
A federal judge began hearing testimony this week in Pine’s request for an injunction against Baker and Controls, and will resume the hearing Monday.
Pine and an affiliate, Pine Test Equipment LLC, both of 101 Industrial Drive, make and sell asphalt testing equipment and electrochemistry research equipment, according to the complaint filed Jan. 22.
Controls is a “direct competitor,” Pine said, an assertion denied by Baker.
Baker was hired by Pine in 1999 and worked as a sales and customer service representative.
According to Controls, Baker contacted Controls’ parent company, Controls S.r.l., of Italy, in August 2012 to ask about a job. Baker and a representative of Controls had met at a North Carolina trade show, and later in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Controls offered Baker a position with its American startup on Oct. 23, with the work to begin in January.
Baker said he was not obligated to notify Pine if he wanted to interview with another company or accept another position, and understood that Pine had a policy that its confidential, secret and proprietary information was to be used “solely in the interest of Pine.”
During the fall of 2013, Baker said, his workload was “extremely heavy and demanding,” and included website development and tasks related to pricing. He said he worked on the projects at home on evenings and weekends.
Because he did not have access to Pine’s e-mail system from home, Baker would send information to his personal e-mail account so he could access it from home, he said.
“Baker obtained confidential information for most, if not all, of Pine’s customers and vendors and, as a result, can use such information to Pine’s detriment,” Pine said.
Baker acknowledged he informed Pine on Dec. 20 that he was leaving, nearly two months after he accepted the job, but said he continued “to perform all of my job duties for Pine to the best of my ability, in a professional manner and for its sole benefit.”
Baker said Pine officials never asked him about any confidential, secret or proprietary information he possessed.
“The first time I learned that Pine had any concerns whatsoever was when I was served with this lawsuit,” Baker said.
Controls never asked him to use Pine “inside information” on behalf of Controls, Baker said, and he never provided any Pine information to Controls or anyone else.
“Controls USA never received any of Pine’s information from Mr. Baker and, until this lawsuit, was unaware of any allegations that he had downloaded any information from his prior employer,” Controls said.
Controls has asked the judge to dismiss the suit on the basis that U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh has no jurisdiction over Controls, a company with no contacts, business, property or suppliers in Pennsylvania. The company said it has asked Baker to remain in Pennsylvania – he has planned to move to Georgia – until “further notice.”
In its nine-count complaint alleging violations of state and federal law, Pine asks for, among other things, the return of all Pine information held by Baker, a prohibition against Baker working for or having an interest in a competitor of Pine for two years, and damages three times the loss suffered by Pine.