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Cisco sues partner for alleged trade secret misappropriation

Cisco sues partner for alleged trade secret misappropriation

Files case against Poly, the partner's EVP and three former Cisco employees

Credit: Dreamstime

Cisco is suing one of its unifed communications partners for alleged trade secret misappropriation in the United States.

The networking giant has added the US-based preferred solutions partner and its executive vice president Thomas Puorro to ongoing legal action, claiming that the company, Puorro and three former Cisco employees engaged in corporate espionage.

Cisco first filed a lawsuit against three former employees – James He, Wilson Chung and Jedd Williams – for alleged trade secret misappropriation on 18 November.

However, Cisco’s executive vice president and chief legal officer Mark Chandler revealed on 17 December that the vendor has now added Poly and Puorro to the litigation. 

According to legal documents published by Chandler, both Chung and He allegedly downloaded "thousands" of confidential and propitiatory documents before leaving Cisco, while Williams allegedly misappropriated financial information and plans

“At the time, we believed they [He, Chung and Williams] had acted individually, and therefore did not name their subsequent employer in the litigation,” he wrote. 

“Today, based on new information, we have amended our action to name Poly, who hired the three individuals, and a Poly executive vice president, Thomas Puorro, who is also a former Cisco employee and who was instrumental in orchestrating an effort to bring Cisco trade secrets and other confidential information to Poly.

“This litigation is not about Poly products. It’s about Poly’s refusal to address a serious cultural issue, characterised by repeated efforts to receive and use Cisco trade secrets and confidential information in their business.”

Chandler detailed the process leading up to the filing of the original suit, where he contacted and met with Poly’s general counsel, along with Cisco’s vice president of litigation in order to provide background information about He and Chung.

“Poly terminated Mr. He and initially suspended Dr. Chung. These were important steps, and encouraged us to believe that Poly took the issue seriously,” he wrote.

Following Cisco’s meeting with Poly, Chandler claimed that “something went very wrong with Poly’s response”.

According to his post, Chung was allegedly reinstated back to his senior role, Puorro allegedly solicited confidential information from Williams and Poly’s general counsel allegedly made “vague accusations against a former Poly employee now at Cisco, claiming that the individual accessed Poly confidential information before leaving for Cisco”.

On the last point, Chandler claimed that Cisco hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation which resulted in no evidence that confidential information was taken from Poly and no Poly confidential information was found on any Cisco device; Poly did not challenge this point, Chandler added.

“After we filed our complaint against the individuals, Poly continued to stonewall. Poly stood behind Dr. Chung even after learning that he deleted evidence to cover up his misconduct, and refused to compel Mr. Williams to return any Cisco materials that he had retained or permit inspection of devices on which he had stored Cisco information,” Chandler alleged.

“Poly’s General Counsel, in addition to threatening to harm the reputation and career of the former Poly employee, told us, perhaps without reviewing the evidence, that Mr. Williams had been wrongly accused and that Mr. Puorro was ‘pure as the driven snow’.”

Chandler concluded his post with that the claim that “the next move is up to Poly: whether they will choose to stonewall and defend, or take active steps to root out the rot that has infiltrated their company.”

“At this time, we have elected not to include others at Poly who were in contact with Cisco employees and may have received or induced others to provide Cisco’s confidential information,” he noted.

“We have asked Poly to preserve any relevant information, given clear evidence, as documented in our complaint, that executive-level efforts were undertaken to avoid detection of receipt of confidential information.”

“Poly disputes the allegations and intends to defend them in court," a Poly spokesperson told ARN. Cisco declined to comment further.


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