Acrow Corporation of America has filed an application for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. It is seeking to restrain AIL International, Inc., Big R Manufacturing, LLC (doing business as Big R Bridge) and Atlantic Industries Limited from what Acrow alleges is an elaborate, illegal scheme to uncover the closely protected identity of a supplier.
The court documents state that Acrow has learned of a “devious and illegal plot” by Big R Bridge to uncover the identity of a specialist steel mill that provides panels used in the manufacture of its 700XS bridge system. The documents make clear that Acrow regards the identity and nature of the mill as being an extremely valuable trade secret.
The information filed with the court includes copies of emails in which Big R Bridge’s president and CEO Cameron Klein appears to discuss a plan for obtaining the name of the supplier as part of efforts to ‘reverse engineer’ the material grades used by Acrow. The emails came to light after being included – presumably by mistake - in a message sent to the regional sales manager of the company that Acrow uses to galvanise the steel. The employee of the galvanising firm forwarded the email to Acrow; he has also provided a signed confirmation that the emails included in the court documents are an accurate copy of the ones transmitted to him.
The email correspondence included in the court documents indicates that Big R Bridge had contacted “every possible mill” in the US but had failed to identify any that produced that particular type of steel. Big R Bridge then sought to gain access to the galvanising plant where the components are treated. The apparent aim was to create an opportunity to examine the components in the hope of finding information about where they had originated.
An employee of Big R Bridge emailed the galvanising plant to ask about one of the sales team making a visit. However, the message included what was an earlier internal email in which Klein had told Michael Napior (Big R Bridge’s market manager - Mid Atlantic) what he was hoping to find out. The email said: “I have been working with AIL & Algonquin Bridge on developing a Panel Bridge system that Big R can manufacture in the US. Part of this project has been to reverse engineer Acrow Bridge’s material grades. We have most of the information, but there is one specification that we cannot figure out.”
Klein’s email went on to say that he had identified the galvanising firm. He included a Google satellite image, which he said showed “there are ungalvanized Acrow Panels in the rear of the plant that will most certainly have mill markings on them regarding the supplier and grade”. He added: “I was wondering if you could swing by and do a plant tour under the cover that we would like to see there [sic] operation for future work. On your tour, you should be able to walk the entire site and innocently ask “what are these panels” and walk over and see the marking (or even get a photo).”
The case is pending under Judge Lewis T Babcock.