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A Vermont-based soup company sued its Mexican supplier in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging that the supplier breached the parties’ contract and stole the soup company’s trade secrets.

According to the complaint, plaintiff New England Country Foods, LLC (NECF), spent years developing a line of chilis for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s prison commissaries.  NECF contracted with a supplier, Empacadora Frape S.A. de CV and Empacadora Frape USA LLC (Empacadora), to fulfill its obligations to perform under its contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and to supply meals to the commissaries.  NECF alleges that Empacadora breached its agreements with NECF, retained NECF’s raw materials for its own use, failed to provide an adequate accounting relating to the raw materials, and refused NECF access to Empacadora’s manufacturing facilities. NECF also alleges that instead of performing under the parties’ agreements, Empacadora is holding NECF’s goods “hostage.”

In addition, NECF claims that its recipes, which it developed based on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s request, are trade secrets and that Empacadora has misappropriated those trade secrets by using the recipes to attempt to enter into contracts with other customers and by sharing the recipes with NECF’s distributor.

NECF asserted claims for theft, fraud, breach of contract, and theft of trade secrets and seeks $120,000 in damages as well as attorneys’ fees.

We often think of modern trade secrets cases as involving high-tech products or complex business plans, but some of the world’s most famous trade secrets are simply recipes and formulas like the formulas for Coke or WD-40.