Columbia Sportswear sues former execs for alleged trade secret theft

Two former executives of Columbia Sportswear are being sued by the company for allegedly downloading confidential documents before resigning last year.

Columbia Sportswear sues former execs for alleged trade secret theft

Columbia Sportswear, based in Oregon (Nasdaq COLM), is suing former employees who allegedly stole company secrets before they resigned. The defendants both went to work at the same Columbia competitor.

William Ferreira, Dean Rurak, and the Oregon District Court filed a complaint on April 21, naming them as plaintiffs. Columbia claims in court documents the two men 'downloaded sensitive documents from their CSC work drive immediately before they left the company in 2020'.

Columbia says that this is a violation of the code of conduct and non-compete agreements signed by both employees.

Ferreira was Columbia’s director of global merchandise for its PFG, youth, accessories and headwear categories. The complaint states that he resigned from Columbia in October 2022 to join Huk Gear - a fishing clothing company with headquarters in South Carolina, but incorporated in Delaware.

Rurak, Columbia's SVP & Chief Product Officer, resigned on the same date as Ferreira in order to take a position with Huk.

The complaint says that 'These documents contain confidential strategic, technical, financial and business plans, as well as trade secrets. These are directly relevant to the work Ferreira may perform for Huk.

Columbia claims that Ferreira was comparing and analyzing the sales and performance of Columbia and Huk fishing products in the months prior to his resignation. According to the lawsuit Ferreira was able to 'uniquely access information that could allow CSC to gain an advantage over Huk or the opposite.

Columbia claims that Ferreira copied and downloaded confidential files from Columbia's corporate networks to his laptop, and then onto an external hard drive the day before he resigned.

Rurak, a Columbia executive, allegedly attended an 'high level leadership meeting' the week prior to his resignation, during which they discussed confidential information, such as financial data and strategy.

Columbia claims that it did not know that Rurak would be leaving the next week for Huk. The company claims that Rurak was aware of his departure for Huk at the time the meeting took place. Columbia claims that if it had known, he wouldn't have been permitted to attend. The complaint says that Rurak downloaded similar documents to those of Ferreira.

Columbia said it also contacted both plaintiffs about their obligations under their non-competes about one month after they resigned, but neither plaintiff returned the documents that were allegedly stolen.

Columbia seeks an injunction to stop the allegedly theft of information. It also demands that both parties return the information as well as two times their damages.

Keith Ketterling, Lydia Anderson-Dana and Stoll Stoll Berne Lokting & Shlachter are the representatives of Columbia Sportswear in Portland.