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Deere & Co. sues two former employees over trade secrets

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ROCK ISLAND — Deere & Co. filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court against two former employees for alleged trade secret misappropriation under the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Illinois Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The lawsuit arises out of the departure of two critical employees of Deere, who while planning their exit allegedly downloaded, transferred and removed Deere’s confidential and trade secret information in violation of their contractual and other legal duties to the company.

The two defendants listed in the complaint are Seth Crawford and Adrian Crawford, who are husband and wife, and reside in Duluth, Georgia.

The suit claims that one of the defendants already started his employment with Deere’s direct competitor. The lawsuit also stated that Deere brings the suit to stop the defendant's possession, disclosure and use of Deere’s confidential and trade secret information.

In the lawsuit filed by Deere and Company’s attorneys, Micheal Best and Friedrich LLP., it says that Deere’s attempts for informal resolution of the matter were stalled and frustrated by the defendants and Deere’s competitor employing one of them, prompting Deere to bring this lawsuit and seek assistance from the court to stop and remedy the illegal conduct.

According to the suit, Seth Crawford has been employed at Deere since 1997, with his last position being Director, Global Customer & Product Support. He previously held the position of Director, Worldwide Marketing and Support.

The suit states that as Director, Global Customer & Product Support, Seth Crawford oversaw Deere’s strategy, management and development of current and future customer and product support technology, processes, offerings, and services.

The suit claims that Seth Crawford had access to and/or a significant role in developing the strategic plans including plans (metrics, goals and planned actions) for the cost and efficiency of Deere’s customer and dealer support organizations, the development and deployment of technology and programs in the areas of customer and product support, product returns and allowances costs and rates,warranty rates and extended warranty sales and programs, responsiveness of Deere’s dealer support organization, responsiveness of Deere’s customer support organization, achieving distinctive product quality for all of Deere’s product lines, product improvement programs, the customer experience on all product platforms and in all geographic regions, Connected Support, Expert Services and aftermarket sales and growth, among other items.

“This information constitutes commercially valuable information, is the subject of Deere’s efforts to maintain secrecy or confidentiality, and is not reasonably ascertainable through lawful means,” the suit reads.

Adrian Crawford had been employed by Deere since 2008. At the conclusion of her career there, she held the position of Manager, Enterprise and Analytics Accelerator.

The suit alleges that her position also allowed her access to Deere’s confidential and trade secret information and that she signed an agreement that during or after her employment she would not use or give to others any trade secret or confidential information that belonged to Deere and others that the company does business with.

The agreement also is alleged to have said that all materials that relate to such trade secrets or confidential information will be returned to the company.

When asked to comment on the case, Deere spokesman Ken Golden said, “This legal action is in line with Deere & Company’s commitment to our employees, shareholders, dealers, and customers to always protect the company’s trade secrets and confidential information.

“Because this matter is in litigation, we will not comment on the specifics of the case. However, we believe the details described in the U.S. District Court complaint accurately support our reason for bringing legal action in this matter.”


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